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David R

Caliente Mountain Hike

There is a fine line between a hobby/interest and an obsession. For me hiking wavers between these two but is mainly something I'm interested in. On occasion I succumb to the desires of the obsession and do an illogical hike. Caliente Mountain is one of those.

Caliente Mountain calls County Highpointers and HPS hikers due to it being over 5K and being the high point of San Luis Obispo County. It is located above the Carrizo Plain National Monument. This is an odd space of land that looks like it was dropped out of central Wyoming or Mongolia. It is vast and desolate especially in the winter. It looked less inviting then the desert to me with scrubgrass in the lower elevations and stunted juniper and oak in the mountains. The only thing moving out there were birds and plenty of hawks. I hear the spring softens the look with a profusion of wildflowers but a more forbidding landscape in California, I've yet to see. It is run by the BLM versus the park service which is why it hits the news so often as disputes constantly arise over land use and what the purpose of the monument is. It also is the site of the San Andreas fault and the last true "big one" in the 1800's had its epicenter here.

The drive takes at least three hours from LA due to its remoteness and dirt road driving. All of the drive except the last mile to the ridge are suitable for passenger cars. I managed to scrape my way up the last mile but looking back I should've pulled over. The three miles to the ridge have few pull-outs so you're pretty committed once you start up the steep incline.

The hike is 17 miles with 2,800 feet elevation gain and is boring as hell. The route is on fireroad in excellent condition for half the route and in decent shape for the rest. My suggestion is mountain bike this sucker. The milestones so you don't die of boredome is 40 minutes into the hike you hit a weather station, 1 hour in hit a livestock area and demolished trailer, and 1 hour 40 in the wildlife trapper. The hke moves very fast and it took me a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to the top. You can see from the beginning and from the weather station a large green summit, this is not Caliente. Caliente is right behind it to the east just a tad. The rocks by Caliente have fossils and the summit has a fallen down shack that supposedly was used as a WWII look-out for Japanese planes. The other interesting thing about this entire area is the dirt is adobe clay which makes for great walking and driving as long as the ground isn't wet.

The hike back should be a little faster but it is a rolling gentle ridge so you will have up-hills on the way back. The whole hike took 4 hours and 40 minutes with about 20 minutes on the summit. There was nary a person to be seen during the entire hike and I passed maybe four cars in the monument. Looking back I would've made this a spring hike if I had the time. In the sign-in can I noticed that Mars Bonfire signed in December about three times, he has hiked this peak 25 times and he signed off "Last Time" which sounds like he is going into semi-retirement as far as peak climbing once he finishes his 25th list finish. I don't think I've hiked any peak 25 times, now that's obsessive.

Definately one of the more remote peaks in California.  Not terribly interesting itself, but great views into the Cuyma Valley and Carrizo Plain.  I was there in early April 2011 on a road trip through Central California.  Definately better in the spring when you'll (hopefully) get a great wildflower bloom on the Carrizo Plain (I was there about two weeks too early  Crying or Very sad ).  Might not happen this year unless we get some significant rainfall in the next few months.  Cheers Forum Index -> California
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