Thursday, August 15, 2013

American Ranch, Carrizo rustica, and a night at El Saucito

This is either my sixth or seventh visit to the Carrizo since the beginning of the year, I'm really diggin' on the place. There's just too much stuff out there to see and do and explore. 

Coming off an overnight in the San Emigdios and energetic runs out to two different rock art sites, all I wanted was a shower and some sleep. Instead of heading for home I turned Northwest and shifted my plans toward the Plain. I wasn't really sure where I was going to spend the evening but I resolved to make the evening memorable. Mission accomplished.

Hitting the Carrizo at around five pm gave me some daylight to spend driving around, time I made good use of. It was during this time and on a the western edge of the Plain that I spotted a small herd of pronghorn antelope. I was pretty surprised to see them and had figured that they were one of those species that is exceedingly rare and difficult to spot. Maybe they are, and I just got lucky.

At sunset I found myself parked near the Godwin Visitors Center trying to figure out what I'd need with me for an evening in an abandoned ranch house. Sleeping pad, cold pizza in foil, candles, cameras gear, San Peligrino and a mylar emergency blanket had me good to go. I threw the kit together and got on my bike and started pedaling into the fading sunset. At dusk I startled a bull elk from around a hundred feet away and as I continued the ride he faded into the darkness. After I'd lost him he started bugling and carried on for a bit.

Arriving at a 100 year old abandoned ranch house in the full dark of a moonless night is not something I have a habit of doing. A gentle breeze whispered through the cottonwoods, skittering leaves here and there, rattling corrugated sheeting on the nearby barn. An overarching silence filling the remaining gaps in the the night. I rolled up to the front door, laid down my bike, dug out the headlamp and clomped up the stairs. I turned the handle and flung the door inward on silent hinges, stood there on the stoop flashing my light around the living room. A wash of warm and stuffy air sighed out from the house and I wasn't sure why I had to nudge myself to stretch a foot across the threshold. I had similar difficulty taking my first step up the narrow and creaking staircase to the second floor.

On my pass through the upper level I started opening windows and letting the mild breeze move through the house. Again I was impressed with the silence of this place. I dropped my gear upstairs and went down to complete my walk thru, cruised right through the kitchen to a side room with a big closet. I spooked two bats out of the closet. They flew a few laps through the ground floor of the house before realizing that the front door was open. I stepped back into the kitchen in time to catch a fluttering silhouette fly into the night. In that glance toward the door I had registered a slight noise beneath and to my right. At some primal precognitive level I was understanding that whisper of a noise as reptilian. Don't ask me how but I was moving away from that noise before I had even got a light on it. Only then did I realize that the noise I had heard was the sound of a rattlesnake coiling for a strike and that I'd easily been in range. After kicking out the pit viper (see below) the rest of the house didn't seem so scary. I lit a good cigar and watched the sky for a time before enjoying a very pleasant night. I have to say that the only discordant noise I heard all night was the crinkling of the e-blanket, world's lightest sleeping bag.

The following day I rose and enjoyed the sunrise with a banana then rode over to another ranch site called American Ranch. I encountered a herd of tule elk on the ride there. There are a number of old buildings and decaying trailers here. Ancient farm machinery and warped water tanks decorate an area uphill of the ranch. Further up from the ranch is the spring site shown in the photo heading this post. The rest of the day is best told in photos.
 As always, you can click any image to enlarge it.


  1. David, sounds like an amazing trip. Great pictures! How many miles is the farm house from the Godwin Visitors center and is there a clear path/trail to it?

  2. These two ranches are 2-3 miles west of Godwin on bikable roads.-DS

  3. A Night At El Saucito; Memorable Indeed.... Glad you found that pit viper before he found you; would hate to rollover that guy in the middle of the night!!!

  4. This would've been a perfect Halloween Haunted House edition posting to your blog. Complete with snakes and bats!