As you leave the vast expanse of the Carrizo Plain and enter the cool Painted Rock cavern, time seems to slow down.
About 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, Native Americans began painting their sacred images within the alcove, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. Today, you can still see paintings between 200 and 1,000 years old on the interior walls.
A woman working to restore the drawings in 1991 described it as a mystical place. And both Chumash and Yokut shamans consider it a sacred place to hold ceremonies.
Unfortunately, the site has been marred by vandals through the years. An early 20th century rancher once used the rock as a sheep pen, and others have marred the walls with graffiti, damaging the murals.
As a result, access is now limited.
BLM guided tours are offered March 1 to July 15. Self-guided tours are offered by permit July 16 to the end of February. Access is through the Guy L. Goodwin Education Center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
For reservations, call 877-444-6777 or go online at www.recreation.gov. A $1.50 processing fee is charged for each reservation.
For more information: www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bakersfield/Programs/carrizo/goodwin.html.