Overnight trip to Carrizo Plains

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Laurence2537, Apr 9, 2021.

  1. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    Hi all, this is my first ride report so bare with me in regards to formatting.

    My name is Laurence. I've lived in Ventura CA for a few years now after moving here from Australia. Accompanying me on this trip was Brian, who currently lives in Santa Barbara. Brian and I have been riding together for a couple of months after we met when him and his girlfriend came to check out a bike I was selling. We've done a few day trips since then but this was our first overnight trip together. Brian is an experienced adventure rider and has a lot of trips under his belt, while I'm fairly new to it all.

    The stars aligned with my work and Brian's schoolwork and we had a bit of time to do some riding and exploring. I'd wanted to check out Carrizo Plains for a while, and it only takes a couple of hours to get there from Ventura so I suggested we ride out for a night. Brian was down for the ride so late on a Thursday morning we met up in Ventura and set out.

    Pictured is my Suzuki DR350, and then Brian's KTM Super Adventure 1290.
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    The ride over highway 33 from Ventura is beautiful. It's a popular place for bikers of all types, especially sport bikers. Here's the Sespe Wilderness, with Reyes Peak in the background.

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    We rode a little bit further, over the range, then stopped to look over Cuyuma Valley to the north (left) and Lockwood Valley (right). I believe that's Pine Mountain in the centre too. Plenty of riding in this area.

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    #1
  2. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    Looks like I figured out the posting format pretty easily! Anyway...

    We stopped at The Place for lunch.

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    The food was decent, the service was better. It's a great spot to stop for lunch as it's right near Ballinger Canyon OHV and the entrance to Carrizo Plains. Nice selection of beers on tap too.

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    There's a gas station about a mile up the road at the Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. I'd recommend stopping here if you're coming from Ventura into Carrizo plains via Soda Lake road. There is no gas in Carrizo Plains and I think the area north of the plains is lacking as well, although I've never been there.

    We rode up the 33 and then turned left at the closed gas station on Soda Lake road to enter the plains. IMG_20210408_143833~2.jpg
    #2
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  3. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    I didn't stop to take a lot of pictures on our way into the plains. We passed through some rolling hills while the road was still paved, but then once we got into the valley the road straightened out and it turns to dirt. 90% of the road is in great shape, with a few shallow sandy sections. You can blast through there as fast as you want (in reason). We passed through a few ranches that had obviously been out of use for decades, then pulled into KCL campground.

    Surprisingly, at around 2:30pm on a Thursday, it was full. We stopped for a quick drink and I took a photo looking out into the plains.

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    We decided to check out the only other real campground in the park, Selby campground. It's about 10 miles north of KCL. I didn't take too many photos at this time either, but we got to Selby and it was probably at about 50% capacity. We found a nice little spot with a table and shelter, set up our tents and unloaded our gear so we could go explore some of the trails without the weight of our gear on the bikes. By this point it was probably about 3pm.

    We rode out of the campground and decided to explore a road that started closeby to the old ranch along the road to Selby. I think it's called Caliente Ridge Road, or something along those lines, although I can't remember for certain.

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    The views from this road were awesome, and there were a bunch of little spots to camp along the way to the top of the ridge that we decided we'd have to camp at next time we came here.

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    From this point we could see Soda Lake in the distance, although this was as close as we got to it on this trip.

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    If you keep following this road it'll take you to some kind of signal tower. We would have liked to keep exploring, but like idiots we hadn't filled up with gas at the Pistachio company, and we knew that if we wanted to explore tomorrow we'd need to be conservative. It was short, but our short trip up this trail was worth the view.

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    We headed back down the ridge to our campsite, wishing we'd explored a bit more before setting up our camp. We stopped to take a photo of some rocks, and my DR decided it had had enough for the day.

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    #3
  4. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    The sunset is definitely the nicest time of the day out here. It wasn't as green out here as I'd expected - it was a pretty dry winter here in Central California, but it was still beautiful. Sadly, we saw very few wildflowers on this trip.

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    The campsite had filled up a bit more while we were out. It's crazy how even out here in the middle of nowhere on a Thursday night, there were still full campgrounds. Since the pandemic started it feels like everywhere in California has been like this. I've heard other people speak of the silence in Carrizo, although to be honest it still felt busy out here to me.

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    We made some dinner, a small fire, then settled down for the night with ol' failthful. Lightweight motocamping calls for compromises, and the size of this bottle is certainly not the first.

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    I didn't bother trying to get any photos, but when I got up at about 3 in the morning to piss, the stars were incredible. It was the clearest night sky I'd seen so far in California. Living in the city definitely makes you appreciate little moments like that. I would definitely recommend this area for stargazers. Brian saw 2 shooting stars just while we were sitting around the fire.
    #4
  5. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    In the morning we woke up, had some breakfast and got on the road as soon as we'd packed up. Our plan was to find Elkhorn Road and ride that out of the park. We would have liked to explore more but we were both low on gas, although Brian more so than I. His riding style of going 90mph through the desert and lifting the front wheel at any chance he gets definitely doesn't help him conserve gas.

    We rode out of Selby campground, down to Soda Lake rd.

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    I made an effort to get a couple of action shots. The morning is clearly the second best time for photography in Carrizo Plains.

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    These roads just go on for as far as you can see.

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    We found Elkhorn rd and headed south. It's still maintained, although this road is far twistier and a little bit bumpier than Soda Lake road.

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    The scenery on the east side of the plains is far more desert-like than that of the west side.

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    Elkhorn road is awesome and there are a tone of trails to explore off to the sides. Next time we will definitely enter the park via this road and fill up in Taft.

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    #5
  6. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    We continued on, with Brian's bike showing he had less and less range left. We knew we would make it to the gas station in Taft anyway, but it was a shame to ride past all the hill climbs and canyons without being able to explore them.

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    This picture was taken overlooking Elkhorn Valley as we left it. Beautiful, with open skies, although dry.

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    The start of the pavement at Elkhorn road, right near the southern edge of the area. Here's Brian, anxiously making sure he's got enough gas to get to the next station.

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    We made it to the gas station in taft, filled up, and then headed back down highway 33. We stopped at The Place again for a second breakfast, then got back on the road.

    While heading down highway 33 we stopped in to check out Cherry Creek road. It eventually meets up with Ortega trail, but we weren't prepared to try that today. Maybe another time, when Brian has a smaller bike with him instead of the 1290. Nevertheless, Cherry Creek is a fun, short scramble through the forest that gives you a nice view at the end. It used to be accessible to cars but it's overgrown and is now too narrow for a car, and they have a gate at one end. Only about 2 miles long so I wouldn't recommend making the ride out for this trail unless you're already in the area or if you are doing it as part of Ortega trail.

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    From there we rode the rest of highway 33 back to the coast of Ventura, where we went our separate ways.

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    Thanks for reading my first ride report, I will hopefully make more in the future when time permits.

    Laurence
    #6
  7. Warebear

    Warebear Been here awhile

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    That’s an awesome report! You did better than I would have. I’ll add some pictures I have, and try and finish this video up. Awesome weekend!

    Attached Files:

    #7
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  8. Warebear

    Warebear Been here awhile

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    Breakfast beer.

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    #8
  9. Warebear

    Warebear Been here awhile

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    And pie.

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  10. NSFW

    NSFW who else would love noobs? Super Supporter

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    nice RR. last time i rode to CNM was 4 years ago.

    we're heading out there tomorrow from Ojai then finish the ride at Arroyo Grande.
    #10
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  11. Zubb

    Zubb he went that-a-way... Supporter

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    Nice report.
    I’ll not be staying at KCL campground again. Last year it was packed with horrible camp neighbors, and the water was unpotable. I’ll be looking to wildcamp next time.
    #11
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  12. rickj

    rickj Been here awhile Supporter

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    Great ride report! Thanks for posting.

    The Carrizo Plains is a great ride from anywhere is SoCal. My friends and I have ridden across the plains many times on the way back home. In particular I like highway 58 out of San Luis Obispo, and cutting across the Carrizo Plains is a lot better than dropping down into the desert. We'd ridden by KCL campground a few times and thought it would be a great place to camp so we camped there last February on a ride around the area. It turned out to be an awesome stopover and a place we want to camp at again.

    I've attached a couple pictures for those that have never seen the KCL campground.

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    #12
  13. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Long timer

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    Nice ride report! That brings back memories of flying hang gliders from Pine Mountain and Plowshare years ago. And The Place! I'm glad to learn it still exists! Sometimes we'd land there for dinner. Here's what the hills west of Cuyama and Ventacopa look like from 10,000'. But you got a much better view from the ground. I envy you!

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  14. Cabrito

    Cabrito Should be looking for work Supporter

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    Awesome! We were a day behind the OP, and some of the folks in his campground pic were still there when we camped last night.
    #14
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  15. Doc Sarvis

    Doc Sarvis Advent-ia before dementia Supporter

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    Did a loop yesterday with NSFW and crew. They continued through and I had to get home. Amazing amount of bicycles out which I have never seen before. Just a gorgeous day out though. Only bummer was some a hole killing a rattlesnake on the Elkhorn road for no apparent reason. Nothing around for miles.
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  16. lukewilliams

    lukewilliams Adventurer Supporter

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    Living near Paso Robles and I've never done CP before. Thanks for your RR, it makes me want to go explore now and I feel better equipped thanks to your sharing!
    #16
  17. Doc Sarvis

    Doc Sarvis Advent-ia before dementia Supporter

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    The odd couple.... a 1290 and DRZ 350. At least the Jameson can unite us all.
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  18. Staircasesurfer

    Staircasesurfer n00b

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    Laurence,

    Awesome ride report. I am also from Ventura and was up there at Carrizo this weekend with a buddy in his 1987 Toyota 4x4, it was beautiful weather. Rode up the 33 on Saturday came in through the south entrance and rode the Temblor Range. Was not expecting some of those hill climbs to be so steep out there. We were camped directly east of you across the valley in a primitive campsite. It was quiet, not a soul around for miles. On Sunday we headed up past Selby Campground, lots of people camping up that way. I am fairly new to dirt riding, had a DRZ-400 supermoto for years, and picked up a KTM 640 adventure back in December to do moto camping. We should link up and do some rides.
    - Alex

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    #18
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  19. WJBertrand

    WJBertrand Ventura Highway

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    I also live in Ventura but have only been out to the CP one time we didn't camp and instead just made it a long day. Need to make a return trip before it gets too hot. Carrizo 2.jpg
    #19
  20. Laurence2537

    Laurence2537 Been here awhile

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    Lol yeah, I'm just lucky Brian is a patient guy. He outrides me in even the technical stuff with that huge bike.

    Alex, I'll message you. I'm always down to ride and camp.
    #20
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