Sunday, April 10, 2016


Way back on December 7, 2015 I posted on Wander The West,

How about a Spring Time WTW Rally - Carrizo Plain ?

17 pages of discussion later and we had a Spring Time WTW Rally planned. WTW is my go to website for camper and camping information. Lots of information and none of the flaming on so many other sites. The date picked for the WTW Rally was April 8, 9 and 10 of 2016. All the sites showed this to be the best time for flowers. With our wet winter it was looking good for a great display of flowers. We were hoping for a display like the picture below.
    Picture, taken from the web not mine.

Mother Nature had other plans for us. This was not the year of a super bloom like the web picture above. The flowers peaked two weeks before the WTW Rally. 
With that introduction here is my Trip Report. 
Click on any picture for a full size image. 
We got out of Stockton Friday morning and headed down I-5, not the most scenic drive but great green hills as we drove along the coast range. By Buttonwillow  we turned to Hwy 33 and the towns of Taft and Maricopa, California oil country. The air in this area has a crude oil smell, not sure I could live there. Steep climb up the hill on Hwy 33 took us to Soda Lake road. Just a few miles up we see some of the best flowers left in Carrizo  Plain 
This is a private ranch just before the National Monument.  Later we we found the owner is not happy with people walking into his front yard to take pictures. Just about an 11 mile drive to our camp in a dispersed camping area. 

Clouds were building as we drove along Soda Lake road. A light rain started to fall as the skies darkened.  There were several campers in camp when we arrived. Found our site and stared to pop up the camper. As I moved the first latch mother nature decided it was time for hard rain to fall. Carrizo Plain get 9" of rain a year, I think we got 3" of the year on Friday night. 

Our camper durning a break in the rain. To the right is Tuff Guy 62    Brian Papurello from WTW. Brian is a Geologist and put together a GeoTour for Saturday. 

We walked around meeting new friends and talking with some old friends. The rain continued and it was soon time for dinner. Normally we pull out the grill and cook outside, not today. 

Tonight we cooked and dined inside. This is one of the great parts of having a camper. Dry warm and comfortable. Chicken, carrots and coleslaw. My diet is going well and not missing the carbs. 


We fell asleep to hard rain on the roof, and woke up to quiet. Would today be dry for the GeoTour? As I said Brian put together a GeoTour of Carrizo Plain and we did not know what to expect. We knew we were in for something special when he gave us an over 100 page guide! Brian and his friend Randy Petersen really did a great job.  The GeoTour left Hwy 33 and Soda Lake road at 9:00am and we got to the visitors center at 2:00 pm. We had a full day of exploring the Carrizo Plain. 

Everyone lined up and ready to leave on the GeoTour. Brian was using a FRS radio as we drove on the tour. He pointed out geological features between stops, along with local history.

Brian telling us about the San Andreas Fault at one of the stops.

The entry to Carrizo Plain. The rain has stopped and we are enjoying the dry weather. 

On to Traver Ranch, information stop and a display of old farm equipment. I was surprised to see a Stockton Plow. Good friend Van Lawrence owned D&V machine shop and made Stockton Plows years after this one was made.  

Another stop and more information from Brian. He told us we would be able to lead a tour when we were done. 

We stopped at an old ranch long abandoned. The equipment was state of the art long ago.  Must have been a hard life making a living on the Carrizo Plain when the ranch was active. Brian told us some the history; there was dry farming years ago. The sand hill cranes used to stop over but stopped as the wheat fields disappeared.    

One Stop was right on the San Andreas Fault, it is the low area just behind us in the pictures below. The low dry lake area behind us was created when a curve in the fault pulled away. 

The weather cooperated and did not rain at any of the stops. Twice it did rain as we drove between the stops. The route was modified as some of the roads were not passable due to the rain. Randy checked out the roads in his jeep and found the ones we would have trouble on. 

Our lunch stop was up the hill over looking the far end of the dragons back.  Some flowers were still blooming in the area. Must have been beautiful two weeks before. 

 We watched the rain on the far side of the valley as we dined in the sunshine. 

You can see some of our group on top of the hill.

Next we drove back to Soda Lake road and then north to the Soda Lake Overlook. Clear and a great view across Soda Lake. Somewhere in the rain on the other side was Randy and his Jeep. 

Our campers far below the Soda Lake overlook.

Next stop was the visitors center. 


We stopped and shopped, please do the same if you are at Carrizo Plain. The non profit does a great job and needs our support. The visitor's center is also the entry to Pained Rock. A permit is needed this time of a year to view painted rock, maybe our next trip.


Just outside the visitor center were some large rocks. They were covered with several colors of lichen I have not seen together before.

Another of the rocks. Looks like the lichen was pained on.

Veronica had pulled her back picking up a rock at the lunch stop. Motrin and ice were not stopping the pain. She did not feel another night in the camper would make it feel better. The decision was made to stop at camp say good by and head home. We did leave appetizers for the pot luck dinner. I hope the dinner was without rain.  Driving out of the plain the sun highlighted areas as it broke through the clouds.

We enjoyed our stay in Carrizo Plain and meeting the Wander The West members. We will be back another spring to see the flowers bloom. Our drive home was long and dark with heavy rain. Once on I-5 it rained hard enough to slow up California drivers, one even pulled off and stopped.  It did make for a memorable trip home.

A slideshow of all my pictures can be see here