Leader: Bob Jacoby
May 2, 2015
Over the years the Desert Explorers have had great trips to interesting places all over California and the entire Southwest. On every one of these trips you could be sure that one or more DE members had been to the area before. That is why the Tejon Ranch trip on May 2 was so unique. No Desert Explorer had been there before and no one else had either with the exception of individuals working for the Tejon Ranch.
The following individuals arrived at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy headquarters in Lebec on a sunny Saturday morning for this very unusual adventure: Bob Jacoby, Nan Savage-Healy, Ted Kalil, Alan Wicker, Fredic Raab, Mignon Slentz. Glenn Shaw, Leonard Friedman, Ron and Barbara Mildowski, Danny and Norma Siler, Randy Mathews, Nelson Miller, Mike Volmart, Ron Lipari and Mal Roode.
The trip was led by Scott Pipken who is a docent with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. Mr. Pipken asked that we take only six DE vehicles on the trip. As a result, it was necessary to maximize the number of passengers in each vehicle. Fortunately, Scott drove a Conservancy vehicle with space for five passengers. That helped ensure that everybody had a spot and we could still meet the six vehicle limit. After a very informative introduction to the Ranch and its history we soon were headed down the hill to the San Joaquin Valley to begin this journey.
As we journeyed along we were provided with some very interesting additional information regarding the history of the area. The Tejon Ranch is now the largest private landholding in California and is owned by the Tejon Ranch Company. The size of the Conservancy’s portion of the ranch is about 240,000 acres. Almost all of this land is totally undeveloped. The property includes contiguous land in areas where the Mojave Desert, the Central Valley, the Traverse Ranges and the Sierra Nevada all converge.
The Conservancy was created in 2008 when an agreement was reached between the Ranch and the state of California. The agreement stipulates that in exchange for conserving the 240,000 acres to be managed by the Conservancy, the Tejon Ranch Company will be able to develop three different additional areas of the Ranch.
With this background information, we entered the Conservancy lands just below the Grapevine in the extreme southern San Joaquin Valley. We started out on pavement as we headed north toward Wheeler Ridge and passed some out buildings for the Ranch. Soon we were on dirt and climbing up the mountain side as we followed the watershed of Cottonwood Creek. This was a long climb which led to spectacular views, including a spot over 6,000 feet in elevation where we could see Interstate 5 and Lebec miles below us.
We were very fortunate to have a clear, beautiful day while lunching at a beautiful spot in the high country in the Tehachapi Mountains. Throughout the trip there were several opportunities to view wildlife, including a number of deer. We were also on the lookout for condors, but, unfortunately, did not spot any. They normally are visible in most of this area.
As we crested the mountains and started to descend, the Mojave Desert became visible and before long we were passing through a Joshua Tree forest. There was one amazing spot where Joshua trees grew near pine trees. This is a good example of where different ecological systems converge. That certainly was the theme of the entire trip as we saw first head what makes this area so special.
After a full day of easy, but fun, dirt roads, the group eventually arrived at route 138 in the Antelope Valley where some people turned off to head for home in the high desert. The rest of us motored back to the Ranch headquarters where we thanked Scott Pipken effusively for an unbelievable day