Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Travel Review: Tomo-Kahni California State Historic Park

Hikers - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park near Tehachapi is California's most unknown state park. It is only open during the spring and fall, and only on Saturday mornings by guided tour. Only one tour is offered on Saturday morning and it is limited to 15 people. Less than 400 people visit Tomo-Kahni annually.

There are no signs to point the way. There is no visitor's center. The park sits behind a non-descript fence at the end of a rough dirt road in the mountain hills just outside of the quaint community of Tehachapi in central California.
A California Landscape - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The tour begins at the Tehachapi Museum in downtown Tehachapi. This is a city museum, so it may seem like an odd place for the tour to begin, but there is an exhibit at the museum that provides a good starting point.

The tour guides spend about 15 minutes at the museum explaining how the Kawaiisu people lived. The Kawaiisu inhabited the Tomo-Kahni site, as well as many other sites in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains and the Mohave Desert, for well over one thousand years.
Rocks - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
After that, visitors caravan to the state park, about a 20 minute drive northeast of town. You won't need four-wheel-drive, but low-profile vehicles won't like the unmaintained dirt road. An SUV or pickup will do better than a sedan or minivan, although on my trip someone had a small sedan and someone else had a minivan, and they both made it just fine.

Upon arrival at the Tomo-Kahni State Park property, visitors head out on foot, following the guides up a trail. The hike is a total of 3.2 miles round trip and takes approximately four hours to complete. The beginning elevation is about 4,300' and the highest point on the trail is right around 4,600'. However, the total height traveled along the entire trail is almost 900', meaning that there is a lot of up and down and very little flat. This is neither an easy hike nor a difficult one.
The Tour Guides - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The state park does not recommend this hike for children five and under. I'd say that children seven and under probably shouldn't go, unless they are used to long hikes.

I recommend bringing water. In fact, I'd say that it is essential to bring water. A snack of some sort (fruit, granola bar, trail mix, etc.) is also a good idea.
Pictographs #1 - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The tour is guided, typically by two volunteers (apparently, sometimes the tour is guided by a state park ranger). The two on our tour were extremely knowledgeable. They pointed out all sorts of things along the hike that I certainly would have overlooked.

Remnants of Tomo-Kahni exist frequently along the hike, but in very small examples. There are no big ruins. This is not Mesa Verde. However, the little bit that remains tell an interesting story.
Trail Through A California Landscape - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The highlight of the trip is a stop at a cave covered with pictographs. These ancient drawings depict all sorts of things. Some are easy to understand, while others look like nonsense. This cave was obviously an important site for the Kawaiisu.

The tour costs $5 per adult and $3 per child 16 and younger. Reservations are not required but are recommended, and the reservation fee is $10 per group. For further information, visit the California State Parks website (click here).
Pictographs #2 - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The hike was well worth the effort and expense. I learned a whole lot, plus got to experience some beautiful California scenery that most people will never get to see.

This is a great way to spend a lovely spring or autumn Saturday morning. Grab a buddy and get some exercise out in nature.
Steelers Hiker - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
Be sure to plan for whatever weather may happen. Check forecasts before heading out. It could be hot and sunny or cold and windy. On my trip, it started out cool and ended a bit warm. A little pre-planning goes a long ways.

If you live in Tehachapi or within an hour of Tehachapi, Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park needs to be on your list of things to do. Don't overlook this most overlooked state park.
Guide, Explaining - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
Little Yellow Flowers On Rocks - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California
The Deceitful Cliffs - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, California

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