Leaders: David Eisenberg, Erich Fickle
Erich and I decided to try out the new route discovered by Alan Coles as both of us preferred to hike 14 miles instead of 26. We met at the Sylmar Carpool Pt at 6:00 am for the long drive to Soda Lake. About half the group met inside the restaurant for hot coffee and to avoid the cold wind. The 21 participants regrouped into 8 cars for the long drive to the trailhead.
It took 3 hours to drive to the trailhead through some of the most barren scenery I have ever seen and to get ready to hike. However, those of us who were on Alan's hike last year appreciated the benefits of the shorter hike. We also enjoyed walking on the top of the road rather than inside (under the mud). Ruth and Frank Dobos started a fossil hunt by coming up with fossilized shells on the road. (It wasn't hard to imagine how they had become trapped in the mud.) The weather was perfect for the hike with a nice breeze to keep us cool and to clear the air. We enjoyed views of the Los Padres and Sequoia areas as well as the great desert views. On the way back, people began to feel tired who generally find 1500' of gain an easy hike. I counted the contour lines and found 2200' of gain to the peak with 1000' of gain on the return due to the up and downs. Alan Coles came up with 1900' of gain to the peak and 800' on the return using a different method of calculation. I suspect that the true gain is somewhere in between these numbers. In either case, our tiredness was then explained and we were able to stop worrying about getting out of shape all of a sudden. We all returned back to the cars by 4:00.
Other participants were: Dorothy Palas, Luella Fickle, Joey Baranstein, Keith Schoenheit, Graham Breakwell, Greg Gerlach, Bob Sumner, Dave Wellbourn, Frank Atkin, Carol Smetana, Phil Wheeler, Carleton Shay, David Jensen, Paula Peterson, Keith Martin, and George Schroedter.
Alan informed me that the Caliente Mtn and the Carrizo Plain (including Soda Lake) are being managed jointly by the BLM and The Nature Conservancy. The BLM has been buying ranches and land swapping as part of an effort to restore native vegetation and wildlife. More information may be found in the November, 1989 issue of Sunset Magazine or from the BLM.
Driving Directions: (compiled in cooperation with Alan Coles) Take I-5 North from LA. Continue on I-5 past the 99 junction and exit at HWY 166. Turn left and go to the town of Maricopa. Set odometer and continue 9.1 miles to the Soda Lake Road. (There is a 76 gas station at the corner.) Turn right and set odometer. At 2.1 mi, Cattle gate and San Luis Obispo County Line. At 5.3 mi, cattle gate, pavement ends. At 11.5 miles pavement begins. At 12.8 mi, pavement ends. At 24.2 mi, a 3 way fork. Take middle fork; straight ahead (Soda Lake Road). At 26.3 mi, pavement. At 29.2 mi, junction on the left. Turn left here, note odometer, pass through gate, and continue as follows. At 3.8 mi, fork. Left fork signed "Shelby Parking Area 1 mi", right fork signed "Caliente Ridge Parking Area 3 mi." Keep right and pass through another gate. Go up this steep rocky road which should be passable for most cars. At 7.1 mi, there is a large parking area to the right with a gated road to the left. Park here.
Hiking Directions: Go past the wire gate signed "No motor vehicles" and follow an old unused dirt road for about 100 yards to where it meets the main Caliente Ridge Road. Continue on the ridge road for 7 miles to the summit.
Alan Coles reports the roads are open from the end of the rainy season (late March) to the first rains or the last Saturday in November, whichever comes first. Call BLM at 805/861-4263 for road information or write BLM, 4301 Rosedale Hwy., Bakersfield, CA 93306.