This past month I took a scenic detour from California State Route 168 via Auberry Road from Pine Ridge to Prather Auberry Road is part of the signed Fresno County Wildflower Trail.
The Wildflower Trail is a scenic tour loop which begins in downtown Clovis and ascends to Pineridge in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Wildflower Trail much like the Blossom Trail and Orange Blossom Trail is meant to feature an aspect of the botany of Fresno County; in this particular case wildflowers.
The map above by Fresno County cites when specific flowers are blooming, more information can be found the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website. My trip onto the Auberry Road portion of the Wildflower Trail was made on the basis that it carries a massive down hill descent. Auberry Road looping from CA 168 descends from approximately 4,800 feet above sea level in Pineridge to approximately 1,700 feet above sea level in Prather in just under 16 miles.
Auberry Road itself is a very old rural highway which served as an alternate stage route to the sawmills at Shaver over the Tollhouse Grade. Auberry Road appears on the below 1914 C.F. Weber & Company Map of Fresno Company.
Note; the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad can be seen running through Auberry above. The San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad was a 56 mile line branching from the Southern Pacific Railroad in Fresno which was built in 1912. The San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad was built to facilitate construction of Dam #1, Dam #2 and Dam #3 of the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project which formed Huntington Lake. The full line of the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad can be viewed on the abandonedrails.com page. The San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad was abandoned by the Big Creek Project in 1933 and much of it's former grade has become remote Forest Service roads in Sierra National Forest.
My journey west on Auberry Road began at CA 168 in Pineridge at approximately 4,800 feet above sea level. Pineridge was originally known as "Kenyon" when it first obtained Post Office service in 1890. Kenyon became "Pine Ridge" in 1892 and finally "Pineridge" in 1895. As CA 168 westbound opens up to a four-lane expressway Auberry Road can be accessed by veering to the right. In the distance in the third photo below a Wildflower Trail shield can be seen on Auberry Road.
Auberry Road from CA 168 is signed as 3 miles from Alder Springs. Auberry Road westbound passes by the Pine Ridge Elementary School before crossing under the power lines of the Big Creek Project at Musick Farm Road.
From Musick Farm Road the massive San Joaquin River Canyon can be observed along with the cut made for the power lines. The grade of the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad can be seen in depths below.
Auberry Road west of Musick Farm Road enters Alder Springs. Alder Springs is located at 4,426 feet above sea level.
Auberry Road westbound passes through Alder Springs and opens back up to a 55 MPH speed zone. On the outskirts of Alder Springs the route of Auberry Road passes by the Bald Mountain Fire Station.
Auberry Road continues westward and begins to lose elevation upon opening up onto a vista Big Sandy Valley.
Auberry Road begins to snake through large switchbacks and briefly overlooks the Big Sandy Racheria.
Auberry Road continues westbound through another series of switchbacks before reaching the Big Sandy Racheria at Jose Basin Road. West of Jose Basin Road the route of Auberry Road exits Sierra National Forest. The Big Sandy Racheria is home to a Mono Tribe which had a 2010 population of 118 residents. The Big Sandy Racheria was purchased by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1909.
Auberry Road snakes westbound through another set of switch backs and enters Auberry at the intersection with Powerhouse Road.
Auberry is located at 2,018 above sea level and is just south of the San Joaquin River. Auberry dates back to the 1880s and first had Postal Service in 1884. The community of Auberry reported moved before several times before settling at it's present site circa 1906. In 1912 Auberry became a siding of the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad. The San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad crosses through Auberry on what is now SJ and E Road.
Reportedly the gas station awning in the photo below is all that remains of a larger General Store complex which burned in 1980. There is also an closed general store in addition to a silo building which also date back to the heyday of Auberry. Much of the commerce that was once in Auberry has shifted westward to Prather.
Auberry Road continues through Auberry before meeting CA 168 again at Lodge Road. CA 168 westbound continues as Auberry Road to Prather whereas eastbound CA 168 continues as Lodge Road to the four-lane expressway grade.
CA 168 originally was aligned on Tollhouse Road and bypassed Prather. CA 168 was realigned off Tollhouse Road into Prather and by proxy partially Auburry Road at some point between 1970 and 1975. The alignment of CA 168 through Prather was meant to be an interim routing to the recently completed expressway segment. The expressway was planned to continue all the way westward towards Clovis. The planned rerouting of CA 168 along with the realignment into Prather can seen on the 1975 Caltrans State Highway Map.
Auberry Road splits away from CA 168 at a recently constructed roundabout in Prather. Auberry Road continues another approximately 19 miles to Copper Avenue on the outskirts of Fresno. Auberry Road west of Prather continues to carry the Wildflower Trail designation all the way to Copper Avenue.