Covid-19 Escape: Bakersfield to Dome Rock in a Bolt EV

By Paul Gipe

As part of our weekly Covid-19 get-a-ways, we headed into the Sierra Nevada above Porterville toward scenic Dome Rock.

Dome rock is literally a rock dome in the Sequoia National Monument. It’s a bare slab of exposed granite popular among climbers and easily accessible down a short dirt road from the Western Divide Highway.

Only 90 miles from Bakersfield, Dome Rock is easily reachable in a Bolt EV. The Bolt, as a “hot hatch,” is actually well suited for the tortuous Western Divide Highway necessary to get there. The Bolt’s low center-of-gravity, its regenerative braking, and its responsive acceleration make it a joy to drive it into Sierra Nevada–especially after sheltering-in-place for the week.

We spent three pleasant hours on the rock and had the place–and the spectacular vista–to our selves. I suspect it’s heavily used on the weekends by climbers and fellow escapees from cities in the San Joaquin Valley. There were “ducks” or cairns everywhere. I guess it’s something to do while you’re waiting for someone to climb up the cliff face.

Guides to Dome Rock make a point that “there’s no guardrail” and advise parents to hang onto their children. The slope falls away quickly and I am sure there’s been more than one person who has gone over the edge.

From Dome Rock there’s a great view of the nearby Pinnacles and off in the east is the characteristic summit of Olancha Peak. There’s a hint of the entrenched Kern River in the valley below and a road that snakes its way northbound to a trailhead into the Golden Trout Wilderness.

The cool, pine-scented air at 7,000 feet on the Kern Plateau was a welcome relief from the 100 °F plus temperatures of the Valley.

There were scattered Jeffrey Pines on Dome Rock and a few penstemon still in bloom.

On the way back via California Hot Springs we thought we’d take a walk on the Trail of 100 Giants. Nope that wasn’t in the cards. Though it was only shortly after noon on a Friday, the parking lots were full and the Forest Service had closed entry.

We did take a short detour down a dirt road to a meadow where we hoped to find some wildflowers. We did find some Bigelow’s sneezeweed, seep monkeyflower, and some more penstemon.

We used 33 kWh to get to Dome Rock, about 10% more than estimated. In my experience this is unusual. Often A Better Routeplanner under estimates the amount of electricity needed by 10%. I don’t have an explanation why we used more than the estimator. We did use air conditioning, but that seldom makes much of a difference.

It’s a bit disconcerting to arrive at your half-way point and realize you’ve used more than half of your traction battery capacity. This is despite the fact I know the trip back is downhill. Reason doesn’t always allay anxiety.

Nevertheless, the return to Bakersfield used only 12 kWh, about 10% less than estimated by ABRP. We arrived home with 24% charge remaining. As in our other Covid-19 excursions, I needn’t have worried.

Dome Rock is well worth the visit, though we’d recommend going there early and midweek to avoid tourists and climbers and enjoy a near-wilderness experience.