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Captain’s Log: Where the Dim Past Lies Right at the Surface for All to See

Back in the hills of the Cuyama Badlands, you don’t have to dig up the past. It is lying right on the surface all around your feet.

I love this place! Over the course of my life, I’ve made at least a dozen forays into the heart of the badlands — far off the dirt roads and trails, through the hills and high plateaus. Many of those trips were hunting adventures in search of quail and cottontail. Other trips were just to hike and take a good long look-see.

It is possible to find places where it feels probable that not many people have been, other than a few other hardy souls out looking for what satisfies our adventurous spirits. Some of the side canyons and ravines, which look like you can easily see their full length, have some twisted surprises — small side ravines and places where water runoff has cut away steep walls and created tiny flood plains where remnants of the very distant past are lying right on the surface.

These places are rarely discovered except by those willing to walk and look.

Slow hikes, with plenty of time for observation, reveal an amazing variety of signs of life through history. I’ve encountered critter skeletons that were pretty much intact. I’ve found rocks and minerals that may have been valuable, if I were more educated as a rock hound.

But for me, the most interesting finds of all were hidden places where I found — lying right on the surface — fossils of ocean-dwelling critters from the very dim past, when those badlands were undersea.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sea captain. OK, I admit, it is very probable that it is because I’m a sea captain. But whatever the reason, it fascinates me to stand where I’m surrounded by reminders that the place was once the seafloor and primordial life swirled around this spot, fighting for life.

I’ve worn out many a pair of boots in our fabulous back country, and the recesses of the Cuyama Badlands ranks right up near the top of the list of my favorite places.

The Cuyama Badlands are located along Highway 33 about 30 miles north of Ojai.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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