Wild Places We Go

Carrizo Plain

The Carrizo Plain was my first destination on the California Loop Trip. Often described as California’s Serengeti, I was honestly not expecting too much after having seen the real Serengeti, but as with all stops on this trip – results exceeded expectations.

In his very final days in office, President Bill Clinton signed a proclamation designating the Carrizo Plain a National Monument. Perhaps because the National Monument is still fairly young, no one seems to know about the Carrizo Plain.

I had gotten a late start from Mountain View, stopped for lunch in King City and ended up hanging out with some German girls for a couple of hours and, lastly, I was in an unusually mellow mood. So, I just kept the car at a steady 95 m.p.h. on the lazy Central Valley back roads.

As such, I arrived at the Carrizo Plain late in the day. However, it made for some spectacular scenery that the pictures only go so far in capturing.

My first view of the Carrizo Plain – the road in…  There was absolutely no one around:

carrizo plain road

I hiked to the top of a small hill to capture a picture of “Soda Lake” and a view out across the valley:

carrizo plain

And then I hiked down to Soda Lake to get these two pictures:

soda lake carrizo plain

I loved the roads going through the Carrizo Plain.  Having seen no one for at least an hour before I even got to the Carrizo Plain, they seemed full of promise.

A view across the Plain.

the carrizo plain

carrizo plain national monument

The Carrizo Plain used to be entirely composed of ranches and they did an excellent job of protecting it.  In order to keep the ecosystem in balance, the BLM still leases the land out to ranchers to graze their cattle during certain periods of the year.

I snapped this picture after taking my Honda up to 117 m.p.h. here – the fastest I have ever gone on a dirt road.  Cool road, huh? I had to ease off just after taking the picture though because I hit a section where the road was fairly washboarded and the back end of the car started getting really light and drifting.

A full moon framed the view of the Plain from where I decided to spend the night splendidly.

My camp site for the night.  I had the entire Carrizo Plain completely to myself.

The next morning, I went exploring around some of the old ranching facilities.

The San Andreas fault.

You don’t see these until you’re right on top of them.

After not seeing a single person for the entire time I was visiting the Carrizo Plain, upon leaving the Monument, I was immediately joined by a pack of motorcyclists twisting toward Los Angeles on these mountain roads.  It was a good way to ease back into society.

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5 thoughts on “Carrizo Plain

  1. Reminds me of the Great Basin of Nevada, which is my favorite go-get-lost-by-yourself locale . . . great fun discovering the stark beauty of a place most folks think is wasteland, ain’t it?

    Nice post . . .

  2. Thanks for the kind words. Funny that you mentioned being reminded of Great Basin because I had the same reaction.

    Haha. And, yes, I do seem to spend quite a lot of time enjoying myself in places others avoid – Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Salton Sea, etc.

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