After a brief organization meeting we proceeded down paved, but interesting, Bealville Road and passed the town site of Bealville which at one time had a small station and telegraph serving the Southern Pacific Railroad. Another mile or so up the road was the historic town of Caliente which at one time was a thriving railroad town.
The road then continued to follow beautiful Caliente Canyon north to the town of Twin Oaks. After a total of about 18 miles of pavement it was now time to hit the dirt via Forest Road 29S02. The road started out quite easy as it wound through some ranch areas, but that changed very quickly. Things became much more steep as we encountered a total of 19 hairpin turns on the way up the mountain. Those vehicles with a long wheelbase, including Mal, had extra fun on this road! We finally topped out at about 7,000 feet as we passed someone’s summer cabin on the right and their outhouse on the left!
Ponderosa pines were dominant at this elevation. We also drove through two different high mountain meadows as we continued now on Jawbone Canyon Road through the town site of what was Claraville. We then started driving through the remnants of the severe Piute fire which burned a significant area here in July 2008. A rough side road took us to Piute Vista which was a fire lookout structure built in 1934 at over 8,000 feet. Only a concrete slab still exists, but the views were worth the short hike we had to take to get to the top. We then followed semi-rugged Piute Mountain Road down another series of switchbacks to the Walker Basin and retraced the Bealville Road back to the Tehachapi area where a group dinner awaited us at the surprisingly good Village Grill in beautiful downtown Tehachapi. There was a combination of camping and motel stays that night.
On Sunday we had a special treat as we had an opportunity to tour the Tomo-Kahni Indian Village site. Although this is a state park, it is only accessible with docents from the Tehachapi museum. We met as a group Sunday morning at this excellent museum to receive a brief lecture on the history of this area and the background of the Indians who populated it. We then caravanned with the docent on some very interesting roads out to approximately ten miles west of town where the hike began. (Not everyone did the hike which was about three miles with significant gain.)
This walk was very interesting as we noted grinding holes, fire rings and a cave that was populated by the Kawaiisu Indians. The Kawaiisu were of Shoshonean lineage and made the Tehachapi area their home for thousands of years. They were hunters and gatherers who searched the area for food. We also learned that the Kawaiisu were excellent basket makers. Some of their work is exhibited at the museum. The hike was over in the early afternoon and everybody was ready to head for home.
This proved to be a fun and educational weekend in an area which many of us have somewhat ignored in the past. It appears there is plenty more to do in the future.
Check out the photos by Allan Wicker