Three day DeLorme Challenge geocaching trip

I’ve just returned from a three-day trip down the Central Valley where I completed 11 DeLorme map pages and found caches in Ventura county (I’ve now found caches in every California county). I also visited with my Mom.

I headed south on highway 99 to pick up three Southern California DeLorme map pages. The first was page 22 where highway 99 just clips a corner of the page at Madera. Page 23 was the Fresno area, and page 24 was from Selma to Kingsburg. Now, I had estimated that I could find the six caches that I wanted to find on these three pages in an hour and then drive to McKittrick and be there by 2pm. Boy was I wrong. I couldn’t find some of the caches and basically could only do these pages and then get to Mom’s around 4pm. This was good information. I’m planning a multi-day trip to the Mojave and now I realize that I have tried to cram too much into each day. I need to revise my plans to reflect a slower find rate. Nevertheless, on this first day I completed three DeLorme pages.

Early the next morning I headed out to McKittrick, Taft, and the Cuyama Valley. Just west of McKittrick I stopped at some natural oil seeps. Thick oil, like warm tar, was bubbling up and flowing on the surface. Since it was cold, the stuff on the surface was like solid tar, but the stuff in the pool was viscous, and bubbling so very slowly.

Bubbling black gold

Bubbling black gold


I also hiked out to an old oil mine, a vertical shaft about 5’x6′ and lined with timbers. Before oil wells an oil miner with a bucket (and no clothes) would descend for a 20 minute stint loading buckets with oil/tar. That was a sticky, messy job. This completed my finds for page 61 in the Southern California DeLorme map challenge.

I worked my way over to Taft, stopping to find a couple of geocaches on old remnants of early oil wells. Then I went west to New Cuyama and found a couple of caches in the area. This completed page 75 of the Southern California DeLorme map challenge.

Cuyama Valley

Cuyama Valley


After finding these caches, I drove south on highway 33 along the Cuyama River to Lockwood Valley Rd. I found a few caches on the way that were in page 76 of the Southern California Delorme challenge. There are well over 100 caches in a series along this road (it’s not a power trail, though). I stopped to find several of them. I thought the caches were at end of life—almost all the plastic containers were cracked, broken, or missing lids and some logs were sopping wet. I finally joined up with Interstate 5 north of Gorman. Along the way, I found caches in page 77 and in Ventura county, the last county in which I did not have a cache find.
Lockwood Valley Road

Lockwood Valley Road


Since I still had some time before sundown, I continued east on highway 138 and found three caches on page 78 of the Southern California DeLorme challenge. One of them was an earth cache related to the San Andreas fault that ran right through the area. This was called a locked portion of the fault and it is estimated to be under significant strain. The road cut revealed a layer of clay produced by the two sides of the fault grinding rock into the fine powder that produces clay.IMG_3171

The next day I drove back to Taft, intending to find some more of the old oil field relic caches, as well as some of the large number of challenge caches in the area. Unfortunately, at one of the first relic caches I stopped at, I attracted the attention of an oil company supervisor. He was adamant that I not be out of my vehicle around oil field equipment. While he acknowledged that since it was BLM land I could drive on the roads he was clearly not comfortable with me being there. I just turned around and left, although in retrospect the challenge caches are away from the oil fields.

I headed out to go to the Carrizo Plains area, but first stopped for an earth cache at the Lakeview Gusher. This, I was surprised to learn, was the largest accidental oil spill in US history, spewing 9 million barrels of oil over 18 months. They were only able to recover 4 million barrels out of the containment basins they constructed. At least they managed to keep the oil from flowing downhill into Buena Vista Lake, 8 miles away.

Ground zero of the Lakeview gusher that spewed an estimated 9 million barrels of oil

Ground zero of the Lakeview gusher that spewed an estimated 9 million barrels of oil


I decided to head out into the Carrizo plain and chose a point on Soda Lake Road to navigate to. Unfortunately, I misread the map and chose a point on Simmler Soda Lake Road and took a route on Elkhorn Grade road. After a few miles the road became narrower and rougher than I expected but it was easily doable. I finally hit a straight section that I thought was Soda Lake road, but I didn’t come to any landmarks I expected. Finally I realized I was on the wrong road and needed to go west to pick up Soda Lake Road. After a bit I found a road headed in the right direction. It was an OK road, but pretty steep. I was unsure of a couple of sections, mainly because I felt very isolated—I hadn’t seen anyone since I turned off the main highway. Finally got on Soda Lake road and back to the highway.

I followed highway 166 to Santa Maria and found a couple of caches near Guadalupe that finished up page 73 of the Southern California DeLorme challenge (and one page of the Golden State DeLorme Challenge).

And then, it was time to head for home. Total distance for the trip was 960 miles.

Links:
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Track for 1/27 in .gpx format.
Track for 1/27 in .kml format.
Track for 1/28 in .gpx format.
Track for 1/28 in .kml format.
Track for 1/29 in .gpx format.
Track for 1/29 in .kml format.

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