A Day in Tehachapi

Recently my sister, Shannon, asked if I wanted to accompany her to a Western Swing music festival in Tehachapi. I happily agreed not because I’m a huge fan of western swing (though I do enjoy it) but because I had never visited the town before and was eager for a day of exploration. I expected it to be a one horse desert town so, boy, was I surprised at what I found. Nestled in the Tehachapi Mountains in a rural corner of Kern County it’s a picturesque place to visit.

The town owes it’s origin to the Southern Pacific Railroad as it was formed along with the original coast to coast rail-line. Trains still travel through town regularly and the railroad remains an important element of its existence. In fact, when entering Old Town the historic depot is the first thing you see.

Unfortunately, the original depot burnt down in 2008 but, luckily, it was lovingly rebuilt and reopened in 2010. Now, it houses a museum devoted to railroad history.

The Tehachapi Depot is a true treasure, staffed by docents immensely proud of their town’s history and filled with several fascinating artifacts. Just outside of town lies another significant part of rail history – the Tehachapi Loop.

Back in the day of steam engines crossing the Tehachapi Pass was more than trains could handle. To combat this a group of engineers led by William Hood devised the loop allowing the train to gain altitude gradually. Though no longer necessary once diesel entered the picture trains still pass through it daily. A series of historical markers guided us to an overlook and before too long a train came by allowing us to witness first hand this engineering feat.

Of course, Tehachapi has more to offer than rail history and back in town we took time to explore in between musical sets. There are several quaint antique shops and the town has a wonderful vintage feel.

We decided to embrace the vintage atmosphere and opted for lunch at Kelcy’s Cafe, a historic family owned restaurant.

The vintage interior is wonderfully intact and filled with Tehachapi memorabilia. Often, in diners like this, I find the food to be sub-par but not at Kelcy’s. I enjoyed a deliciously filling steak sandwich followed by a fresh slice of homemade coconut cream pie.

After a filling lunch it was time to get in some exercise so we headed to Tehachapi Mountain Park.

Located in the hills just outside of town it was an idyllic spot for a small hike.

And after walking a short distance we were treated with this beautiful view.

It was the perfect ending to a day in Tehachapi. A town filled with vintage charm, fascinating history and picturesque vistas I won’t soon forget it.


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