It was a scorching, (85 degrees at 5,000 feet!) sweaty, exhausting, sans shady 12.5 mile hike complete with way too many PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs) to the Forks of the Kern. Although an exact number would be difficulty to calculate at this time, it definitely felt like over 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss throughout the day. The trail is actually a multi use hiking, biking and motorcycle trail which may explain some of the PUDS. The road to the Forks of the Kern trailhead is still closed for the season so our only choice was to go on the Rincon Trail.
We saw 4 people on motorcycles…..these would be the only people we would see for the next 5 days.
The SANS shady trail
That be B I G!
Along the sandy trail I saw both mountain lion and bear prints. BIG mountain lion and bear prints. All day long we trudged up and down and up and down some more and then we went up and down some more….until finally we went down down down, shuffling into camp on the Forks of the Kern around 5:30. We were happy to see both water and shade as the trail lacks shade due to the 2002 McNally Fire……AND all the side creeks were bone dry. At one point I was so desperate for shade I stood behind a burnt out tree snag.
Great campsite number 1!
Willows pre leaved out.
March 30, 2015
Forks of the Kern to 3.8 miles below Jordan Hot Springs.
It was chilly last night and we woke to a thin layer of ice on our bear canisters….but that did not impede the coffee making.
The first order of business this morning was to cross the mighty Kern.
The mighty Kern….Before the snow melt.
The Kern is always cold, in March it is even colder and at 8 am it is numbing cold. The current was just strong enough to make the crossing almost dicey…. but not quite. With all the JMT high water crossings my confidence level was high. At one point the water was thigh high and the current was strong…so strong that I had to backtrack and make my way up stream to cross above the small rapid. The rocks were slippery and my poles were shaking and one step at a time I made it to the other side. This was Lisa’s first big river crossing and she did a great job as evidenced by the video below. (the video takes a minute or so to load.)
The rest of the day was spent walking up the Kern. There were so many bear paw prints that Lisa wondered if perhaps someones hiking boots had the tread of a bear paw. It was another hot day, 90 degrees according to the thermometer dangling from Lisa’s pack. After lunch both the heat and downed tree snags slowed our progress to a crawl. We are now camped next to the Kern where it bends and heads into the high Sierra.
Nature’s crayon box
A “PUDS” free stretch of trail
Climbing over all the “blow downs.”
March 31, 2015
3.8 miles below Jordon Hot Springs to Jordon Hots Springs and back to Kern Flat. 13 miles.
The trail to Jordon Hot Springs made its way up through miles and miles of burned forest that reminded me of the game pick-up-sticks. Several times F-15 jets blew past us intruding on the solitude and sending our hands flying to our ears.
I enjoyed exploring around the old out buildings and imagined what it was like when it was a full community. The hot springs were nice and felt good on our sore muscles and we had the place to ourselves which is always a bonus!
Old cabin at the hot springs.
Love the old furniture.
One of several hot springs. Kinda gunky on the bottom, but still nice.
It was windy and cooler up at 6,000 feet and we decided to retrace our steps back through the pick-up-sticks field.
Soda Flat. An inviting private cabin along the way.
While I was bushed whacking around blown down charred tress far away from any trail my eyes landed on something big and white. I felt startled for a second while my mind caught up with my eyes and made sense of the image before me.
An amazing find
A buck in near perfect condition.
I could not believe my good fortune here at my feet lay the entire white washed skull and antlers of a buck.
I have found antlers one other time, on a trip with Jorge deep in a canyon while looking at art rock in Canyonlands. I still remember the rangers words when Jorge and I got our permit for Canyonlands….. “Take nothing. AND not matter how cold you are do not build a fire!”
We camped at Kern Flat under a canopy of pines and incense cedars. We enjoyed a nice fire where wood could be gathered without leaving the comfort of our bear canister seats.
I named him Kern.
April 1, 2015 Kern Flat to Forks of the Kern 8 miles.
It was so cold last night that there was ice on my tent poles. Inside my sleeping bag I had to cover my legs with my down jacket and my feet were freezing despite my down socks. In fact it was so cold that I built a small fire to have with morning coffee. I spent some time debating whether I should take Kern with me or leave him in his natural surroundings. Once I made that decision I had to figure out how to escort Kern 23 miles out of the woods.
I found the perfect way to carry Kern
Cruiser and Kern.
We stopped at the cribbage camp and played a quick game using pine needles and pebbles to keep score.
I couldn’t let the day pass without playing at least on April fools joke so mid day I told Lisa I wanted to hike the 20 miles (including crossing the Kern) back to the car. I couldn’t keep a straight face for long so the joke lasted less than a minute.
We arrived at our campsite early and putzed around for the remainder of the day playing cribbage and looking at the map.
Someone made rock seating complete with backrests all around the fire ring. AWESOME!
April 2, 2015 Forks of the Kern to Rincon trailhead and Sherman Pass Road. 12.5 miles.
Another cold morning that became colder on account of having to cross the mighty Kern at 8:00 am. The hike up out of Kern Canyon was mostly in the shade and the cool morning air along with our numb feet made the miles appear almost easy. We arrived at Durwood Creek in time for lunch and swelled down our feet while debating whether to camp or hike the rest of the way out. We found two campsites but neither of them were that appealing so we decided to continue hiking.
The falls above Durwood Creek.
It was a long hike back to the car. Up, down, up down, up down, up down and finally up and down one more time.
We couldn’t sit in Lisa’s brand new car until we cleaned our legs. Look at all that trail dirt.
We stopped in Kernville for the requisite post trip celebratory burger and fries. MMM. MMM.
It was a great first trip to the Sierra backpack season!