Author photo

By Jon Hammond
contributing writer 

High Summer in the Tehachapi Mountains

Land of Four Seasons


July 22, 2023

Jon Hammond.

A Merlin, a type of small falcon found in the Tehachapi Mountains.

It is now High Summer in the Tehachapi Mountains. After a very cool spring and early summer, high temperatures have finally caught up with us, and reached about 98 or 99 degrees Fahrenheit here over the weekend of July 15 and 16. Not record-setting, but still definitely hot.

The hottest official temperature ever recorded in July in Tehachapi was in 1934, when the mercury reached 105 degrees. That is also the hottest temperature ever recorded here, according to National Weather Service archives.

A couple of years later, in 1936, much of the country experienced an unprecedented heat wave and many cities and towns hit record highs in July. Many of those Dust Bowl era records still stand to this day, even after years of global warming.

And interestingly, the extremely high summer temperatures were paired with a bitterly cold winter earlier in the year. At Parshall, North Dakota on February 15, 1936, the low reached -60 degrees. Less than five months later, in the town of Steele, 110 miles away, on July 6, 1936 it was 121 degrees F – a temperature swing of 181 degrees!

The most recent July record for Tehachapi was in 2002, when the temperature climbed to 102 degrees. Fortunately, triple-digit temperatures remain a rarity in the valleys and higher elevations in the Tehachapi Mountains, even as the nearby Mojave Desert and San Joaquin Valley swelter each summer with many 100+ degree days.

In the natural world, July is the month when spotted California Mule Deer fawns typically appear. The does generally give birth in June or July, but they keep their babies hidden away for the first few weeks. Fawns have no scent when born, so it is safest for them to remain concealed from predators in tall grasses, with the does just returning a few times a day to nurse, and then moving away.

When the fawns get big enough and fast enough to keep up with their mother, she typically rejoins her small herd of other does and fawns, deer that are often genetically related to the adult doe. The doe's mother or grandmother is often the matriarch of the little herd.

So Tehachapi area residents have recently begun seeing the first of this year's crop of fawns, still bearing the 50-cent piece or quarter-sized white spots that help them hide in the dappled sunlight of the oak woodlands. These spots fade with time, but a few may be faintly visible until next winter or spring.

This is the time of year you can see Gum Plant, a common roadside plant that grows along Highway 202, Banducci Road, Highline Road, and all throughout our area, from Bear Valley to Sand Canyon. Tehachapi residents drive by them every day, they are very easy flowers to see and identify, but most people even never even heard of Gum Plant.

Gum Plant (Grindelia camporum) is a very distinctive wildflower which is blooming right now along Tehachapi roadways, in fields, pastures and areas that botanists sometimes refer to rather pejoratively as "waste places." Gum Plant grows up to about two feet tall and has bright yellow, daisy-looking flowers that are an inch or two across.

Plants, like certain people, tend to get more interesting the closer you look at them. This is true of the Gum Plant, for if you peer at the blossoms, you'll notice that the narrow leaf bracts underneath each flower head are spiky and rolled back with a little hook at each end, so that they look like miniature round artichoke heads.

You'll also see that, oddly enough, in the center of the flower buds before they fully open is a white, shiny substance. It looks like someone went around and put a little dab of yogurt or mayonnaise on each unopened flower head. This substance is actually very sticky and firm – this is the source of the name Gum Plant. Even the leaves are somewhat resinous, and Gum Plants have been studied and grown as an alternate source of rosin, which is commonly obtained from the turpentine of Longleaf and Loblolly Pines. Rosin is a material with hundreds of commercial uses, which include serving as a glazing agent for medicines and chewing gum, as a flux agent in soldering, an additive in printing inks and adhesives, even for increasing the friction on violin bows and the hands of bull riders and gymnasts.

The Nuwa people used sticky resin from the Gum Plant as a reportedly effective balm for skin irritation caused by poison oak, and would brew the leaves and flowers together to make a liquid that was applied to sores. They knew Gum Plant by the name Sanawagadüba (pronounced sana-waga-DUB-ah), derived from the adjective sana-wa-güd, which means "sticky."

There are lots of insects, spiders and other invertebrates around now, for summer is the height of their activity. Few of them harm people in any way, but mosquitoes are an exception. Fortunately Tehachapi is not prime mosquito habitat, so they aren't usually a problem.

Jon Hammond.

Penstemon, a hardy group of perennials that are still blooming now at higher elevations.

If you do have standing water where mosquitoes can breed, like a little water source for wildlife, consider dropping in a product called Mosquito Dunk. These small floating donuts slowly release a bacteria that will kill mosquito larvae, but will not harm wildlife, livestock or aquatic creatures. Some people put mosquito fish in their ponds, but these small fish also eat Pacific Chorus Frog tadpoles, so they are less than ideal. Mosquito Dunks seem to be a better choice.

Summer is here and it's hot again. Stay cool when you can, and keep enjoying the beauty of life in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Jon Hammond is a fourth generation Kern County resident who has photographed and written about the Tehachapi Mountains for 38 years. He lives on a farm his family started in 1921, and is a speaker of Nuwä, the Tehachapi Indian language. He can be reached at


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