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Tori's Trails: Bald Mountain Botanical Trail

Posted at 8:57 AM, Jul 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-07 17:59:57-04

It's a trail over 40-years-old, just north of Kernville but it's not just any old trail, this one has thousands of plants and species because it used to be under water.

In a new series that started on The Now Bakersfield, reporter Tori Cooper takes viewers on a journey to Bald Mountain Botanical Trail located in the Sequoia National Forest.

The trail has been recognized by the scientific community as one of the most unusual botanical and geological island formations located in the southern Sierras on the Kern Plateau.

Cooper wanted to show viewers the route to get there and what you may find at the peak.

About an hour north of Kernville, east of the Kern River and over 9,000 feet above sea level curious minds may also come across the Bald Mountain Botanical trail.

To your left of the trail scans a view over 1,000 square miles long, including a look at Mt. Whitney which is also the tallest mountain in California with an elevation of over 14,000 feet.

Hikers will be joined by the smell of fresh sage and crisp mountain air to go along with their journey to the top. Along the short point three miles trail hikers will be surrounded by over 100 species of plants including the largest known population of the rare Potentilla plant.

According to the U.S. Forest Service this trail used to be the bottom of a vast ocean but 200,000,000 years later  it's now formed into  what many call, "The Island in the Sky." Partially because of the diverse vegetation and the lookout tower stationed at the top of the peak, that people like Glen Villanueva treat like an island getaway. "Pretty much six months this is my summer home, the only time I leave on my days off is to resupply," Villanueva said.

Villanueva is the fire look out for the U.S. Forest Service out at Bald Mountain. His main job is to look for fires from his post and report them to dispatch to give responders a step ahead in case of a blaze. "A fire finder this is what I used to help me determine the location of a fire, so you see the map that’s on here and this device right here rotates around so you can point it at the smoke you are seeing," Villanueva said.

In return he gets to wake up in a solar powered home on the top of Bald Mountain overlooking the southern sierras, with everything he needs and occasionally meeting random visitors like Cooper.

Over 600 visitors total left their signatures at  Villanueva’s lookout tower at the top of Bald Mountain last year and he said more people are already expected this year, “I have had 140 visitors since it started, locals people from other countries." Cooper also left her signature at Villanueva’s lookout tower before she made her way back to Bakersfield.    

Bald Mountain is a short day hike for anyone just looking for a spectacular view and some fresh air. It took Cooper less than an hour to climb to the top, and she said it was a great low intensity hike. Cooper also said she wasn't expecting to meet Villanueva or be at the top of a lookout for the first time but that there is usually always an unexpected find in Kern County.

Next week Cooper will hike to the top of Packsaddle trail to bring you another hidden place in your backyard.