Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Morro Rock

First impressions could lead one to think Morro Rock is a five hundred foot high monument to bird poop but there’s much more. Named by Cabrillo back in the 1540’s tin hat days, Morro Rock is home to the endangered nesting peregrine falcons, and considered the Gibraltar of the Pacific to mariners, it was also a site for ancient first nation rituals until becoming a state landmark in 1968 when they said you can’t climb on the rock anymore. Nearly decimated by ddt, the peregrines are doing much better now. The Chumash and Salinan people have permission to climb the rock annually for separate ceremonial purposes.  

From a research paper by Angela Howard Dillon comes this account of the Salinan legend: “Hawk (or falcon, depending on the version you favor) and Raven decided to seek out and destroy a terrible two-headed snake called Taliyekatapelta.  They found the serpent somewhere east of Morro Bay, but it began chasing them.  Hawk and Raven flew to Morro Rock, where Raven’s powers came from, but the snake came swiftly after them and, with its huge body, encircled Morro Rock and began to wind its way upward.  As Taliyekatapelta approached, Hawk and Raven took out their knives and began to hack away at it, until it fell into pieces”

Dennis Laird photos

Mid summer of 1979 and while on vacation from gigs at home in Mammoth Lakes, arrangements were made for a stint in San Luis Obispo, so, using the Tioga Pass shortcut through Yosemite, it was off to Slo-town and a stay the Ritz Motel for fifty clams a week. Notes said ‘the Ritz is the pitz’. One foggy day outing found me there on the coast face to face with landmark and rock in blissful innocence of the landmark obsession to follow in later years.

Plaque inscription: NO. 821 MORRO ROCK - An important mariner's navigational landfall for over three hundred years, Morro Reef was chronicled in the diaries of Portolá, Fr. Crespí, and Costanso in 1769, when they camped near this area on their trek to find Monterey. Sometimes called the 'Gibraltar of the Pacific,' it is the last in the famous chain of nine peaks which start in the city of San Luis Obispo.
Location: Located in city park, foot of Morro Rock, on Embarcadero Rd, 0.4 mi NW of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo County
Google maps: 35.370577,-120.865051

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