Monday, February 25, 2013

Caliente Mountain Lookout (HPS). A(nother) death in the family. 02/24/13

I'm not sure if it's just me or what? I'm 0-2 now, when it comes to these old lookout sites. A couple months back I arrived atop Cuyama Peak only to find that the ancient structure had collapsed last June. The structure on top of Caliente had been predicted to fall any day for years. I was hoping to get up there in time to still see it, but time waits for no man and I arrived to find the old WWII lookout cabin 100% collapsed straight into itself. The best I could determine from summit entries is that this structure likely collapsed sometime prior to early May of last year.

I spent a great weekend up on the Carrizo with Jack Elliott. We saw a bunch of things over two very active days, one of which we used to ascend ole Caliente. There is an old route which ascends the south side of the peak from the Cuyama side, however my efforts to gain access have been repelled by both ranchers and oil company security. I'd say that climbing the peak from that direction is off-limits. Leaving us with two options from Selby Camp on the Carrizo. An old horse trail single track route ascends from Selby Campsite and gains a ridge road and from there the route continues southeast to the summit. We opted for the other option which is to drive three miles up from Selby Ranch and start at the gate. 

Looking back north along our route. 
The route itself is really quite nice, a soft old road that follows the crest of this ridge for around 8.5 miles to the summit. As with most ridge walks, this day includes a fair bit of up and down both coming and going. The walking is what I'd call "moderate" overall, with a few short steeps. 

Cuyama Valley from the summit.
 The views provided while walking the ridge, and especially at the summit, are truly unique. The summit itself is a stand alone peak, with no nearby neighbors of similar elevation. The views are way worth the walk. All the way out we had views of the Cuyama Valley and down into the vast Carrizo. We had clear views all the way to the Tehachapi Range and out to Santa Maria. 

Soda Lake, from somewhere along the route.
 The walk out has enough uphill grinds to remind you that you just did a bunch of that already today. It's a long and pretty roll out to the trailhead. Unlike being at a similar elevation in the nearby SLP, on this ridge the flora consists primarily of scrub oak, grasses and spotty forests of pretty juniper. The road bed was cushy and soft thanks to the freeze-thaw effect on local soils, which is a good thing because I'm still trying to recondition myself for those long groud-pounding days.
Jack, relaxing at an old corral, the line shack is below.
 Both Jack and I really liked this walk. We had ideal conditions with temps in the 40's with a persistent 5-10mph breeze all day and robin's egg blue skies. I'd advise those aiming for this summit to make sure to get out there before the weather warms up. I don't imagine it's named "Caliente" for a reason.

The entire 17 mile day with time on summit came to just under 6 hours. Not bad, Stillman.

Jack shooting Soda Lake.


  1. Caliente is the highest point in SLO county at 5109', IIRC. I mtn biked it from the locked gate in search of a geocache. This was several years ago and the structure was still somewhat intact. Good report, thanks.


  2. Visited Caliente in November of 2010 and the cabin was collapsed. Like you, I was disappointed. Should have visited it on one of my previous trips to Carrizo. Sometime later I found a photo of a similar cabin:
    Enjoy reading your blog. Cheers.

  3. Yes, Mr. J. The cabin in that photo is the Jackson Springs cabin on Sierra Madre. It was originally a WWII era lookout which was either purchased by or given to the local rancher. He relocated the structure from it's original position higher on the ridge. -DS

    1. Thanks DS, you are the second person to tell me where the cabin is located. The first was my friend Jeff, who when I sent him the link, reminded me that back in 1983 we were about 1/2 mile from it. Wish I would have taken the time see it then, because that country is a long way from just about everywhere.