The Carrizzo Plain (KQED Perspective aired September 1993)
I am in one of the loneliest places you can imagine. I bet there are only about 8 other humans within 30 miles of me. Everything is golden, baked hard by 110-degree days. The mountains to the West are the Caliente Mts, the hot mountains. To the distant north I see the Diablo Range, the devils mountains and close to me with the sun just rising over are the Temblors. The Spanish called the trembling ones. Hot, devil and tremblors. Great descriptive names for the boundaries of immense valley, 8 miles wide by 50 miles long. The Chumash Indians believed that if someone ventured in here the spirits became angry and the earth shook. And sure enough the San Andreas Fault runs right through it and you can easily see at the surface, where the two plates grind against each other. It is hot it is dusty, and it is the first day of autumn.
I saw yesterday four rare species — San Joaquin antelope ground squirrel, the blunt-nose leopard lizard, the giant kangaroo rat and the Kit fox. There’s more endangered vertebrates here than any other place in the state. I also saw two golden eagles, a prairie falcon, 3 roadrunners, a lot of kestrels, and flocks of lark sparrows. I even saw pronghorn antelopes and tule elk. I startled three very, large western rattlesnakes. And last night coyotes were howling everywhere. The Cal. condor used to fly over this desolate valley until 1986. Maybe they will return. Shimmering toward the north is the largest remaining alkali wetland in the state, home for thousands of overwintering sandhill cranes.
Sunset magazine said that this area has one of the best wildflower displays in the entire state. But in September greens and blues and oranges are but a distant memory; it rains but 8-10 inches per year.
I haven’t named this place but I have given you plenty of clues to find it. We can thank the Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Land Management and the State of California for recognizing its biological value and taking efforts to protect it. I’ll be back here next April for the flowers.