San Luis Obispo County Highpoint Trip Report

Caliente Mountain (5,106 feet)

Date: November 25, 2000
Author: Ken Akerman

After my successful, but long, ascent of Big Pine Mountain in eastern Santa Barbara County, I drove back to CA Route 166, returned to the convenience store in the town of Maricopa for a snack and water re- supply, and then traveled west again on CA Route 166 to Soda Lake Road, where I turned right at an abandoned gas station and followed the directions in Gary Suttle's book to the Caliente Ridge Parking Area. Although the elevation here (about 3,500 feet) was higher than the elevation at the Big Pine Mountain trailhead, it was warmer night, so I didn't feel cold. Because I got to sleep fairly late, I slept later into the morning, and began my ascent on mountain bike at about 8:20 am.

The trail begins across the parking area, but this is actually just a shortcut that intersects the old road to the summit. You could also proceed to the locked gate and begin the ascent from there. The road is generally straight but undulating. I rode my bicycle the majority of the way to the summit. At about 4,600 feet, the surface became soft and sandy, making riding very difficult, so I parked my bike and hiked the rest of the way. I hiked on the remainder of the road remnants as it curved eastward to surmount the summit ridge. Tire tracks near the summit indicate that some other climbers did attempt to ride their bicycles all the way to the summit.

Inside the dilapidated lookout is a register, an old beach chair, a table and some trash. I put my camera on the table and took a picture of myself lounging on the beach chair. An interesting piece of literature in the register can is a diagram identifying the location of other peaks using compass bearings. I was able to identify Big Pine Mountain and Mount Pinos (8,831 feet), high point of Ventura County. Walk around the lookout building to locate two benchmarks. I was the only person on the mountain that day, and it does not appear that this peak receives a large number of visitors - entries in the two small register notebooks go back to as early as 1977.

After eating lunch on the peak and taking my pictures, I hiked back down to my bicycle, then rode back to my SUV. I returned before 3:00 pm, so one could expect that a round-trip to the summit and back takes about 6-7 hours, including a leisurely respite at the summit.

I drove to San Luis Obispo and ate a burger dinner at Firestone Grill (1001 Higuera Street, (805) 783-1001), recommended to me by a Cal Poly - SLO student, and a recommendation that I highly endorse because the establishment offers excellent food at reasonable prices. I then drove south on US 101 to Santa Barbara and spent the night at Banana Bungalow Hostel (210 E. Ortega St., (805) 963-0154).