Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Cross at Cross Camp.

On August 11, 1769, the Portolá Expedition camped at the junction of the Arroyo Mupu and Santa Paula Creek, at a place they named the Holy Martyrs, Ipolito and Cassiano. Later, the priests of the Mission San Buenaventura established Asistencia Santa Paula at this site, where they held services for the Mupu Indians.

Little is known about this Asistencia, or of the Mupu band of Chumash Indians it purported to serve. Today all that remains is a road side marker in the lawn of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Paula commemorating the Portolá Expedition.

The inscription on the marker reads:

"On August 13,1769*
Reaching the junction of the Arroyo Mupu with the river, the place was named the Holy Marters, Ipolito and Casiano. Upon founding the Mission San Buenaventura, the priests established here an Asistencia and christened it Santa Paula, where they frequently held services for the conversion of the Mupu Indians."

[*The year 1769 saw the founding of the first Mission, in San Diego. This is likely the year of the first Portolá Expedition, not of the founding of the Asistencia Santa Paula. Mission San Buenaventura was founded in 1782.]

Were one to hike up Santa Paula Creek from Thomas Aquinas College, continuing a short distance above the Punchbowls, they would enter Cross Camp. Situated in the midst of the campsite is a humble boulder which hosts a very old carving of a cross, done in relief. Fewer than one out of a hundred that even notice this rock would identify the cross, as it lies close to the ground and the chiseled borders of the cross are very weathered with age. One corner of the cross is covered in lichen, a testament to this carving's age.

Very little is known about the cross or it's origins. It is understood that the bench which is now known as Cross Camp used to be a small Chumash family site. Perhaps the Mupu Chumash themselves carved it, for the carving itself is rather crudely outlined. More likely, the cross was chiseled by a missionary priest who traveled up-canyon to visit the Indians on their home turf. The answer is unknowable and will always remain so, however the cross is clearly very old. It measures about 20"h x 15"wide and faces west.

Enjoy the photos of the rest of the day. I am choosing to ignore the numerous negatives associated with humanity's impact upon this otherwise beautiful canyon.

A beautiful young black and white Mountain King, it's fragile body broken and battered in two places by the extreme water event which occurred a week ago.


  1. Lovely, sensitive post and photos. Thanks!

  2. Fascinating! Been by Cross-Camp dozens of times and never had any idea.

  3. ANON,
    Likewise, I had a "Should have had a V-8" smack of the forehead moment when I was made aware of the cross. -DS

  4. Many years ago on my first trip to Santa Paula Canyon I got a chance to see the Cross. That was almost 50 years ago. Thanks for sharing your images.