Kernville, CA - along the Kern River
The sound of the river. The dry crispness of the air. The rustling of the aspens.
We almost didn’t come - we were going to head south to Pismo Beach, or some other spot, but then decided to come north. It was the right decision.
There’s no arguing that the coast was amazing. The Pacific Ocean is magnificent and breathtaking. But it’s also somehow impersonal. Rivers are smaller, more affable, more inviting. The constant gurgling of the Kern by our campsite is almost like a friendly whispering call to the hammock.
More than any other, this spot reminds me of the places that I stayed on the Westward Ho fishing trip of 2013. I like to stay next to rivers the best. Best of all, there will be fishing today. That doesn’t mean that there is going to be catching, but the fishing is a good start.
The Camp James Campground is a good example of some of the benefits of a private campground. There are hot showers, easily available firewood, running water, and electrical hookups. We’ve been camping for more than a week straight now, and these little amenities seem like a room in a four star hotel.
As we were heading into town, I asked Kelly if she would like to spring for a hotel. We both agreed that we would really, truly rather sleep by the river than in a room.
Funny - everywhere we go, we see big R.V.s. Even though they are purportedly camping, the big RVers seem to never come outside and enjoy the scenery. I know it’s comfy inside those monstrosities - but we love the concept of basically sleeping inside and living all of our waking moments outside.
Kernville is a cool, cool town. An outdoor sports and action town. There are rafting, climbing, and biking stores everywhere. It’s off season, and the river is low, but I bet it’s full in the summers. A young, outdoorsy vibe that reminds me a little of Colorado towns like Winter Park.
Most importantly, it has a microbrewery within walking (stumbling) distance. The Kern River Brewing Company, home of an excellent blonde lager with a nutty finish. The fish and chips warmed my soul last night.
Today we’re heading a little north into the mountains, following the Kern River though Sequoia National Forest. Most of the campgrounds are closed this time of year, and the river is low, but there are supposedly big fish up there. We may also take some of the four wheel drives trials that I’m seeing on the topographic map.
Off Road Report
That was the scariest thing that I’ve done in a long time.
We’re driving down the forest road along the Kern River. It’s rough, rugged country. National Forests are a lot wilder than National Parks. There’s a dirt road to the right that basically went, well, up. So we took the turn.
Keep in mind that I don’t know anything about four wheeling. Until they showed me a Sportsmobile, I would not have known how to shift, lock hubs, or anything else. My past experience is limited to driving the tractor on the farm growing up and hauling loads of hay.
But I know that we paid good money for these monster tires and the dream that you could get to places off the grid. So we took the road.
Up. And up. And up some more. Way up the mountain, over brought and rugged terrain and deep ruts. Up high enough that we could see the whole Kern River Valley.
I was terrified going up. It felt like a roller coaster. Coming down was worse. I had visions of rolling the van all the way down the mountain. Somehow it all turned out fine, and we had the adrenaline rush of the trip.
Sportsmobile delivered. A house on wheels that can go anywhere. We’re going to see some amazing places whether there are roads there or not.