Our visits to Cerro Noroeste have become a ritual that as extended over half a life time. It is one of the peaks of the San Emigdio range of transverse mountains that divide the San Joaquin valley to the north from the broken country south that extends to Los Angeles. <>At an elevation of 8313 feet it is one of the highest in the range and atop its summit ridge is Campo Alto, a Los Padres Forest campground.
Over a half century it has been adjacent to two ski areas established and abandoned in the infant years of the sport. It is also home to some of the oldest and mightiest Jeffrey Pines to be found in Southern California. Some of these trees were standing when Juan Rodriguiez Cabrillo first explored Alto California in 1542.
Near this camp stands a tree that has been carved with a large cross on its massive trunk. This is thought to be carved by Francisco Garces, a Franciscan Padre that first crossed the range in 1776 to explore the San Joaquin Valley.
On one of our earliest trips to Campo Alto we had the opportunity to personally discover just how old some of the trees actually are. At that time the ski area was still being operated by the Kern County Parks Dept. and a new ski trail had just been cleared. One huge tree was also felled and we decided to count the rings to determine just how old it was. While not completely accurate we counted rings that moved the age to somewhere around 1500.
The road to the summit of Cerro Noroese, on its climb, winds over two sides of the mountain offering spectacular views of the surrounding country including Sawmill Peak to east and in the southwest Reyes Peak. To the north one can, on a clear day, see the Carrizo Plain National Monument and the reflective white outline of Soda Lake and to the northeast the Temblor Range and beyond the San Joaquin Valley.
There are hiking trails that start from Campo Alto, including one that moves over ridges to Mount Pinos, at 8812 feet the highest in the San Emigdio range.
This road in paved and in excellent condition but is often closed in winter months due to snow. For information call or visit the Chuchupate Ranger Station, 34580 Lockwood Valley Road, Frazier Park, Cal., 93731, telephone 661 245-3731.
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