The strange limbo between the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada grows into oaks and pines and welcoming foothills, but not before it has passed through a stage of almost desert sterility. There is grass on these hills, but it is very short and sparse; the cattle take all they can get. The picture below is looking back, roughly west, towards the San Joaquin, down the road I was driving on. I remember thinking at the time that a proper caption would be J.R.R. Tolkien's, "The road goes ever on and on. . ."
Some miles later, the grass grew more thickly, and opened, on occasion, to islands of granite boulders. Further still, the pines and oaks began, and the road climbed so high it seemed it was no longer on the mountain, but airborne. This impression was only confirmed by the apparition of a red-tailed hawk posed at eye-level against a backdrop of Bear Mountain and a wide October sky.
It probably puts my navigational wisdom in perspective when I explain that Tehachapi is on the other side of Bear Mountain, and if you compare the picture below with the one above, you will see that Bear Mountain was getting further away instead of closer. Not long after I admired this quintessentially Californian view of blue oaks, buckeyes, pines and granite, with the sun turning them to richer shades of gold, as it fell, I met a couple who were coming down the road, pulling a travel trailer. As I moved over to let them pass, the driver flagged me and inquired in a fatherly way as to just where I thought I was going. When I explained I had some hopes that this road might connect to something that would take me to Tehachapi, he looked much taken aback, probably at the notion that one so clueless as I should be allowed to share the road with sane people, but spoke, in a kindly tone to explain that I was on my way (and no easy way, at that) to Lake Isabella. I had begun to have my misgivings long before that, but it took the advice of a sane person, with whom I am unaccountably allowed to share the road, to bring home the truth--my holiday was over, and I should turn around and go back down into the strange, brown hills, and the all too familiar valley below them. Even back in civilization, it was several days before I could shake the feeling of flying alongside the mountain.