Better than the Grand Canyon? No, of course not. But every bit as good? You bet.
The trail at LaBarque Creek CA passes along a small tributary of LaBarque Creek proper. Although I'm not sure, I suspect that there's usually a little water running through the tributary. It probably goes dry whenever we have a long stretch without rain, but only until the rains return.
The tributary is busy cutting through a ledge of hard, resistant rock, part of the layered geology that gives LaBarque Creek CA the understated drama of its small canyons.
Near the head of the tributary, the water is attacking a hard layer directly, cutting a slot in the rock and, at the point of its attack, boring a hole through the ledge, instead of running over the edge.
It's easy enough to work your way up under the shelf of rock, through which the water pours. It's just a really neat little spot, almost a kind of garden folly placed by a God whose beneficence was directed for a moment toward our delight.
I tried to get a video of the scene. It's not a particularly artistic clip, but it does the job:
And there's another clip on youtube, taken by someone else in summer:
The Grand Canyon works as a natural wonder because it is too big to be missed. It represents the sublime, in the technical sense of the word, because it's very scale makes us feel small. And its sheer size forces that response from us, simply because it's so big. And our sense of corresponding smallness is physical and temporal. It's so big and so old, and we're so small and die so soon.
Hole in the Rock, however, represents another version of the sublime. Its impression depends on it being small enough to overlook. It's really easy to walk past right past it. Maybe we walk past it because we just don't notice that something might be there. Or maybe we notice, but we're in too big of a hurry, or we're too tired, or we left our lunch in the car, or it looks like a hassle to get down to where it's at.
But when we get down to it, and actually have a look it, we can't help but be impressed because it's a place of such compressed and concentrated wonder. And yet, if we're thoughtful, it makes us feel just as small as the Grand Canyon.
But not because we're small and short-lived. Instead, Hole in the Rock makes us feel small because it reminds us how capable we are of being unobservant, or uncaring, or just plain lazy. This is, I think, a much more penetrating sense of the sublime, because it points toward a moral smallness that's much more challenging than anything physical or temporal.