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Into the High Sierras
Posted On: 01/01/2010 14:26:06

There are some wild and scenic wilderness areas about a five hour drive from where we live that promised some good fishing.  We had to hike in and stay the night in order to experience it.  We had three days off from work so decided to make a run at it.  We packed the RV with hiking gear and food and took off to the Eastern Sierras.  Our destination was the Golden Trout Wilderness.

We made it to the trailhead just before dark.  The only place to stick a 34 footer was in the equestrian campground.  Everything else was tent camping and we were the only RV there.  Not surprising given the narrow winding road to get there.  After leveling it out, opening up the slide outs, and firing up the generator I could tell we were not welcomed by the other campers who had to cook over a fire and use the smelly outhouses while listening to our generator and muffled laughter as we played card games in the warmth of our living room.  Welcome to base camp.

The next morning we packed the backpacks for the hike in.  We were going to try to make it to the South Fork of the Kern River which was eight miles in.  In hindsight, this was a huge miscalculation on my part.  We were out of shape and this was a difficult hike even for the experienced.  Most people opted for horses or mules and in fact we encountered two such parties during the course of our journey.

But we were in good spirits and excited to explore a new area.  Off we went around noon.  Both kids had full packs.  It was really great to see the family (including our two dogs) working so hard to get out in the wilderness and explore.  Zach, always the “class clown” kept us in good spirits by dressing up as ridiculous as he could as we prepared to embark.

 

 

 

 

 

About a mile in, Kim spotted two mule dear bedded down about 50 feet from the trail.  A doe and a forked horn buck in full velvet.  They were not spooked by us so we got to observe them for about five minutes before moving on.  Very beautiful and noble creatures.  Among other interesting discoveries, we saw a fir tree that had been knocked sideways many years ago and had what looked like twenty little trees growing up from it.  We also found trees that had fallen together in the shape of an A.  The kids said, “A for Adventure!” 

 

 

 

 

     

 

The scenery was outstanding.  Everywhere we looked was nature in its most purest form, thriving in a dormant volcanic region, causing a unique mix of rocks, trees, mountains, ravines, and creeks.

 

 

  

 

Things got a little tough about three miles in.  Heading up the second pass, we had to take many breaks as we sweated beneath our packs.  Zach was more bored than anything and began with the “are we there yet” routine.  When we reached the top of the highest pass we could see the wilderness area unfold below us.  It was very inspiring.

 

  

 

 

 

We headed down into Mulkey Meadow.  We were so excited to actually “get somewhere” that we hardly noticed the extreme drop in elevation on our way down, which the next day we would have to climb back up.

      This meadow contains a strange almost landlocked creek system called Mulkey Creek which has many forks that seem to flow toward each other and simply disappear in the middle of the meadow.  Since we were there in late August we could not find where it continued on to the South Fork Kern River.  I had read earlier that Mulkey does flow toward the Kern and contains a good population of Golden trout, albeit very small ones.  These fish were transferred here by Samuel Mulkey in the 1800’s.

We saw many fish in the stream and Zach had a great time trying to catch them.  But overall, it was kind of a disappointing destination.  Had we another day, we could have continued the additional two miles to the South Fork Kern and probably had a better time fishing.  But we ran out of daylight so struck camp on the outskirts of the meadow.

 

 

 

 

We found out after unpacking that we had forgotten to pack our dehydrated diners.  You know, the beef stew and lasagna that you add hot water to and it magically turns into a tasty dinner for two.  Luckily, Kim had thrown in two packages of Ramen Noodles.  Add some jerky, grapes, and apples and dinner was served.  We used our tiny lightweight cooking burner to cook the Ramen.  Worked like a charm.  I served it in lightweight aluminum backpacking dishes.  The warm fire and clean air was a nice change for us and we thoroughly enjoyed camping in the middle of the wilderness. 

We were all very sore and none of us slept much, but the stars were beautiful.  Even though the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees at night, we were cozy in our Coleman lightweight below zero sleeping bags.  Actually, they were overkill but I highly suggest this bag for anyone heading out in areas like this where weather can change on a dime.  A warm sweater might also be a good idea.  Just ask our dog, Carmel.

 

  

 

 

The next morning, we were out of water.  Zach and I headed a quarter mile across the meadow to the creek.  He tried to catch breakfast while I siphoned water through our purifier to drink on the hike out.  I headed back to camp while Zach continued fishing.

I gave it about 30 minutes and figured it was time to go make sure he wasn’t cougar food.  I got about ten steps out from camp and saw him about half way through the meadow walking back holding a fish and his pole.  He looked lost and was looking all over the place so I waved my arms in the air while observing through the binoculars.  When he saw me, it looked like a million pounds fell from his chest.  Yep, he was lost but now was found.  When he arrived at camp we could tell from the streaks on his face that he had cried a little.  I felt terrible.  Evidently he got caught up in fishing and walked so far down the meadow that he lost track of where he was.  He knew we were on the other side of the meadow, but he was off by about a quarter mile.  And the fish?  He found it dead in the water.  Bummer, skunked at Mulkey Creek.

That morning we spotted a huge coyote hunting for ground squirrels.  It was so big that I mistook it for a grey wolf.  But, after observing it through the binoculars I was able to determine from the large ears and narrow face that it was a coyote.  It had thick grey fur which was different from the light tan of the coyotes back home.  I later read a blog entry from someone that saw a similar coyote about three miles from our location.  They also mistook it for a grey wolf.

We packed camp and started on the way back to the trailhead.  The hike back was extremely strenuous.  The first push up the steep pass was all that I could do.  I knew that if I was at my physical limit, the kids had to be even worse off.  Only about a fourth of the way up, Katlyn started to vomit and show signs of over excursion so I transferred her sleeping bag over to my pack.  I made sure we stopped often and rested. 

 

 

 

 

When we finally crested the top we all were very proud of our feat… and our feet.  Even the dogs were limping on sore pads.  But, with the worst behind us we were ready to finish the journey.

We arrived back at the RV just before dark.  Cold drinks and a warm shower for everyone.   Not.  I messed up and forgot to turn on the water heater before we left.  Cold drinks and cold showers for everyone. 

The drive home took five hours.  The whole trip was fun and good for us, but I have to say we needed about two or three more days to make the most of it. We definitely plan to make another try at the Kern River when we have more time. 

 



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Viewing 1 - 2 out of 2 Comments

From: Velda_Traylor
04/04/2010 18:42:39

We would love to do this trip with you some day. WITH the hot food and hot showers!  Such a wonderful family adventure.


Grandma Velda




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