Just seventy-two hours before I began setting up camp in the Carrizo Plains—I was laying in bed, still hungover from New Years Eve the night before, a few thousand miles away in the outskirts of Chicago. I had decided to take some time away from our offices in Prescott and enjoy the holidays with my friends and family. It was pretty low key—I planned for suburbia, but as so often happens lately, adventure came knocking and I found myself with a travel confirmation in my inbox. I wouldn’t be flying back to Arizona as planned; I’d be headed for Sacramento where I’d pick up a Jeep J8, head to San Francisco for a photo shoot, then have a day or two at my disposal—as long as the J8 was back at the office on Sunday morning.
It takes effort to plan even a little bit of adventure within the confines of an otherwise work-related trip—It’s all too easy to simply stick to the interstate and eat at that chain restaurant next to your budget hotel. I rarely vest too much time into planning a trip, I travel for the serendipity of the open road, not the predictability of a guidebook. After a series of uneventful flights, which for once were actually on time leaving ORD, I found myself taking the easy route; checking into a last-minute hotel near the Sacramento airport—hey, it was Midnight! The next morning I had a two hour drive to Triple Aught Designs‘ Dogpatch offices where I toured their facility, and grabbed some images of their FJ Cruiser that we’ll be featuring shortly. After a relatively responsible night out with Gianni, Raquel, Garrett, and Christopher (who sadly didn’t join us the following day) it was time to get some sleep as we had a long drive ahead of us. (You’ll also hear more about my misadventures in San Francisco this week)
Gianni and Raquel virtually planned the majority of this entire trip as soon as I arrived in San Francisco, as I haven’t spent much time exploring California, so I’d by lying to you if I told you I’d even heard about the Carrizo Plain prior to Gianni mentioning it. The plains didn’t just meet the remote factor that we required, but also landed me within striking distance of Prescott so I could get back without incident.
The Carrizo Plain is the largest grassland left in California and is located about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, within the Carrizo Plain National Monument and is managed by the BLM. It’s one of the sunniest places in North America and the location of some of the first, and largest solar fields in the world. It’s also home to Painted Rock, which has recently had some of its access restricted due to vandalism, permits for the historic site can be found on the BLM website here. [link]
The winter leaves the plains quite dry, but in the spring the rain comes and the entire valley is overrun with wildflowers. I’m told it’s far less remote in the spring and summer months.
When it rains, it pours, and for the most part the lower points of the area become impassible during wet weather.
If driving fast is your thing, there’s plenty of places to do that here.
Soda Lake, located within the Carrizo Plain is a alkali lake that is accessible by Soda Lake Road, and a few dirt trails. It’s a must see if you’re here.
The dry lake bed isn’t open for vehicular travel, but be sure to make the hike down to the lake bed and obey all signs—it’s a fragile environment.
Camping isn’t permitted in the lower regions of the plain, but is allowed in the slightly higher areas just inside the foothills. Elkhorn road will lead you in the correct direction to campsites with a great view. Here’s roughly where we camped. [link]
There’s no doubt I’ll be back—especially when the wildflowers are in bloom.
A huge thanks to Gianni and Raquel for taking the time out of their busy schedule at Triple Aught Design to show me not only the best of San Fransisco, but some killer spots to get lost in California.