It is early morning; the ground is covered in fresh snow about two inches deep. The air is still; it is about thirty-one degrees outside. As I exit my motor home I hear the crunching sound of new snow under my hiking boots. I look wearily up at the sky; another storm is about to hit the valley, perfect conditions to do a fashion photo shoot at the lake.
This is not Lake Tahoe or Mammoth Mountain; this is the Tejon Ranch about ninety minutes north of Los Angeles. Tejon Ranch is the largest ranch in California. It is so big there can be five big budget features filming at the same time with zero encroachment from the other sets. T.R. has an interesting topography, from Mountains that are over five thousand feet high to the desert.
Tejon Ranch has four seasons; in the fall the air can be crisp and cool, as winter nears, the area can see snow and rain. The mountain can turn from green to white in a few minutes, though unlike the mid west, the snow only sticks around for a couple of days. In late spring the ranch is covered in poppy flowers in hues of red and orange. The summer turns the green grass to brown; it can get warm the upper eighties or low nineties, rarely reaching a hundred.
In my tenure traveling to the Tejon Ranch, for photo shoots, commercials and music videos, I have to admit I have not been to all the places on the ranch. This is good thing, it means there are a lot of options and any time of the year gives TR something that few locations can give, a different look. My clients have never been disappointed with the ranch. The staff, Stephanie 661-248-6890 and Debbie Gabel 661-248-6890 is well season curators for the Tejon Ranch, they know what crews need and want. Plus they are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the T.R. and all of the locations inside this massive ranch.
One of the reasons I like working at the Tejon Ranch beyond the beauty of the property is one is still close enough to Los Angles that if a PA needs to run dailies back to the studio, it is generally less than 90 minutes commute back. For truckers and other large equipment, there are several trucks stops both at the bottom and the top of the “Vine” that sell diesel, DEF, propane and gasoline. At the Flying J there is a RV dump station, something that I find very useful on long jobs. Another bonus there is a truck & RV wash at the bottom of the “Vine” 661 858 2090. This is a ranch and a lot of the roads are not paved, keep that in mind before you decide to drive an expensive vehicle on these roads.
Depending where you are shooting on the ranch, Bakersfield is only about thirty minutes away with numerous restaurants. However after a long day you might want to eat someplace close to your hotel. Depending if you are lodging at the bottom of the Grape Vine (near I-5) or Lebec, which is the top of the “Vine”, there are some wonderful options for food. If you are at the bottom and you need a Starbucks fix, 5844 Dennis Mccarthy Dr, Lebec (661-858-2034). Just keep in mind that if you think you can run in Starbucks for a quick cup of coffee, this is one of the busiest in the US, you might have to wait. The plus side there is a drive thru. For breakfast or any meal there is the reliable and always good 24-Hour Denny’s (9046 Grapevine Rd E, Lebec 661-248-3409). One of my favorite places for Mexican food is Don Perico (9021 Grapevine Rd W, Lebec 661 248-6903), the food is awesome and drinks are even better. Of course for fast food there is the Panda Inn Express, McDonalds, Iron Skillet Restaurant and other eateries. This is a major rest stop for weary road travelers; that traverse up and down I-5 and Hwy 99. You will not find any high-end restaurants; you will find food that won’t kill you anytime soon. At top of the Grape Vine your choices are similar, a Denny’s next to the Flying J, Los Pinos Mexican Restaurant 133 Frazier Mountain Park Rd, Lebec (661-248-1148), Quiznos Subs 201 Frazier Mountain Park Rd, Lebec (661-248-6200) and my favorite pizza place period, Caveman Pizza 3620 Mt Pinos Way, Frazier Park (661-245-1474). The pepperoni pizza is my favorite.
Regarding lodging if you are at the bottom of the Grape Vine there is the Microtel Inn & Suites 661-241-6666. I stayed at this hotel, the staff is friendly, and the rooms are nice; the Inn has free continental breakfast, a parking lot next to the hotel for large vehicles. There is a truck stop nearby that sells diesel and gas, no dump station. The Microtel is less than a year old; therefore it has a lot of nice modern updates, like free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs in every room, a lounge that is sophisticated with plenty of seating for impromptu meetings. Also at the bottom of the “Vine” is the Ramada Limited Lebec 661-248-1530, this is an older hotel, that before the Microtel was built it was the only option. The rooms are nice and clean; my clients like the Ramada, though I would rather stay at the Microtel because it is newer and is more upscale, plus there is more parking for the large trucks and motor homes. At the top of the Grape Vine there is the Holiday Inn Express 661-248-1600, this was opened several years ago, so it is new, the rooms are spacious and you get free continental breakfast. There is plenty of parking for all sizes of vehicles and you are only minutes from the main gate at the Tejon Ranch. For budget minded crews there is the Motel 6 (661-248-6625). This is the best Motel 6 I ever stayed at, part of the reason is, it was once a different motel, owned by the Flying J, the rooms are really nice, there is a huge parking lot and the rates are extremely reasonable. In added plus, there is a Flying J and a Denny’s on the same lot. You are only minutes to the main entrance to the ranch.
This is my favorite ranch in Southern California, there are so many places to film at Tejon Ranch; one cannot go wrong. If you have any questions or you need a local motor home, and someone who really knows this place, feel free to call me Mike Green at 818 317 7077.