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    Campfire Tales

    Kennedy Meadows

    Kennedy Meadows

    From the archives: June 2013 long weekend in the South Sierra Wilderness

    There are two Kennedy meadows in the Sierra mountain range. One is in Sonora County, the other in Kern County.  We went to the one in Kern county, as the Kern area is one of our favorites.

    GO WEST  

     

    Getting there: Take 9 Mile Canyon Rd in Pearsonville (last stop is a Shell station for gas and sammies) go west. 

    The drive up is windy and exposed in places. The meadow is a jump off point and resupply for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is fun to see people on their way through. There is a campground north of the general store (center of the map) for those who want something more established. Dispersed camping is available south of the main campground along the Kern River. 

    Topo map captured on my Android phone with the Backcountry Navigator Pro app.

    From the meadow other side trips or destinations are available like Monache meadows, Troy and Fish meadows (for ATV and bikes), or crossing Sherman Pass going west to the Trail of 100 Giants (a must see) Sequoia grove and the rest of the Kern River system.

    We found a nice spot to make camp along the river.

    I used the existing fire ring and made my own little additions like a chimney rock ( to keep smoke out of my face) and some pot rests and settled in for a simple evening meal.

    A beaver kept me and the dogs company while I cooked. Seemed like the beaver was busy building up his dam nest.

    A beaver kept me and the dogs company while I cooked. Seemed like the beaver was busy building up his dam nest.

    The next morning Bullwinkle startled a rattlesnake in it's nest and bolted back to camp while on the trail. Liz worried the whole time that he was lost. However we found him hiding under the truck where he knew he was safe. What a good boy.

    We hit the trail and decided to take the PCT north to the first bridge crossing a few miles in and do some fishing. Here's Liz all geared up for the trail. A good hat and a lightweight UPF shirt is ideal for these days. Exofficio is a go to for these items. 

    The trail follows the Kern River as best it can sometimes taking you up in the pines.

    or go down to the water where you can cool off and relax a bit.

    Dogs decided to take a break while I tried my hand at casting a fly rod.

    Kennedy Meadows is a great place to escape the summertime crowds of Sequoia and Yosemite National parks. It's a worthy destination for a weekend trip to easily accessible back country and rugged Sierra views.

    Deep Creek - Devil's Hole

    Deep Creek - Devil's Hole

    Deep Creek runs in the San Bernardino mountains from the northern side of Lake Arrowhead going westward towards the Mojave wash. Eons of erosion carved a deep canyon separating the southern San Bernardino side of the creek from Apple Valley.  
    Getting there:
    There are two ways. The northern route parks you at Bowen Ranch ($5 parking, it's private property)  Google earth pin . You can enjoy the hot springs, but don't drink the water or let it get in an orifice, unless you want to suffer for a few days after! From there and running downstream tiny brain eating protozoans are found in the water. Since we were bringing a dog we decided to go the southern route and not risk it, since Scout couldn't be trusted to not drink the water.
    The southern route has two options: one is an off road adventure requiring a high clearance 4x4, while the other is more mellow.  The mellow option is to park at Splinter's Cabin. From there you can go north on the Pacific Crest Trail to explore this region. We went the 4x4 way to really live off the beaten path.
    The drive can mostly be done in 2WD until the last 50 yards. There is a copout option right before the trail plunges to the valley floor just in case you don't have the cajones neccessary. But arriving at Devil's Hole you are greeted by this fantastic view. 
    Wild mint grows rampant here as well as miners lettuce and wild strawberries if you're looking to do some berry picking. Be on the lookout for bear scat keep yourself out of harms way.

    From there the PCT runs along the creek. We went south towards the notorious cliff diving holes and Aztec Falls.   
    Most of the trail will look like this if you happen to have a 120lbs GSD/wolf hybrid leading your pack. We knew you guys would enjoy the dog butt view.

    Scout found a trail for us down to that bend. Follow me!
    To get down to these holes on this section of the PCT requires some bushwhacking down/up some steep faces. Pants and sturdy shoes are recommended. Emily was tough as nails and made it no problem.
    We made it down and proceeded along the riparian banks.  Scout decided to go for a swim while we set up lunch and our fishing poles. I was using a cut down Shimano ultralight spinning rod rigged with an Okuma 5/6wt reel and full sinking line.  Adam tried out his new collapsible Tenkara rod.  
    It was raining/misting on and off all day with the average temperature hovering around 45 degrees.  Emily was a champ and toughed it out.  We explored more off trail and along the creek bed in search of native trout but came up empty handed.  The summer drought of 2015 must have hit pretty hard and the numbers are not rebounding yet. We hightailed it back to the SUV and did a tick shake down.  I found one on my back and used tweezers from my Med Kit . For these shoulder seasons the area is rife with ticks and skeeters. I always recommend treating gear and your dog with Ben's Permethrin spray to not have to deal with these guys.
    Now for the hard part: getting out is a short 25 yard rock garden with one big maneuver at the end.  Emily got a video of me high centering and rocking the 'Treg, tapping a tree, and nearly running over Adam.  This is the carnage. If you can't duck it..well...
    Come summer time this place will be a great way to escape the heat, picnic and cool off in the deep pools.
    ROUND 2: Early June 2016 revisit 
    The weather forecast for the weekend was to be a hot one.  With that in mind I rounded up the Wander Squad and headed back out to Deep Creek this time from Splinter's Cabin for a slightly easier path.  The drive in was mostly paved and mellow winding through groves of oak and juniper.  We hit the PCT going north and in no time found a decent track that plunged down the steep canyon walls to the inviting pools below.  
    With temperatures in the 80's we stripped down and swam the pools adjoined by small waterfalls and rock slides.  Stirring up schools of native brown trout we decided to let the fish rest for a bit and chow down on lunch in the shade.  
    Adam tries out his Tenkara to see if he can break it in with it's first fish.
    I get some luck in a pool above with this big lunker.
    Here's a closeup of one of the larger specimen of the day showing it's beautiful coloration.  Their feisty feeding habits and undamaged pectoral and dorsal fins indicate these are healthy native trout. I suspect in some larger and deeper pools further downstream there are some big uns hiding.
    Obligatory selfie with Bullwinkle. He gets jealous if we post more pics with other dogs.
    Links to gear used:

    Australia - The Land Down Unda

    Australia - The Land Down Unda

    From the archives: Our trip to Australia - Green Island, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru (the rock formerly known as Ayers Rock)

    Landing in Cairns (the strayans pronounce it "cans") we were greeted on the jetway by a moist, humid wall of air.  A tourist destination by itself this was not our first stop.  The cabbie decided to drive on the wrong side of the road as we made our way from the airport to the ferry.  While the cab ride may have been wild, the catamaran ride was smooth and soon Green Island came into view.  

    Green Island is 27km off the shore of Cairns smack dab in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.  The island is about 2km in circumerence and is home to the largest living saltwater crocodile in the world but you'll find out more on him later. We were here to dive and the reef under the pier did not disappoint.

    The potato fish is the ocean equivalent of a golden retriever, he reminded me of Doug from UP, "I have just met you but I love you, are you my master now?".  Schools of Giant Trevally took shelter between the pylons while we swam. Below you can see my sister Echo make her way through the waves.

    We did some open ocean dives where the reef was shallow enough to allow for a staging platform.  The visibility was ok but unfortunately in the last decade the Great Barrier Reef has been deteriorating.  Antler and brain coral were still to be found in deeper more undisturbed parts. This is one of the reasons that many parts of the reef are now off limits.

    The island is also an animal sanctuary/park. The entrance is a boat that looks like it could have been a part of Pirates of the Caribbean, Australian edition.

     

    I had to stop at the gift shop and try out some oven mitts.

     

     

    Cassius is the largest and oldest crocodile in captivity.  At the time of the picture being taken he was 115 years old.  Here his handler was giving him a snack.

    They are ornery because they got all them teeth but no toothbrush.

    With the week coming to a close we got to the chopper and made for mainland.

    As we waved goodbye to Green Island we thought about our next destination Alice Springs which is just a stones throw from Uluru..  

    By the way stones throw in 'Stralia means a 495 km/6 hour drive.  We opted to fly from Alice Springs to Uluru.  The town and geological feature used to be called Ayers Rock. This wasn't very politically correct and after the Australian government gave control of the land back to the Aborigines they leased it back - but don't worry the Aborigines still own the land, I think.  They renamed it what it had been called since the dawn of man - Uluru.  

    The center of Australia might be the most desolate and hottest place on Earth.  I don't know why the ancestors of the aboriginal people decided to trek AWAY from the coast and head here where the only source of water is this very rock.  Water is stored in wettish months in pools and cisterns on the rock.  In dry months the water trickles down to little relief.  This is where I was introduced to tjukurpa.

    Tjukurpa (pronounced chookapah) is the law, story of creation, religion, culture, survival handbook, way of life and all-spice of the aboriginals.  It cannot be written down and must be passed on by oral tradition and artwork.  Examples of tjukurpa: you can't climb Uluru, can't eat Emu meat with salt, can't have pictures of people who are dead, etc.  The Angangu (as the aboriginals call themselves) see themselves as caretakers of the land.  They practice bush burning to rid areas of spinefex grass (its a weed with a very high silica (sand/glass) content, only kangaroos eat it) and control wildfires as well as wildlife herd patterns.  I don't remember much else and most of what I know is paraphrased as nothing is written down so good luck Googling.  

    We visited the sites by the best means of desert travel: camels.  First introduced by the British in 1839 they were used for an easier means of travel in the desert.  The British of course being no stranger to desert expeditions and imperialism by this time.  

    Interesting fact: latest dated aboriginal wall painting, dates to 1839.  It can be found on an under hanging face of Uluru in the shape of a camel hoof.  Someone saw a camel for the first time and decided to document it for his friends.  The other rock art is radiocarbon dated to a very long time ago. Like over 10,000 years. 

    Here I am with my replacement Bullwinkle, a camel.

    What life there is in the desert clings tenaciously to it.

    By sunset we arrived at Uluru to watch the sun set.  By day the sun above doesn't cast many shadows and washes out the colors of the sandstone.  The setting sun shows the features in the rock that go with the story of the creation of the rock and the world.  The heart of the rock.  The path of the great serpent that leads to the water hole.

    One thing is for sure here in the sacred red center.  Do not take anything home as a souvenir.  In the cultural visitors center there is a thick tome documenting as far back as whites have made contact with the aboriginals the curses that fall upon those who take even a small rock away from its resting place here.  I washed my boot soles just in case the dust counted towards ancient curses.  

     If you get a chance to visit this ex-British penal colony please jump on the opportunity.  The people are genuine if not strange, the flora is nothing to write home about, and the fauna all have the ability to bite, sting, or maim you.  Enjoy.

    Wandering in Big Sur

    Wandering in Big Sur

    We first did this trip in April of 2015 and had such a great time we decided to do it again the next year.  It has now become one of our favorite locations in California to roadtrip to and camp in. The plan was to load up our 22 footer Jayflight trailer and haul it up the coast to Montana de Oro for an overnight stop which would allow us a leisurely day of driving and stopping for lunch/photos along the scenic Highway 1 to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

    Day 1: Fullerton to Montana De Oro State Park/Islay Creek Campground

    The first day was a 235 mile crawl up through the quintessential California landscapes of the Hollywood hills and ocean vistas of Santa Barbara to the windswept bluffs of Montana De Oro near the sleepy town of Los Osos.  An optional stop on the way north is the Danish hamlet of Solvang. With it's windmills, beer gardens, and cute local shops we had a great lunch stop with our constant companion Bullwinkle. We had stopped here last year and although it was picturesque this is the best photo we got. It's not our fault that Bullwinkle is so photogenic.

    Islay Creek Campground was our next stop and it's located just up the hill east of Spooners Cove. Each site has a picnic bench and fire ring as well as shared vault toilets.   Reservations are highly recommended.  Don't forget to bring your bikes as Montana De Oro has some great bike trails for all levels with a fantastic overlook point.

    Spooners Cove offers easy access to tide pools and a freshwater creek. There's plenty to explore here a short walk away from the campsite. Also you can just sit and watch the water or explore the caves. Great for kids and dogs alike. 

    Here I'm wearing a 10Tree raglan, Poler Campvibes waxed cotton 5 panel cap, and  Kavu Road Warrior Shorts, which are some of my favorite items to rock on the daily as well as out wandering.

    The Bluff loop trail starts just south of Spooners cove and hugs the steep cliffs right above the crashing waves.  Along the 2.1ish mile trail there are a few spots open to make your way down to a secluded beach or tide pool. During this time of year the water is cold, but not too cold for wading, and definitely not too much for Bullwinkle to go crashing through.

    The next morning we packed up camp and got ready for the next leg of the journey - the dramatic central coast past Hearst Castle where the mountains spill into the ocean to the dark redwood forests of Big Sur.  

    Last year due to rain there was some road debris that created a serious pit stop for us. We pulled into the campgrounds with people waving at us, which we thought was just some central coast friendliness. Once we got into the site we realized our mistake, our tire was shredded! Luckily our trailer is a double axle and we safely made it despite it all. We now carry two spare trailer tires for this reason. Better to be safe than sorry! 

     

    We took our time going north since this leg from Islay Creek to Big Sur would take a little over two hours of total drive time (~100 mi).  Some of our favorite stops along the way are:

    - Lime Kiln/ Pfeiffer/McWay Falls

    - Partington Cove

     By early afternoon we made it to our campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  Reservations are recommended.  It's $50/night to reserve a riverside site but it really makes the trip to be right by the water. If you bring a few rafts it's fun to float down to the otherside of the campground, or you can fish everyday if you like! We feel it's worth it unless you are in a site deep in the redwoods (it gets dark and cold fast there, though).  Reservations are Here . Sites we recommend:

    -148

    -170

    -175

    The sites numbered around 170 are close to a nice swimming hole that swirls around a big boulder but watch out for poison oak! Always good to have a small Adventure Medical Kit for those moments. 

    -60 and 61 which are twin sites on the river front on their own secluded spur in the road for ultimate privacy. We loved our site and ended up making friends with our neighbors which was great once it got dark and we wanted to have some friends to jam out with.

    We set up camp and strung up some hammocks for the ultimate in relaxation. We recommend our thermarest double hammocks so you don't have to worry about snuggling with a friend and it not being able to support your weight. Here I am luxuriating in camp vibes.

    We set up camp and strung up some hammocks for the ultimate in relaxation. We recommend our Thermarest double hammocks so you don't have to worry about snuggling with a friend and it not being able to support your weight. Here I am luxuriating in camp vibes.

    Exploration of the campgrounds was in order and there is no better way than by bike! Here myself and the wife decided to try out our selfie stick while feeling the breeze in our hair and enjoying the greenery. She's wearing the California Dreaming tank from Bandit Brand and Komono Sunglasses.

    Dinner that night was a lofty goal of building a dutch oven pizza.  It turned out ok but there were some lessons learned.  Baking is a science but with a dutch oven it's a voodoo art. To help here's a chart of the number of coals needed on top/bottom of the oven to reach a certain temperature. In the end it was still delicious and after waiting a few hours for it to be prepped and cooked we were starving and wolfed it down.  Chart

     

    We are classy camp folk. Obviously dutch oven pizza pairs well with Carlo Rossi sangria and Jenga. Always remember when your in the mountains the alcohol goes a lot further we were silly by the 2nd drink. Always bring plastic reusable cups for these kinds of adventures because spilling will be happening.

     The next morning we slept in aided by the sound of running water and a cool breeze through the trailer windows. After a hearty breakfast of mountain man pie (hash brown crust, sausage crumbles, cheese and egg holding it all together in the dutch oven) we set out for another little bike ride. 

    Here Liz parked her townie and her favorite pack the Wildwood Poler pack, which we have available in store only by the original Big Sur Park Lodge from 1920. 

     Bullwinkle seemed to like the ferns and downed redwood stumps. He stopped to roll in this field of clovers for good luck! Liz is rocking the  Sol Cool Hoody and Komono Clement sunnies in this shot.

    After a light lunch we decided to head down to Pfeiffer State Beach. Voted by USA Today readers it's one of the top 10 beaches in the US.  It's known for its sea caves, arches, and purple sand.

    It's positively magical, we spent a half day there relaxing in our Alite mayfly chairs and soaking up the sun. Liz is as pale as milk and she was happy she brought her Exofficio Sol Cool Hoodie. Don't miss the sharp turnoff from Hwy 1 onto Sycamore Canyon Rd. You could easily spend all day here.

    With the sun setting it was getting chilly and we hightailed it back to camp. The fixin's were all chopped up and dumped into the dutch oven for a pot of super chilli.  

    We let that cook down by itself over a few coals and got to relaxing by the Big Sur River. Bullwinkle looks very pleased with himself for finding a good spot. 

    Time to dig in!

    The  Wellington Henley is a great layer out in the woods or in town.

    Our last morning called for some breakfast burritos to fuel up for the long drive back home. As always Hydroflasks are a constant companion.

    While we worked our way home we noticed someone's fortress of solitude on the road to Carmel and realized it must be heavenly. One day maybe we will have one of our own. for now, it was time to get back to real life and say good bye to the central coast and head back to Fullerton.

    Cottonwood Lakes

    Cottonwood Lakes

    This was to be the trip of the summer and it definitely didn't disappoint. The Cottonwood Lakes are a series of 5 lakes clustered in the shadow of Mount Langley and Cirque Peak.  Located in the southern tip of the John Muir Wilderness the trailhead shares an inroad with the Mount Whitney Portal in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine.  The trail starts at Horseshoe Meadow where you can choose to acclimate to the 10,000 feet of elevation overnight.  

    The trailhead - about to enter Golden Trout wilderness.  The Golden trout is only found in California and happens to be her official state fish.

    Before the trip I had outfitted our dog Bullwinkle with a pack of his own. He didn't seem to mind the extra weight.

    The trail passes through some easy terrain  for the first 3.5 miles.  There are a few stream crossings which are a welcome break.

    From there it climbs steeply up to the Cottonwood Lakes basin for a mile gaining the most elevation. Here I am enjoying the climb.

    Once you reach the basin the view of Lakes #1 and #2 take your breath away if the climb didn't do it already. The bear canister on my back is available for rent at the Ranger Station (where you get the wilderness permits anyway).

    Bullwinkle celebrates with a romp and roll. It may look like he's eating it, but he was just enjoying the day.

    The group loaded up on water and proceeded to find a nice campsite above Lake #3 ( the largest) in the trees to shelter us from the wind. I also happened to need trees because of my Hennessy Hammock setup I was using. The camp quickly dozed off into an afternoon siesta.

    After exploring the area dinner was on our minds. I was trying a bag of MREs, Adam was on a steady diet of tuna and crackers, while my buddy Trung had a spam and rice plate.

    After tucking in and feeling the altitude we were greeted with a Southern Sierra night sky, one of the best views of the trip.

    We awoke refreshed and shook off the frost to greet the rising sun. Sleeping bags that transform into ponchos or a convertible sleeping bag from Poler or Alite is a great solution for those cold early mornings.

    Once we were warm enough we got to fishing. Mid morning through mid afternoon we were catching rainbows and goldens on rooster tail hooks and Thomas Bouyants spoon lures. 

    Lake #3 was very active with plenty of shoreline to spot cruising fish.

    By the afternoon towards sunset the lake was bubbling with action. The surface of the lake looked like it was boiling with fish jumping out to snatch flies. Bullwinkle had by then finished his swim and was busy sunbathing.

     


    We spent another night above Lake #3 and fished the morning.  After a 6.5 mile hike out (much easier down hill) we all agreed for some hot food in town.  The plan was to get a table at the Alabama Hills Cafe (highly recommended breakfast/lunch spot @ 111 W Post St, Lone Pine, CA) but we were turned away by weekend crowds. We were set on large hot plates of breakfast fare and french toast at the 'Bama Cafe but settled for McDonalds and enjoyed the running hot water and flushing sit down toilets.  I had two Big Macs with fries, a shake, and an apple pie thing all to myself. It was heaven. 

    Gear Used:

     

     

    Ultralight Med Kit

     

    Dog Med Kit

     

    ExOfficio Nioclime shirt

     

    ExOfficio Amphi convertible pants

     

    ExOfficio Give N Go Boxer Brief

     

    Alite Cloverware utensils

     

    Anza Fixed blade