As promised, this blog is not all about kayaking; we often head out into the Sierra with backpacks instead of boats. This time we headed into a set of lakes with several friends: Grant, Marc, Dave, Alison, Mary Joyce, Copper, Lucy and Charlie. This is one of our favorite spots with a superb campsite between alpine lakes at around 9000 ft - a great way to spend a couple of days.
Grant headed across the first creek crossing
The same creek crossing with super-hiker charlie doing self support
The hike in is about 10 miles and has a nice variety of scenery and biology as well as plenty of creek crossings for dog watering. The trail is almost entirely in Wilderness area as well.
One of the early views into the High Sierra
Yep, there is still snow up here in late June
A meadow with water for the dogs - a nice place to stop for lunch
Rebecca and her Mom posing in front of yet another lush meadow
Columbine and other flowers are thriving in the area this time of year
A Sierra Whistle Pig (aka Yellow Bellied Marmot)
A view from camp
Gourmet trail food - notice the expert convective oven set up by Chief Scout Marc. A bed of coals lay under the kebabs, which are fanned by the draft created by the fire to the right.
A nice morning hike into some of the impressive foxtail pines nearby. As you can see, these giant trees are growing straight out of the granite.
Lucy didn't actually have a tree fall on her, she's just resting...
July usually means the end of water on the upper Kern. Still there is fun to be had on the Forks of the Kern, a remote 17 mile stretch upstream of the SCE water diversions; this section has spectacular scenery and plenty of fun whitewater. While the run is short enough to do in a day, we really enjoy doing an overnighter on this section, especially when it is over 100 degrees back in Kernville. The day starts with a short hike in (by Sierra standards); about 2 miles of meandering downhill trail. Still, with gear in the boat and hot weather, the river is always a nice sight
Rebecca loaded up with her belongings The put-in is the confluence of the Little Kern and the Kern - ergo the name of the run - the Forks. The first few miles have fun, mellow rapids with plenty of scenic views
Rebecca taking in one of the many granite wall views on the run If you are doing an overnighter, there are plenty of camps to choose from; we tried a new one this time and fell in love with it right away. As we climbed out of our boats we realized that this spot had a great view of the Needles, a set of granite spires that are very unique.
A view of Camp with the Needles in the background As always, the fun challenge on overnighters is to concoct various "river" cocktails since packing in beer and wine tends to be bulky and unnecessarily heavy. On this evening we had an array of 151 jungle juice, vodka-tang martinis and kool-aide margaritas. Laying under the stars in the surprisingly cool evening air is about as close to heaven as it gets.
Man this is smooth.... When you do an overnighter on the Forks, you find yourself finding side activities to stretch out your day. We decided on a hike up Peppermint creek to view and slide on some of the granite falls.
Eric and Dave at one of the upper falls Rebecca staying cool on the hike After the side hike and lunch, it's back to the river to take on the more challenging rapids on the run; the new (and not so improved) Vortex, Westwall and Carson falls are the main ones, but there is still plenty of fun class IV drops littered throughout the whole run.
Dave in the main move in Westwall; not sure if he is taking in the scenery... All in all it was a great trip; Brett and Dave did their personal first descents of Westwall and Carson falls without any problems while we were just happy to be out on one of our favorite rivers away from all the other distractions life has to offer. If you are curious, here is a video of the main two rapids, Vortex and Carson falls (via Brett). Of note is the fact that Vortex has changed this year; one of the rocks in the center has toppled over, changing the rapid significantly. While the rapid is not nearly as fun, in my opinion, it is still fine. The center line becomes a bit worse at higher water, but then a somewhat creative sneak on river right opens up.
click on this to watch the video
As always, a permit is required on this section of river. Inquire with the U.S. Forrest service for more information.