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.