Sunday, November 11, 2012

Over the Mountains... (Part 2 of 7): Visiting Fort Hunter Liggett

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

Disclaimer: This visit was in 2007...fort security procedures may have changed since then...

Jolon (see part 1 of this series) is the main gateway to Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL).  Indeed, technically, Jolon's few remaining structures are on ground owned by FHL, though outside the security gate.

FHL (named after General Hunter Liggett), is primarily used as a training facility, where activities such as field maneuvers and live fire exercises are performed (see part 4 of this series for more detail). 

The fort is on land sold to the government by William Randolph Hearst in 1940, including  Jolon's ruins, and roughly midway between the northern and southern ends of Jolon Road.  The base is quiet and almost appears deserted unless training is going on.  You will need a driver’s license, insurance card, and vehicle registration to get through the Fort’s gate. Don't let the look of the main gate frighten you, security is a breeze (at least of the late 2000's).  The gate shown below was only added around 2005.

Picture of FHL's Jolon Main Gate (From
On the fort grounds, there is a historic hotel known as The Hacienda (Milpitas Ranchhouse) which serves the general public and can be used as guest housing by military personnel. Julia Morgan, the designer of the hotel, designed over 700 buildings in California. Morgan's best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California

Although during the years I was exploring this area, I saw fairly good reviews of the Hacienda's food, I had never eaten there.  During an October, 2007 visit, which I am pretty sure was my last, I was ready to give the restaurant a try, but the restaurant portion was closed for business; though the hotel portion was openThe restaurant was still reportedly closed as recently as 2011.

Portion of Mission Revival Style Hacienda Hotel (including arched entries and arcade to the left)

Portion of Hacienda Hotel (detail)

Public Domain Panorama of Hacienda Hotel
With the restaurant closed, I wound up thinking I would not be eating lunch that day because of the limited services in the Jolon area. I continued exploring the base when the strong smell of a charcoal flame caught my nose.  A very simple and fairly priced hamburger, chips, and drink lunch combination was offered at the fort's bowling alley.  I ate out on a covered patio with a fantastic view of Junipero Serra Peak, Mission San Antonio (see part 3 of this series) and the rest of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Lunch View of Junipero Sera Peak Rising Above Mission San Antonio
The fort is known for the herd of huntable deer and tule elk that roam the grounds, especially near the fence lines.  Here are some of them just hanging out and waiting to be cross-bowed or shot using non-lead ammunitionHunting and fishing rules and available target species are listed hereHere is a video about tule elk hunting on the fort.


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