It has been 2 years since VHC visited this place. With all recent rains, I would expect outstanding greenery and bloom in the hills.
There are several trails on the preserve. You are free to follow whichever one you prefer. I will be following the trail along the south side of the valley to one that takes us up to the ridge and reflection pond. This will no doubt be the lunch break spot. Then I will be returning to the valley floor and following the trail on the north side of the valley leading back to the cars. On the 2017 visit most of the group stayed up on the ridge and followed a trail back to the cars.
From the website’s writeup:
The preserve is an ecologically unique region where the Transverse Ranges, Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada, western Mojave Desert and San Joaquin Valley converge. Due to elevation ranging from 640 to 6,005 feet, the preserve has an impressive array of landforms and habitats that serve as a critical landscape linkage and wildlife corridor between the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada. At 93,000 acres, Wind Wolves is the west coast’s largest non-profit preserve. An important conservation outcome of TWC’s ownership is that TWC led a Tejon Ranch Working Group of conservation organizations that resulted in a plan to double the target amount of conserved land on the neighboring Tejon Ranch to over 230,000 acres.
Tule elk were reintroduced to the Wind Wolves Preserve, the southern most extension of their historic range. The elk herd has grown to more than 200 elk and the California Department of Fish and Game estimates the preserve can support up to 2,500 elk. Currently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is placing stillborn calves on the preserve for the California Condor, which can be seen regularly. When the elk herd reaches 2,000, elk will die weekly of attrition, which will aid the condors in becoming free living once more.
On the San Joaquin Valley floor, the preserve is a 30-square-mile veritable sea of grasslands with remnant stands of saltbush. These grasslands are home to the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and one of the largest stands of the endangered Bakersfield cactus. Rolling grasslands rise from the valley floor and transition into classic California blue oak and valley oak savanna with extensive riparian wetlands. The oak savanna rises into juniper and pinyon forests that ascend into stands of ponderosa pine and big cone spruce.
At 93,000 acres, Wind Wolves Preserve is the West Coast’s largest nonprofit preserve.
In Don’s writeup he indicated he did not know the distance or elevation gain, as is the case with me. We will discuss the options when we meet in the morning. You can make it as easy or tough as you would like.
Parking and admission is free, however they do accept donations.
Take the 5 fwy over the Grapevine to Hwy 166 west toward Maricopa. It will be 9.5 miles to the access road from this intersection. Pass Old River Road, continue 1.8 miles to the access road on your left. Immediately after a grove of orange tree look for a large sign for Wind Wolves Preserve. Turn left and travel south for 3 miles. Turn right and proceed through the main entrance gate and follow the signs.
Carpooling will be from the Lake Hughes exit off of the 5 Fwy at Castaic. Arrive at this point at 7:45 AM.
Park near the Panda Express(31880 Castaic Rd) just off the freeway, left turn on Castaic Road. Since there are so many of us, please scatter yourselves around the parking lot. There are a couple of fast food places and a Starbucks in the immediate area if you need a restroom. Do so before you join us. We will leave at 8:00 AM from this spot. It will take about an hour to get to the preserve.
Of course, you do not have to carpool. If you want to, please arrive at 7:45 for a departure at 8:00. If you arrive later, you will need to drive yourself to the preserve.
Please offer to share the cost of the gas to the person you will be riding with.
Bring water and lunch for yourself.
Well behaved dogs are allowed. They must be leashed and cleaned up after.
If we don’t see lots of poppies at Wind Wolves, we could head east on 138 off of 5 on our way back. As you get closer to the Poppy Preserve, you start to see many areas along the road that are in bloom.