Saturday, September 29, 2012

Missing Lonoak...

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

Having now lived in southern California for more than four years, there are many places in central California that I miss regularly going to.  One of those places is Parkfield, the self-proclaimed earthquake capitol of the world (our Parkfield Flickr Stream) and home of the Parkfield Cafe and its delicious bbq tri-tip sandwich.

Another place I miss, is the 14 mile drive on Lonoak ("Lone-oak") Road between King City (Our King City Pictures) and Lonoak in southern inland Monterey County.

Driving Lonoak Road
I remember my last trip through the area (2007) vividly.  After exiting US101 (historically known as El Camino Real) onto Metz Road in King City and then turning right onto Lonoak, there were hundreds of yellow onions scattered across the road.  An overstuffed produce truck must have lost some of its load.  Seeing fresh produce scattered about the roads is a common Salinas River valley sight.  Once, on US101, we were passed by a flatbed trailer hauling loose carrots.  The carrots were not boxed; rather, they were strapped down like lumber or pipes would. It was a mighty strange scene.

An aside...
A major difference between central California and southern California are the smells.  In SoCal, while at best, you may get a whiff of an orange grove here and there, aromas are pretty much left to fast food and smog.  Oh, and in some places, when the wind is just right, the cow manure clouds flowing west from Chino are just a killer.  On the other hand, the smells of central California depended on where you were and the crop rotation, but included, ripening strawberries, raspberries, grapes, lettuce, artichokes, garlic, onions, and ok, manure.


Just outside of King City, Lonoak Rd enters the curvy and bleak Bull Canyon area, which is used as grazing land, despite the apparent lack of grass.

Bull Canyon...


However, all it takes is one sweeping S-curve through Bull Canyon and you can then see a line of green across the horizon.  Such greenery is typically indicative of a flowing river (also rare to SoCal, except after rains) and in a few minutes you are approaching San Lorenzo Creek. Just beyond the creek there is a gated entrance to a ranch where you can safely pull off the road and park to walk on the bridge and look down at the creek.  Traffic is minimal and you can dance in the middle of the road, if that is your thing.
"From there we cross the river to our left, and traverse an undulated barren looking country for 20 miles, until we strike the San Lorenzo Creek, whose waters are clear, cold, and bitter".  Anonymous traveler - as chronicled in History of Monterey County (1979 Reprint of 1881 Ed.).

Looking straight down from San Lorenzo Creek Bridge

Looking down the creek...

Birds circling the bridge...

After the bridge, a sign tells you that you have entered San Benito County.  SBC was carved out of Monterey County in 1874 when the people of the area got fed up with being governed by folks on the other side of the Gabilan Range mountains.

As you travel this last leg of Lonoak Road, the road curves and follows a wide bend in the creek.  The area is called "Sulphur Springs" on the local USGS map.

Lonoak Rd encircling Sulphur Springs on USGS Topographic Map

Lonoak Rd encircling Sulphur Springs on Satellite Map
View of wide curve of San Lorenzo Creek at Sulphur Springs

As you come around the Sulphur Springs curve, you enter Lonoak, which is less of a town and more of a settlement of a few farms.   There actually was a US Post Office in Lonoak from 1885-1954.  This is no obvious sign of the old post office building as there is, for example, in the Kelso, CA ghostown.


Silos at Lonoak

Just before Lonoak Rd ends at CA25, strangely called Airline Highway on maps, you cross a bridge spanning the typically dry Lewis Creek and taking you back into Monterey County.  This remote creek crossing is well known among back road travelers for opportunity to photo the junk cars that line the creek banks.  The cars protect against erosion of the creek banks when water actually fills it.


1 comment:

William Winkler said...

Am part of a couple of guys organizing a British car rally from Santa Cruz to the Hacienda for the night and then back north to Santa Cruz via Highway 1 . One fellow said there were a bunch of old cars just off of Highway 25. Your blog is about the only info I could find about it. Thanks.