Patriots, the pleasures of the country are enjoyed by folks around the world. Mountains, jungles, deserts, beaches, and plains all have their affeciandos.
Unfortunately, almost every wild environmnent harbors a skwerl (or skwerls) whose only purpose in life is to make your's miserable.
Thus, as we've shown time and time again, a simple picnic at the beach can turn into a nightmare outing unless we remain ever vigilant and prepared to repell the bushytail horde's felonious assaults (click unprepared picnicers for comment).
Grasslands are especially dangerous. Why grasslands? Because most Patriots, and even some pathetic skwerlhuggers know that the bushytail horde isn't confined to forests, woodlands, and urban landscapes. However, the innocent and the ignorant do not. Take for example the Carrizo Plain in darkest California...
THE CARRIZO PLAIN - QUICK FACTS
The Carrizo lies adjacent to the southwest edge of the San Joaquin Valley in eastern San Luis Obispo County. It's the largest remaining remnant of the original San Joaquin Valley habitat which is now covered by farmland and ever-expanding urban development.
The Carrizo Plain has a number of interesting features. The San Andres Fault runs through the it; Soda Lake attracts tens of thousands of migratory birds; there's a poorly preserved but significant archeological site; and on a practical note, access is limited during inclement weather due to impassable roads.
The 250,000 acre area is also a diverse complex of habitats providing home to an array of endangered species including the giant kangaroo rat, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard. On January 17, 2001, the Carrizo was designated a National Monument by President Clinton.
CURSE OF THE CARRIZO
Sadly, the Carrizo Plain is also home to two demonic dirt nutzys: the vermin-classified California Ground Squirrel and the endangered San Joaquin Antelope Ground Squirrel (which looks uncannily like every other antelope g-skwerl in the west)...
CALIFORNIA G-SKWERL (L); ANTELOPE DIRT NUTZY (R)
These menaces to society spend the greater part of their day digging up the national monument, eroding cliff sides, and/or raiding campsites and picnic areas.
Based on our observations, the San Joaquin Antelope Ground Squirrel is most visible on the east side of the plain along the San Andreas fault line. They can also be observed just south of the visitor center along the main road.
Photographing the San Joaquin dirt nutzy is a challenge. There aren't that many around and their behavior might be compared to that of an over-agitated chipmunk. Consquently, we were only able to obtain a few shots of this critter; nearly all too blurry to publish (click skwerl for comment).
On the other hand, the California Ground Squirrel is present in abundance throughout the monument. The largest colonies are on the west side of the Carrizo; particularly around the Soda Lake overlook, on either side of the trail to Painted Rock, and alongside the main road through the plain.
ASSESSING THE RISK
The Carrizo Plain is hardly a tourist magnet. Scorched in the summer, impassable in wet weather, and isolated from other major attractions, it won't be on most vacationers' must see lists.
However, the Carrizo attracts 1000's of migratory birds, especially during the spring. This, in turn, brings an odd duck to the plain: the birdwatcher/photographers.
Bird photographers are a special breed. They tend to run in packs. An individual's place within the pack depends on a number of things (e.g. the ability to capture a sharp image using a 400mm lens without a tripod). The pack's alpha photographer usually possesses the biggest, most expensive telescopic lens.
You don't want to mess with bird photographers, especially when they're in a group. For example, pursuing a slavering skwerlball across their field of vision will cause them to break out in loud wailing and moaning, as well as exaggerated arm/hand/finger gestures. Don't wave back or shout a friendly "Howdy" in return; it'll just make matters worse.
In spite of their solidarity, bird photographers have an inherent weakness; one that exposes them to skwerlien attack. When they're not discussing their enormous lenses, they spend much of their time trying to focus on some bird. In the meantime, they leave their backsides open to skwerlien ambush. In fact, we have to wonder how many are taken down by marauding skwerls and dragged off into the tall grass where they're... well, you get the picture...
CROSSING THE CARRIZO: TEMPTING A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH? CLICK SKWERL FOR COMMENT
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The Carrizo Plain lacks the visual impact to make it a popular tourist destination. It'll be of interest primarily to geologists, naturalists, archaeologists, and wildlife photographers.
The best time to go is spring and late fall/earlywinter with spring best for viewing flora and fauna. Summer temperatures range from hot to extremely hot (+100F) and much of the plain is mostly inaccessible in wet weather; even by 4WD (click map for large version).
There are two basic campgounds and a visitor center. The closest lodging outside the monument is in the towns of Taft and Maricopa. Sidetrips include the oilfields east of the monument around Taft (take the Crocker Creek-Mocal road) and the Pozo Saloon to the west off Highway 58.
As for the bushytail horde, the Carrizo is definitely a bastion of nutzy mayhem. However, the risk to those who remain vigilant and prepared is minimal. In fact, it's the kind of place that could be easily walled off, converted to a skwerlball Guantanamo, and filled with California's bushytail demons... but that's another matter altogether...
SCENES FROM THE WASTELAND
Click thumbnails for large versions
CALIFORNIA GROUND SQUIRREL PHOTOS
WILDFLOWERS AND CRITTERS ON THE CARRIZO
CARRIZO PLAIN VISITOR CENTER
BLM CARRIZO PLAIN HOME PAGE
THE POZO SALOON