San Luis Obispo County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: May 6, 2006
Author: Dave Covill

I met new cohper Chad Thomas from San Francisco Friday evening May 5th in Bakersfield. We were stymied in our quest to hook up with a local fellow who worked at a bike store in Bako, who was going to lend (infer: rent) us two mountain bikes for the weekend. We decided it would be foolhardy to try to walk the 32 miles to Big Pine Mountain of Santa Barbara County, so we chose to hike Caliente Mountain, only 16 miles round-trip. I have seen various accounts of the elevation gain for this trip, some as low as 1,600 feet. That is incorrect, as it is at least 2,000 feet, although over that distance it all seemed pretty gentle. The net on it is about 1,200 feet and there are several down-hills of a few hundred feet on the route.

We drove easily to the ridge crest and the locked gate. While there were a few minor washouts of perhaps 8-12 inches deep and 8-12 inches wide and across the dirt road, I would say a Subaru could easily have made it, although we were in Chad's Toyota Truck, fortunately. We started out at 8:00AM and made it up in 3 hours and 30 minutes, stayed on top for a half hour, then made it down in 3 hours and 5 minutes. We (infer: Chad in the lead) made very good time, stopping perhaps 3 times in each direction for a water break for a few minutes.

There was major fog in the morning in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, although we quickly drove up and above it. There was no evidence of recent rains, and the wildflowers, while nice, were not as spectacular as reportedly they were the year before. We could barely see south to Big Pine due to the constant southern California haze and smog. Very disappointing.

We figured we could have done it slightly faster uphill with the bikes and in closer to an hour or so on the way out. This would definitely be a good place to bring a mountain bike to. While Ken Akerman reported a sandy section or two near the top, it seemed to us that it would have been not only possible but very reasonable to bike to the top of the false summit about 1/2 mile before the true summit, then walk from there. That would give the rider a great downhill ride back to the TH.

We enjoyed the little lookout shack on top, which lists heavily to starboard, captain. The register was chock full of Sierra Club hikers but scattered about were the usual cast of characters I have come to recognize. There were maybe a half dozen visits in 2006.