The Mighty River Kern
Beginning Elevation = 6,000
Peak Elevation = 8,400
Ending Elevation = 7,850
Weather: Sunny, mostly clear, high 75°F…then rain and chilly in afternoon
Dave H and I got up at our usual times, him a little before me. Having practiced yesterday, I had a plan for how to organize/situate things in my pack and it went smoothly. Around 6:30am, we made our way down in front of the General Store and finalized the packing. We found Snickers there and before heading off into the Sierra, he took a lovely photograph of Team Hoekwater.
The walk back to the PCT was approx. 0.74815162342 miles. Sometime around 7:00am we started our journey north. Bring on the Sierra! The trail began nice and flat through sage bush meadow. We made good pace and after about 3 miles hiking took a break on the banks of the South Fork of the Kern River. Our breakfast spot was on a sandy patch with our backs resting against a giant rounded boulder. Much the same food and drink as usual (although Carnation Instant Breakfast rather than hot chocolate for me).
Midway through our meal a guy came up with a fishing rod. We chatted a bit, obviously we were interested in everything he was doing and would’ve talked long with him, but he got started fishing in front of us right away. We were tempted to ask if we could just use his equipment for one cast or otherwise brawl with him and take it. We did neither, but instead watched him pull a small trout from the icy water.
Soon after breakfast the trail began to go up gradually. Along the way, we saw a bee tree.
And a new lizard species (later Kool-Aid would identity it as a Sierra Skink?). When I first saw it I thought it was some sort of snake because he kind of slithered and had a long body with really short legs.
We followed along the Kern River for a while, but soon crossed it on this bridge.
After crossing, the trail went away from it. We weren’t lacking in water though, soon we crossed over Crag Creek. Then after this, things opened up to an area that appeared to have experienced a burn in relatively recent years. Still up we walked.
Around 12:17pm, we stopped at a wonderful spot for lunch. It was similar to our breakfast location in that we had a large boulder to use as a back rest and it was right near Crag Creek. Dad got us some water and we chowed. Afterwards, we both dipped our feet in and did a little rinse. The water was indeed frigid.
While getting ready to go, we observed some threatening clouds up ahead. We decided to put our rain pack covers on preemptively, which took a little finesse since we now both have ice axes attached. Although we both have made makeshift guards the ends are still rather pokey. Onward we trekked.
Around 1:45pm, with about a mile left in our ascent, the rain started. At first it was light, but soon became steady to heavy. Dad had his newly homemade constructed Tyvek skirt/kilt on, which helped some and I soon put on my Frogg Togg pants as well. We stuck it out and just kept moving.
The trail leveled off around 8,000 feet elevation And then began a slight downward trend. It went into a non-burned forest where we found a few different groups of hikers huddled under trees using various methods of keeping dry. Probably the smart move, but we didn’t want to stop and risk getting cold. We passed under this tree shortly…
But then continued into this amazing meadow! The high Sierra loomed ahead…
We didn’t stay in the meadow long, but instead began climbing up the slopes on it’s eastern side. Had some views of the valley down below…
We were pretty tired and had a break at the top, which was about a mile walk, before getting to head down. Here’s some more pics of this section.
At the bottom of the mountain, the trail met the South Fork of the Kern River again. Thankfully, there was this lovely bridge allowing us sage passage across.
It was around 4:30pm when we arrived and we were ready to stop. This was the spot that we had roughly agreed upon with our group to potentially camp at. We waited a bit to see if they might show up in case they wanted to push ahead further, but soon made the decision to set up. The clouds were still around us and we’ve learned we can’t really predict them very well, so best to have a rain fly ready!
It didn’t end up raining again, but was a bit chilly. Dad and I enjoyed being in camp at a decent time and lounged around. He read some, I played around with my camera some. Here’s another time lapse…this time of all the swallows that have made their home under the bridge.
A hiker named Jason from Ontario, Canada set up nearby too and many others as well. We cooked our dinner, which was amazing once again…the mashed potatoes, gravy, and chicken with some added green beans this time as well. Very fancy.
Eventually, around 7:15ish, our team made it to camp, very happy to see it and ready to set up, rest, and eat some food!
Looking good, right?
I loved this camp site and having us all together. It was such a great spot to view the sunset with the river and Monache Meadow surrounding us. There is a lot of excitement in camp and our motivation to do some serious Sierra hiking is high!