Exploring the Cave of Munits
I accidentally stumbled upon the Cave of Munits's existence while looking for trails to hike around my parents' neighborhood while home in L.A. one weekend. I can't believe I cheated myself out of this experience while I was growing up. I didn't know that it was pretty much in our backyard, only about ten minutes away. The Santa Monica Conservancy Zone Parkland sign marks the spot for sighting the mouth of the cave. Just 50 feet past the large tree towards the right, sits the opening.
I apparently walked past this unassuming tree a few times, not knowing the cave was literally on my right in the far distance. The park is home to several trails, all of which seemed promising of something worthy to discover and explore. While the cave was my ultimate goal, I have been known to wander and allow myself to get lost.
Under the tree, sits a chair. No pun intended, of course. It could be considered kind of creepy, but I enjoy photographing old treasures. It made me feel certain that other humans had been on the same path in search of adventure just like I was. As I turned my head to the right, down a trail less than a mile away, was a mountain of rocks and cliffs that revealed the Cave of Munits along with another smaller cave directly across the way. As I approached nearer to the cliffs, I heard loud male voices edging closer behind me. This was a little disappointing, because up until then, I had been pretty much by myself on these trails, except for an occasional runner or hikers quickly passing through.
Knowing there were other people heading to the cave, I hurried to the slit in the rocks, and found that this wasn't a climb for anyone with knee, hip, joint, or flexibility problems. I did a bit of rock climbing to get in, and was very careful to find small grooves, cracks, and ledges to hang onto and maneuver against so I could climb into the cave. A taller person would have found it easier to climb in. I had read on Yelp that this part wasn't really easy. So I did do my homework before coming here. I learned that the entire region was home to the Chumash tribe, and the cave was rumored to have been home to a shaman who was later killed in retribution for murdering the son of a chief. Unsure whether or not this rumor is backed up by actual evidence, I was intrigued by the mysticism which surrounded the area.
Because I slowed down climbing up into the entrance, the group of younger men quickly caught up to me. They were taller, obviously. I had the cave to myself for about 5 minutes before they arrived, and I could easily see that other people had been here. Plastic bottles and some wadded papers along with proclamations of forever love and couple-dom carved into stone were strewn everywhere. Still, the cave was eerily beautiful, with sunlight streaming down through slits in the rocks overhead.
It was challenging capturing all the crevices and formations in some spaces due to lack of lighting. I'm obviously an amateur, but I do things for the sake of doing them, and these photos will have to do. I quickly snapped a picture of the opening from behind me, walking further into the cave, knowing that my solitude was about to be broken.
I was able to capture one of my favorite photos from this excursion: this one with the circle-like opening into the sky. To it's right is another ascent out onto a ledge with an incredible view of the valley and the reserve.
Climbing out of the cave from this point wasn't too difficult, and I was able to get a few photos of the landscape behind me with my phone attached to my selfie stick. I don't know that they are worthy of viewing along with these photos from my Olympus, but maybe as this post comes to an end, I will have decided to include them.
I felt an amazing sense of satisfaction being alone out here all by myself. I was a big kid when I last called this place my home, and now I was all grown up with my own life and journey. This was somehow my self-affirmation that I had become somebody who had something to be proud of.
I climbed up further on the roof of the cave to get a different view, finding even more crevices to possibly explore. As the guys behind me made their way up, I decided to make my way out. I was no longer alone, and I had been on the trail for at least three hours at that point. It was time to go back to where the path had first started.
This flower, along with a few others like it, bloomed at the bottom of the cave's entrance. There was nothing here that I dared take with me as a souvenir, lest the spirit of the shaman or the angry Chumash chief should strike me.
This was definitely one of my favorite local hikes, and I may come here again to climb further up through the cave's trail to Castles Peak. I like leaving some things undiscovered: it gives me a chance to go back and experience something in an entirely new way.