A Day trip along the
Caliente- Bodfish Road
Two weekends ago I drove with Todd along an old road, the Caliente-Bodfish Road, down
in the southernmost part of the Sierra Nevada and the Tehachapi Mountains. This is a
hidden jewel of California, especially this time of year, as the wildflowers are
incredible! This winding country road is also a lot of fun to drive on...
|The Famous "Y" - we took the right fork
|Lake Isabella from the Bodfish Piute Cypress Botanical Area
Information from a brochure I'm writing for the Forest Service...
The Bodfish Piute Cypress Botanical Area is named for the Piute Cypress Tree,
Cupressus arizonica nevadensi. There are only eleven known groves of this Piute
cypress which are scattered over the southernmost portion of the Sierra Nevada in
Kern County and extreme southern Tulare County. The Bodfish grove is the largest and
oldest colony comprising more than 50% of the total known range of the species.
Thousands of trees of all ages grow here over a fairly wide area in chaparral and arid
Douglas oak woodland. The Botanical area borders the BLM Piute Cypress Research
Natural Area which more than doubles the protected area for this unique tree.
Associated with the Piute cypress in the Bodfish grove are several other sensitive
plant species including Pringles yampah, Piute jewel flower, Piute Mountains navarretia,
and Kern River larkspur.
Piute jewel flower is known only from an extensive colony at the north end of the Piute
Mountains occupying much the same area as the Bodfish Piute cypress grove. Piute
Mountains navarretia, which is federally proposed as threatened, has a small scattered
distribution in the west and southwest foothills of the Greenhorn Mountains, the
Tehachapi Mountains at Grasshopper Flat, and at the base of the Piute Mountains. All
known populations are found in heavy, clay-like soils. Pringle's yampah and Kern River
larkspur are locally endemic to the southern Sierra and are considered rare but not
Piute cypress is dependent upon fire for regeneration. Stands of Piute cypress are
primarily even-aged as a result of fire. Two different age classes exist at the Bodfish
grove. The older age class is to the northwest of the young stand and is primarily on
To get to this botanical area from Lake Isabella, travel south on County Road 483, the
Caliente Bodfish Road. Go about 3.2 miles then turn left on the Saddle Springs Road,
Forest Road 27S02. This road is dirt and high clearance and/or 4 wheel drive is
recommended. After a couple of switchbacks this road enters the botanical area.
The first hike is to Bald Eagle Peak, elevation 6,181 feet. You can find this
unmaintained trail by driving 5.5 miles from the intersection of the Caliente Bodfish
Road and the Saddle Springs Road. Here the Saddle Springs Road meets the main
ridge before crossing over to the south side. Park on the west side of this shallow
saddle. From the parking area (6060'), walk a few yards west along the ridge, find a
downhill use trail to the left, follow the use trail as it descends about 10-15' onto the
south slope of the ridge, reverses direction and heads northwest contouring on the
south slope of the ridge. Hike the use trail northwest around the first bump into the
saddle before the peak. Scramble up to the summit, climbing over two main rock
layers. Bald Eagle Peak was named for the once numerous sightings near this summit of
our endangered National Bird (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). It was first cited on a USGS
topo map in 1900.
The second hike follows a dirt road to the northeast of the Saddle Springs Road. On
this hike you will have a chance to be up close and personal with the piute cypress
trees. They may remind you of juniper. They are 16-80 feet tall, have gray green
scaly needles, smooth reddish gray bark, and their fruit looks a lot like a juniper berry.
Along this route you can take a side detour up a rough dirt road, Forest Road
27S02, to the Bodfish Piute-Cypress Botanical Area, which is on the Sequoia
National Forest just south of Lake Isabella. These trees are endemic to this region
of California and many other plants grow up here that grow no where else on Earth.
If you're not into plants, well, if nothing else there are great views from up there!