Tomo Kahni State Park, located in Sand Canyon, is an interesting and memorable place to visit at any time. As the sun sets, it becomes even more magical.
A group of visitors had the opportunity to experience this for themselves on Saturday evening, Sept. 21, for the annual Twilight Tour of Tomo Kahni, sponsored by the Tehachapi Heritage League.
This special annual event begins late in the day, as the sun is going down and shadows lengthen among the boulders and juniper through which the trail winds. The guide was Jean Rhyne, a very qualified interpretive specialist with the California State Park Service, who has many years of experience leading visitors on trips to visit the cultural sites at Tomo Kahni.
Assisting was Georgette Theotig, a retired Tehachapi Unified School District teacher and dedicated Friends of Tomo Kahni volunteer. She is a knowledgeable, kind and patient person who I had the good fortune to have as my fourth-grade teacher.
The tour group met at the Tehachapi Museum, as all visits to Tomo Kahni do, and then guests caravanned out to the site, which was established about 25 years ago to protect rock art, living sites, and other cultural resources important to the Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) people of the Tehachapi area.
Hikers first went up the trail to the Nettle Springs location, where there are more than 400 bedrock mortars and numerous house rings, as well as many small grooves incised into a sandstone outcropping. The purpose of these grooves is not known, but they were made by the ancient Nuwä who occupied the area.
Tomo Kahni means "Winter House" or "Winter Village" in the Nuwä language and refers to the fact that the site is believed to have been used more extensively during the colder, winter months.
After darkness fell, tour leaders and guests used flashlights to continue along the trail, with lots of information passed along about the Nuwä people and their lifeways. The night hike culminated in a visit to the large rocky overhang where pictographs are painted on the walls of the shallow cave.
The return hike included a stop by a petroglyph, pecked into a boulder, that depicts a bighorn sheep hunting scene, with a bighorn, two human figures, one of whom appears to have a bow, and what looks to be a dog.
Hiking beneath a beautiful bluish night sky, as stars grew brighter and the Milky Way stretched overhead, was a special and unforgettable experience. I first visited the Tomo Kahni area as a small boy, long before it became a state park, and have been many, many times in the ensuing 50 years. Being there as dusk falls and turns to night is a rare and beautiful experience that I highly recommend.
Autumn daytime tours on Saturdays have returned for the season, and you can arrange to participate on a guided visit to Tomo Kahni through the Tehachapi Museum, which is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to email@example.com.