Carrizo Plain National Monument


I knew about the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but didn’t really have any desire to go check it out. It wasn’t till one day at work an employee of the BLM was there. He told us the wildflowers should be amazing this year with all the rain we were having in California. My interest peaked and with it being low elevation, it should be perfect camping weather so early in the year. The usual planning followed.

Sending out invitations for those who may want to join Diana and I, we ended with with one family camping two nights and a couple of others driving over for a day visit. A good turn out for a weekend trip to the outdoors!

Photo Album that follows the story is here —> Carrizo Plain National Monument Photo Album

Friday – Day 1

Day 1 was our travel day. Most of us had to work and so once work was over, we left for the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Dinner was at In ‘n’ Out that night. We forgot a few things, so after dinner we grabbed some extra lunch meat and other goodies.

We arrived at Soda Lake Road around 9PM. The drive into the dark was fun…well…maybe for some of us it was enjoyable. Coming into the Monument from highway 166 was a little curvy here and there. Once we actually arrived in the valley prior to KCL campground, it was smooth sailing.

Our destination that night was at KCL campground. We pulled in around 9:30 PM. The place was packed and there was nowhere to park a vehicle let alone set up a tent. We pulled over and, after talking with Cole and Kelly, decided to head to Shelby Campground. The Monument is a first come, first serve area.

Arriving at Shelby Camground around 1015 PM, it was full too. It seemed 2x the amount of people and cars were here too. Luckily we found a large turn out where there was plenty of room and a couple people camping. We set up camp and crashed around 1115 PM.

Saturday – Day 2

We woke up around 730ish in the morning. Diana and I decided to make breakfast for the group that morning. It was pancakes and eggs. We pulled out the stove and started to serve everyone. Unfortunately the skillet was not cooperating with the pancakes. They ended up looking pretty ratty, but everyone ate them anyway.

At 945AM we drove to the visitor center for the Soda Lake Tour. Unfortunately that is not where the tour was meeting. We were directed to drive further north to Overlook Hill, which is actually labeled Soda Lake Overlook. Cole got us there rather quickly. We only missed the first part of the tour. Here we caught up with the other two members of our party, Jeremy and Trent, who were coming for the day. Jeremy was using this trip for class credit. He was taking notes on his iPhone’s voice recorder when the guides were talking.

Once we were done checking out the lake from the top of the overlook, we proceeded down to the board walk along the lake. It was pretty cool to see the salty shores of the lake. There is no outlet, so all the minerals end up being left behind when the lake evaporates. Certain wildflowers can handles this area and were growing nearby. A botanist in the group was very excited about seeing it and took a few photos. We enjoyed the walk, looking at the wildflowers, and taking photos of us all along the shoreline.

At about noon we were at the staging area for Painted Rock. You can only see this special site via the tour. You need reservations too. We took about 30 minutes for lunch here. Cole, Kelly, Trent, Jeremy, Diana, and myself enjoyed chatting and telling stories. Cole and Kelly’s kids were always enjoying the outdoors as well as their lunches.

After lunch the guides gave us an introduction to the place. We were told to watch out for rattlesnakes since they were common in the area. Falcons also nested on Painted Rock and if they were there, we were told we couldn’t see the rock. It would disturbed their breeding site and could cause other problems with the group since they are territorial/protective of their nests.

Fortunately for the entire group there were no rattlesnakes along the trail. The falcons were out hunting for the day, so we proceeded in two groups to check out Painted Rock. Photos were taken of the area and the Native American paintings. However, due to the Native Americans request, no photos of their artwork was allowed to be displayed to the public. This is why you don’t see any in the photo album.

Once back at the vehicles, we went back to camp. All of us, excluding Jeremy and Trent, were tired and wanted to relax a bit. Jeremy and Trent were going to check out the San Andreas Fault while we rested back at camp. We told them “catch you guys in awhile” and headed back to camp.

We were not at camp long when Jeremy and Trent showed up at camp. They were going to check out the fault on the way out of the Monument. After moments of them arriving the law enforcement officer showed up. Apparently we were not allowed to be staying in that large turn out. It was a site off limits. No signs were posted, so we didn’t know. He was a nice guy and told us we had to move. He did recommend a campsite on Caliente Ridge we could use for a group our size. We loosely packed up the vehicles and made our way up there. It was a steep climb in parts but we all made it and the site was worth the move.

Cole and Kelly were making dinner for us that evening. Trent and Jeremy took off to check out the fault and then head home. We said our goodbyes and watched them drive off. Dinner was filets wrapped in bacon, fresh sweet peppers, and sausages.

That evening I did some night photography and it turned out pretty good. I was showing Cole how the camera works in low light. We talked about all kinds of stuff as well as Diana and Kelly did. We stayed up having a good time till about 10PM.

Sunday – Day 3

We all woke up in the clouds. I found it really cool to wake up that way. It didn’t take long for the sun and wind to push the clouds back over to the coast. Breakfast was delicious and much better then when Diana and I did it. We took our time and enjoyed the views once more before taring down camp.

The drive home was enjoyable as we took a different route. We saw the lake once more, new wildflowers, and a bunch of old structures. As we made our way over to highway 58, we drove along the San Andreas Fault line. We then found what looked like a subdivision was going to be built. Road signs at intersections that no longer existed. The land had taken over the roads that were probably made years ago.

It was a great trip overall and a perfect place to get away for the weekend. Summer time would be miserable there though. I recommend doing a spring trip like we did. There was no entry or camping fees. There is no cell phone reception, unless you camp on the ridge line like we did. AT&T came in just fine. You will need to bring your own water too.

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