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Caliente Mountain, Lizard Head, Cuyama Peak (LO)

5 November 1994

By: Patty Kline


Patty Kline, Frank Goodykoontz, David Eisenberg

Our group of 25 met at 7:30 am at the junction of the Soda Lake Road and Hwy 33/166 where there is a small gas station. The BLM Rangers said it is easier to reach the approach to the Caliente Ridge Road from the Hwy 58-Buttonwillow turnoff from I-5, saving many miles of dirt road driving. Our BLM Ranger, Debbie Santiago, from the Bakersfield office, met us at the Soda Lake Road.

We drove in 29.2 miles on alternating dirt and pavement on the Soda Lake Road to the junction of the Selby Camp. We turned left and drove 4.8 miles and parked at the Selby Camp. Here Roy Van de Hoek met us. We were lucky to have him with us. He is a biologist who is an expert of the Carrizo Plain where Caliente is located. There we consolidated into high clearance vehicles for the Caliente Ridge Road. We drove up the road several miles to the locked gate. Debbie, our Ranger, had the combination to the locks an the gate and we drove on another several miles before parking and hiking 3-1/2 miles on the Caliente Ridge Road with 700 feet of gain to the summit at 5106'. There were a lot of scallop shells fossilized in small rocks. This whole area was an ocean floor 15-20 million years ago. Roy Van de Hoek explained a lot of natural history to us on the way to and from the summit. We had a leisurely lunch on top with the last of us getting back to the cars around 2:30 pm.

My favorite part of this day was the late afternoon trip to Painted Rock. This is a sacred Chumash Indian site, which has been defaced a lot since the mid 1800's. It was first defaced by ranchers in this area, then by whoever happened along. Roy, who has studied this intensely, gave a talk on Painted Rock. It is a horseshoe shaped rock, big enough inside to hold hundreds of people. Roy had a photo which reconstructed the Chumash mural on the inside of Painted Rock. The mural depicted the world of the Chumash. When a Chumash Indian dies the spirit goes to Mt Pinos it is believed, then on to the sky world. Mt Pinos, as well as being on our list, is the high point of the Chumash area. There are still Chumash Indians alive today trying to piece together the lost part of their culture in songs passed an and many other ways. We noticed a small cave on the left as you exit Painted Rock where current Chumash had left some offerings. Many people in our group felt a holiness about Painted Rock without being told about the Chumash history. On the outside face of Painted Rock was evidence of fertility rites engravings. When we took the 3/4 mile walk back to our cars it was then dark.

Saturday night we camped at Aliso Campground at 3200' in a beautiful oak filled canyon surrounded by rolling grass covered hills. We had a community happy hour and salad. There was a big campfire following dinner, which warmed us up from the freezing temperatures.

On Sunday we did Lizard Head. The considerable dirt road driving was done with high clearance vehicles. Two-wheel drive high clearance vehicles were fine. We hiked 1-1/4 miles on a dirt road from the locked gate to Upper Tinta Campground and on to the top. The total hike was 11 miles round trip and 3200' of gain. In nice cool weather, like the day we did this, it is a nice peak. It can be unbearable in hot weather. The top at 5350' is a nice rocky outcropping that looks like a lizard's head from a certain angle. We had a leisurely lunch there, admiring a view of most of the HPS peaks in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

We got back to our cars with darkness approaching, but not too late to take the two-wheel high clearance dirt road to Cuyama. It is about a 20 minutes drive to the summit of Cuyama from the Lizard Head road head. We all went out the ridge beyond the lookout tower to sign the register at 5875'. In the distant future, if by some freak accident, some registers of peak baggers are preserved on the site, it may be thought to be part of the religious ceremonies of the 20th century homo sapiens.

Those participating in this fun filled weekend were Ken Jones, Dan Borad, Mary Anne Stump, Julie Vogel, Jerry Keating, Nancy Keating, Erv Bartel, Janet Bartel, Sue Wyman, Vic Henney, Alice Spring, Spencer Berman, Wait Whisman, Thelma Whisman, John Gibba, Peter Doggett, Penelope May, Ron May, Eric May, George Thomas, Paul Graff, Jean Hermanson and Lucy Woodward. Thank you so much to Debbie Santiago and Ray Van de Hoek for the knowledge they shared with us. Also thank you to Frank Goodykoontz and David Eisenberg for assisting me on this large trip.

If you missed the Caliente climb and the tour of Painted Rock I will be leading it again in 1995 on the November 4-5 weekend.

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