No matter where I travel, I intentionally or accidentally find ties to my favorite stories and fandoms. While wandering around Washington, D.C., I wound up in the diner where Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope shared waffles with Madeleine Albright on Parks and Recreation. While exploring Central Park in New York, I went to the Bow Bridge from the Doctor Who episode “The Angels Take Manhattan.” It’s the perfect way to combine my appreciation for travel with my geeky tendencies. Bonus: Depending on where you live, visiting real life locations used in fiction can be a great way to explore your city. I’m not always the best at doing it, but it’s good to get outdoors.
With The Geeky Traveler series, I’ll be tackling various locations from television, books, and films around the world each week. Feel free to leave a note in the comments if you’d like me to research your area to see what I can find.
First up: Vasquez Rocks. This is a location that is eminently recognizable and iconic. You likely know it best from this iconic scene from Star Trek: The Original Series:
Vasquez Rocks is the home of the slow yet epic battle between Captain Kirk and the Gorn in “Arena.” But, that’s not all. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was the backdrop for “Who Watches the Watchers,” and the striking rocks stood in for the planet Vulcan in the 2009 Star Trek. Other films shot at Vasquez Rocks include John Carter, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Planet of the Apes. The list is extensive, and once your eyes get to know the silhouette of the formations at Vasquez Rocks Natural Park Area, you’ll noticed them in more and more backgrounds.
The park’s jagged and dramatic rocks and desert-like terrain provide an alien background that’s not quite like anything else in the greater Los Angeles area. It’s only an accident that this landscape exists. The bizarre formations were pushed up from the ground by the San Andreas Fault. It made a fantastic place to hide out, and bandits took advantage of that. The park gets its name from one of those bandits—Tiburcio Vasquez, but it’s much more well known for its on-screen appearances.
I confess that when I visited I was certainly much more excited about being at a place where multiple Star Trek episodes and films took place, but it turned into an educational trip. The beauty of the wild landscape combined with the fact that the park is easy to access makes it one of my favorite destinations for hiking, and I don’t how long it would have taken me to check it out without the geeky connection. And it is so easy to find the exact spot Kirk and the Gorn had their battle and replicate the scene. There’s only one road that goes back through the entire park, and it dead ends into a parking lot near where the famous scene was filmed. Bonus points if you go in costume.
The park area is just about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles. Parking is plentiful (and free!), and there are plenty of trails to explore after you’ve taken the obligatory “I’m standing where the Gorn was” photo. If you plan to hike, take all the usual precautions and be sure to pack water. It gets warm.
Location: Agua Dulce, California
More Information: Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park
Photos: Amy Ratcliffe
Feature Source Image: startrek.com