Here is a short video of the road trip we took over Memorial Day Weekend. We camped at Quaking Aspen Campground in the Sequoias the first night, then headed south and camped next to the Kern River the next night.
Memorial Day Weekend we headed up to the Sequoias. We stopped in Bakersfield for an early lunch at Camino Real which was pretty good and even offered a good selection of vegetarian options, which surprised me for being in Bakersfield. Back on the road, we drove up through Porterville and then East on Highway 190 into the Sequoia National Forest. We were headed for the Quaking Aspen Campground where I had reserved a campsite for one night.
Once camp was set up we still had some daylight left so we drove down to the Trail of 100 Giants. Parking seemed to be limited when we got there but after waiting a little while we were able to take a spot from a group that was leaving and paid the $5 day use fee. Although I’ve been to the Sequoias before, these large trees never cease to amaze me with their gigantic mass.
On our way back to the campsite we stopped at the Ponderosa Lodge for some extra supplies but also decided to have a few beers out on the patio since it was so nice out. Back at camp we prepared dinner and started our fire.
We played a fun game of Cards Against Humanity until it was pretty cold and late. It got colder than I had anticipated that night in camp and I was somewhat uncomfortable all night and didn’t get much sleep. In the morning we made breakfast and packed up. We were going to drive to the trailhead for the Needles Lookout but while passing by the Ponderosa Lodge again we saw that the chili cook-off was in full swing so had to stop and check it out.
We hung out at the Poderosa Lodge for a while listening to the live music and people watching (probably longer than we should have). We finally hit the road again and headed out to find the trailhead to the Needles Lookout, which was actually very close to Ponderosa. I turned off onto a dirt road which had a sign and an arrow that said “Needles Lookout” so I figured that was the way to go. When trying to drive up the road to the trailhead the road became less and less passable. There were large erosion ruts in the dirt and the road was becoming very narrow as we got further up. There were a lot of cars that just parked off on the sliver of land next to the road but there was really no place for us to park. Eventually, we had to back our way down and turn around on the narrow dirt road and we left. Since that trailhead proved too difficult to get to I figured we’d try something easier and headed for the Dome Rock trailhead. This was much more accessible and the trail to the top of Dome Rock was super short.
On top of Dome Rock we were able to get expansive views of the forest below and distant mountains. It was such a surreal view it almost felt like looking at a large panoramic painting.
When we descended Dome Rock it was about time for lunch so we made some sandwiches before heading out to our next destination.
I wanted to make it to our next camping spot with some daylight left so we headed for a place called Big Meadow, which is where I wanted to stay. We drove south on the Great Western Divide Highway until we hit M-50 at Parker Pass, then made a left towards Johnsondale. We made a quick stop in Johnsondale at the R-Ranch for some last minute snacks. The R-Ranch was situated in a nice area with a lake nearby but kinda had weird compound vibe to it. We had to check in with a guy in a toll booth before driving up to their general store. We parked and got out and walked up the steps to the store, but before entering I caught sight of one of the locals hanging out near the porch.
After patronizing R-Ranch we made our way down Sherman Pass Road until we got to Forest Route 22s12 which would take us to Big Meadow. But before getting to Big Meadow we came across a sign for Horse Meadow Campground, which is an established campground versus the dispersed camping we were heading for. We decided to check it out in hopes we could have a fire there since there was a fire ban in all other surrounding areas. Once we found a spot and parked we were approached by an old Santa Claus looking man who turned out to be the camp host. He told us the temperatures here were dropping to the low 30s at night and asked if we had a bucket and shovel, because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be allowed to have a fire. Well we had a bucket but didn’t have a shovel. It almost seemed like the guy was trying to get us to leave as he chuckled about the weather. But even if we could have a fire we weren’t really equipped to sleep out in weather that cold, so we decided to head down the mountain where it would be warmer and see what kind of dispersed camping we could find near the Kern River.
On our way down the M-99 next to the Kern we saw a few promising spots where other people were camping. We made a pit stop at McNally’s for a bathroom break and then headed back up to one of the spots we saw earlier. We found a good location near the river where no one else was camping. There was already a fire ring set up and even a bench someone crafted out of rocks. I think the area was called Roads End; it was just north of McNally’s and the Fairview Campground on the west side of the road.
The next morning we stopped by McNally’s again in hopes of getting breakfast but apparently they are not open for breakfast. We continued down to Kernville where we ate the Cracked Egg Cafe (I didn’t think it was anything special, but then again I’m a vegetarian). In the center of town at Circle Park there was a craft fair going on so we checked that out for a bit. But before it was time to depart Kernville, I had one more stop to make, and that was the Kern River Brewing Company.
I first tried their Sequoia Red, which was alright, but then decided I should just order a flight so I can try all of the beers since we had a limited time here. The beer that surprised me the most was their Just Outstanding IPA. I am not an IPA fan by any measure, but this beer was, well, just outstanding. It didn’t hit you in the face with crazy hoppiness, but still had great flavor, was well balanced, crisp, and smooth going down. I feel like real hopheads would actually denounce it as an IPA, but for me it was great.
While sitting out on the outside deck enjoying the beer and scenery, the bartender came out and asked if I wanted to try their 7th Anniversary Imperial Coffee Stout, well that was a no brainer. She brought it out to me in a flight glass free of charge and it was hands down the winner of the day. I really wish I could’ve spent some more time there and tried some of their food since the place seemed to be a great establishment. Next time I’m in Kernville it is on my list for sure.
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After flying into Austin-Bergstrom and picking up our trusty rental car we made our way into the city for lunch at Mr. Natural which is a vegetarian store and restaurant on E. Cesar Chavez Street. We ordered a couple of their sandwiches which were good, but it seemed that most people were there for the lunch buffet. We finished lunch and made our way more into downtown Austin to stop at REI for some camping fuel and Whole Foods for some dinner and breakfast items.
I also had to check out the walk-in beer fridge where you could build your own 6-pack, so I created my very own “local roundup” of Texas brews. Among them were a Shiner Black Lager, Shiner Farmhouse Ale, Austin Amber, Independence Pale Ale, Alamo Golden Ale, and Real Ale Brewhouse Brown.
Whole Foods was even kind enough to supply some free ice to keep them cold! With supplies all loaded up we headed out to Pedernales Falls State Park, which was about a 45 minute drive out of the city.
The drive through the green Texas countryside was beautiful despite the weather being totally overcast. When we arrived at the ranger station to check in they let us pick out our own camp spot, rather than just assigning us one, which I thought was nice. With a recommendation from one of the rangers, we chose camp #36 which was near one of the trails that led down to the river.
Before setting up camp we decided to drive down to where the falls were and check out that area. From the parking area there is a short hike to an outlook over Pedernales Falls and the river.
The river seemed to be a little low, but it was still a very scenic area. We explored down in the rocks and near the water for a while and then headed back to camp.
Back at our campsite, we got everything set up and then decided to go down the trail that was right next to us before it got too late. At the time, we weren’t even really sure where the trail led to but it seemed worth checking out since I had overheard some other campers talking about something they saw down there.
We followed it down to a part of the river which was further downstream from the falls we had just visited. The trail followed the river downstream for a little bit and then came to an area called “Trammel Crossing” where it was shallow enough to wade across to the other side, however we did not feel in the mood for wading so we headed back to camp. On our way back we came across a family of deer that were out for their evening snacks in the foliage and I realized that this was what I had heard the other campers talking about.
Back at camp we made our dinner which consisted of the soup and biscuits we had bought at Whole Foods earlier. Not very extravagant, but it was a quick and simple meal to prepare and eat.
Somehow we were able to stay up somewhat late despite running on only 3 hours of sleep from the night before, but this made it easy for us to fall asleep. In the morning we awoke to the sound of raindrops on our tent, but luckily it was not a heavy rain, and it let up eventually so we were able to get out, make breakfast, dry the tent out, and pack up. Then we were off to Luckenbach!
More pictures from this trip can be found here.
Before it started to get too hot out in the desert we took a weekend trip out to see Pioneertown which is located just northwest of Yucca Valley. Our first stop was the restaurant/bar/biker hangout called Pappy and Harriet’s which is like the first building you come to when you drive up to the town. I didn’t get a picture of the front of the place since we entered through the dirt parking lot in the back.
The place had a nice outside patio area and plenty of room inside as well. There was a stage inside for musical acts and also a section with some pool tables. The food was good and the girl waiting our table was nice. After we ate I decided to grab a beer to have outside on the patio so I just went straight up to the bar to order it. Upon inquiring about the Bloody Mary mix I got the feeling that the barmaid had woke up on the wrong side of the bar that morning so I decided that I would just get a beer, and that it would be the last one I’d be getting from her. It’s too bad too, because we’d have probably stayed at the place longer and gave them more business if she was just a little more friendly.
When we were done at Pappy & Harriet’s we started meandering through old Pioneertown. It’s really just a main strip of old western buildings, some inhabited and some not. The “Mane Street” is a dirt road and probably only a half a mile long with the old buildings on either side. I guess at some times during the year there is a theatrical western show played out on the street, but we were not there at the right time for that.
The history of the place is that it was built in the 1940s as a “live-in” western movie set where actors and crew could live, and also have the buildings used in the actual filming. Now the town remains today as more of a tourist attraction.
Some of the inhabited buildings of the town had interesting yard art on display, and that was probably the most interesting thing about the place.
When we left Pioneertown we saw an old train car sitting out in the desert and went to go check it out. The area around it was fenced off and marked Private Property but I was at least able to take some pictures from afar.
We ended up deciding to cruise into the town of Joshua Tree to look around. We looked in a gift shop which had a bunch of cool stuff and then walked over to the Joshua Tree Saloon. I ordered the “Miners Milk” which is some sort of local American Pale Ale and pretty tasty as well.
After spending a lot of the day in the Saloon, it was finally time to get dinner. We went to La Casita in Yucca Valley which I think might be the best Mexican food in the area (I could be wrong). I think I mostly like it because the have a large selection of margaritas and vegetarian dishes. Once done with dinner we headed out to the Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park where I had reserved us a spot. When we drove into the campground we could tell it was full of people. There were bonfires going and there were loud crowds of people at various campsites. It was definitely not what I’m used to when I go camping. Once we got our tent set up we started a small fire and hung out and ate snacks until we were too tired to stay up any longer.
As tired as we were, I don’t think we got much sleep since the wind really picked up over night. The large tent we were in was not a good match for the gusty winds and I was pretty sure it was going to collapse in on us, but luckily it held up until morning. After packing up we heading into town to get some breakfast. We stopped at Crossroads Cafe which turned out to be a great choice. The coffee, food, and service was all great; I’ll definitely be back the next time I’m in Joshua Tree.
More pictures from this trip can be found here.
The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we set out for Kennedy Meadows near the Kern River (not to be mistaken for the other Kennedy Meadows near Sonora Pass) for some backpacking. On our way to Kennedy Meadows we ended up taking a slight detour through The Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway that ended up being pretty cool. We took a left on Canebrake Road from the 178 just east of Lake Isabella and drove up the winding dirt road and passed by a cool looking campsite on the way.
I was a little worried about taking my 2WD wagon onto this dirt road which I knew nothing about, but the road ended up being pretty well maintained and well graded.
It was nice coming down off the dirt road to meet back up with actual pavement. We turned onto Kennedy Meadows Road and took it all the way to the campground at the end of the road where the PCT passes through. There was a parking area in the campground near the trailhead where we were able to park for free.
Not too long after we hit the trail we crossed the boundary into the South Sierra Wilderness.
At 2 miles from the trailhead we came to a wooden footbridge which extends over the Kern River. Before this bridge was built, hikers had to forge the river here.
There were a group of people camping right past the bridge which I thought was weird, but maybe it was a good camping spot. We continued on the trail which kept gradually gaining elevation and at about 4 miles in we entered an area of the forest which had suffered some fire damage.
At 4.5 miles we came out of the burnt zone and then started getting nice views of Clover Meadow. This was the area in which we were planning to camp.
We headed north on the trail and kept an eye out for good places to set up camp. We eventually settled on a spot near Crag Creek that overlooked the south part of Clover Meadow.
The weather was perfect out and there were not many bugs at all. There was also very few people out in the area considering it was a holiday weekend. Later in the evening it started getting chilly so we started a small fire and enjoyed watching the stars come out.
The next morning we made a quick breakfast and packed out. When we left our camp we took a different trail that followed Crag Creek, but we ended up losing the trail and had to cross-country back to the PCT.
This little stretch of the PCT in the South Sierras is quite nice, and the fact that we didn’t need a wilderness permit for this area made it even better. I’d also definitely recommend the campground in Kennedy Meadows for a good drive up camping spot. The hike out from Kennedy Meadows to Clover Meadow is about 5.4 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
The original plan was to camp at the Rose Valley Campground, however once we got there Friday afternoon we found that the small drive-up campground was filled. We headed back down highway 33 to the bigger Wheeler Gorge campground and paid for a spot there. We got a fairly nice little spot there that was somewhat secluded and not too close to anyone else.
In the morning we made breakfast burritos and coffee. Damn I love a good camp breakfast.
Oh, we also made a spur of the moment rope swing.
After we ate breakfast and the morning foolishness was done we headed out for some hiking off highway 33. It was an awesome day out in the hills of the Los Padres National Forest.
We finally made our way back to Rose Valley Campground where we had tried to camp the night before. Nothing had changed with all the campsites still taken. We parked in a dirt area right outside the campground and accessed the Rose Valley Falls trailhead. The trailhead can be found towards the back of the camp. Look for the sign.
The hike to the falls is quite short, about a mile round trip, but totally worth going. It’s a nice shaded trail and very well traveled. We saw about 15-20 people on the trail while we were there.
The waterfall is quite impressive. About 300ft of moss covered rock with water falling over it. When we arrived at the falls there was a crowd of other hikers standing around watching a group of people rappelling down the face of it.
There was also a cave where you could crawl in behind the waterfall. It’s a tight squeeze getting in the cave, and you get a little wet, but once inside the cave is big enough that you can to stand up in it.
We hung out near the waterfall for a while but finally headed back to our camp for food and drink. After sundown we made a campfire and talked and drank into the night.
It would have been nice to have camped at Rose Valley but Wheeler Gorge turned out to be alright. It’s just a bigger campground which also accommodates the RV crowd and is right next to the highway.
Map of Wheeler Gorge Campground:
Map of Rose Valley Campground (Trailhead to the falls):
Headed out for another weekend of camping Saturday morning. A small group and I were off to Valley Forge Trail Camp. I had never been here before and I believe it was closed for a while due to the Station Fire closure. I had been wanting to check this place out ever since I heard this part of the Angeles National Forest was reopened. The trailhead we started at was called Red Box which is right across the way from the Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center which, naturally, we had to check out.
They had a cool primitive fire starter on display as well as some other artifacts and items for sale. I never even knew this place even existed so that was a neat surprise to start the trip off with.
Next it was onto the trail. The trailhead is clearly marked with a wooden sign and the trail starts right next to it and descends down some stone steps.
The first quarter mile or so of the trail descends quickly and then kind of levels out in a wooded gully. It was not long on the trail until we came across some old machinery of some sort buried in some foliage. It looked kinda cool.
A little further in we came across clusters of ladybugs on a plant near a creek crossing.
The trail we were on was part of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail and was already proving to be a beautiful hike. After a little less than mile we came across a sign which told us we were only 1.5 miles away from the camp.
We kept hiking and enjoying the scenery. Parts of the trail followed near a creak bed which was dry in some locations. This made us wonder if we’d find water near camp.
I’d say about after 2 miles on the trail we came to a cabin site where there were ruins of an old cabin but also an new and nicely maintained cabin. There was also an old propane tank, water well, and storage shed.
Not sure what the place was called but we checked it out and then continued on towards camp.
When we got to the campsite we found the creek running strong and no one else around. It was a fairly large campsite so we explored all the areas to find the best place to set up camp. There was even a bridge towards the back of the camp you could cross to get to more campsites, however these sites we in a bit of disrepair.
We settled on a spot with a good fire pit, nicely arranged sittin’ logs, and flat grassy areas for our tents. Before setting up we busted out some celebratory beers.
It wasn’t long after we got to camp when the weather took a nasty little turn. We got some strong gusts of cold wind and a little bit of rain thrown on us. We took that as a motivator to get our tents set up ASAP. As we were setting everything up it started raining on us quite regularly but we were able to get everything set up and out of the rain. To pass the time we took cover under one of the bathroom’s porches, had a beer, and waited for the rain to pass.
We probably had to wait about 45 minutes until the rain finally stopped. We decided to quickly start gathering fire wood in case the rain decided to come back. Luckily we were able to find a good amount of wood that was still dry and before long we had a nice fire going.
After the rain had passed the skies turned clear again and the threat of rain quickly disappeared. This made me happy since we were able to actually hang out and enjoy our campsite and not hide out in our tents or on the bathroom patio.
The skies stayed clear into the night and we had a nice time hanging out around our campfire. The temperature dropped down enough while we were sleeping to freeze some of the condensation on our tents, however it didn’t feel that cold to me. When we awoke and finally crawled out of our tents it was your typical cold and crisp forest morning.
The hike out was quite pleasant with everything still wet with the shower from the day before.
The trail back had a gradual elevation gain since we were climbing slowly out of a canyon, but nothing too bad. The last 1/4 mile started ascending more steeply and was a little more difficult but not very long. We finally were back at the steps that led up to the parking lot.
The entire trip was about 5.5 miles roundtrip making the hike to and from the campsite about only 2.25 miles. I really enjoyed this trail and the camp; I’d love to come back with a bigger group of people someday.
A buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to go camping soon, and of course I was game. I looked up some trail camps in the local mountains that looked like they might be good for a short backpacking trip and finally decided on Cooper Canyon Trail Camp off the PCT. We drove out on Saturday morning, met up with some people in LA and drove up the 2 to Cloudburst Summit. The camp is about a 2.5 mile hike from the highway but we decided to take the trail up to Winston Peak first for a small detour.
It was a bit of a workout hiking straight up that small peak with our packs on, and coming down it wasn’t all that easier either. The other side of the peak descended sharply and had lots of lose gravel and rocks.
We started hitting our first large patches of snow here.
After coming down from Winston Peak we met up with the PCT trail and had a quick snack break.
After meeting up with the PCT the trail descended down into the canyon. This area was a beautiful place to hike through. I wanted to take like a million pictures.
It didn’t take long to eventually arrive at the trail camp. We were happy to find that the stream nearby was still running enough that we could use it as a water source.
We were also happy to see that no one else was occupying the campsite so we had it all to ourselves! What, no one else wants to camp in the mountains in the middle of January??
After a quick lunch at the campsite we decided to take a day hike down to the nearby falls before it got too late in the day. We took the PCT/Silver Mocassin Trail from camp down about a mile where we spotted the top of the falls.
It took us a second look to figure out how to get down to the falls but we eventually found a trail that led down to a spot where someone had installed a convenient rope (that was actually in good condition).
There was a good amount of water still coming down the falls, but I’m sure it was nothing compared to what it would look like in springtime.
After hanging around the falls a while we decided we should head back to camp to set up our tents before it started to get dark. I took my time getting back to camp taking a bunch of pictures on the way; I really loved this area.
By the time we got back to camp it had already started to get chilly so we started a small fire in one of the stone stoves. It was nice to have something to warm your hands over.
Before the sun went down we had camp set up pretty well. The sky during sunset was awesome looking from camp.
As night rolled around it started getting quite cold, but of course by this time we already had a nice campfire roaring to keep us warm as we stayed up into the night.
The moon and stars were everything I would expect from a crisp, clear mountain night.
In the morning we restarted the fire for some warmth. We could tell the temperatures dropped below freezing as some of our water that was left out froze over night.
The morning sun peaked through the trees as we readied breakfast and coffee.
After downing our hot coffee and getting down on some excellent breakfast we packed up and headed out. We decided to take a cross-country route up out of the canyon.
It was a little strenuous but we eventually met up with a forest service road which took us back to the trailhead at Cloudburst Summit. Below is the GPS track to the camp, the falls, and back to the trailhead.
Friday night a small posse and I headed out to the desert for some long awaited camping. It had been a while since I had been out camping in the desert and was really looking forward to it. I wasn’t exactly sure where we were going to actually camp but I had somewhat of and idea. We parked around 10:00pm, grab our packs, and set off into the night.
We wondered down a familiar trail for about a mile, and then hung a right down a sandy wash for another half mile and started looking for a place that looked suitable for a campsite. Eventually we came across an outcropping of boulders and figured we might as well check it out since the large rocks could shelter us from the wind. To our surprise these rocks had formed a large cave which we could fit two tents in easily. With little discussion we quickly decided this is where we’d make camp.
There was even enough room for us to build a small stone table which we could all sit around and hang out.
In the morning Nader cooked up some mean breakfast and then Stu and Brian rolled in with some supplies for morning mimosas.
I’m not sure if a crisp desert morning could get any better.
It was an awesome day out but we spent most of it just hanging around camp, eating, drinking, and talking. After all, we did sleep in until almost 11:00am since our cave was so dark and cozy.
Later in the day we climbed up some of the rock formations around us to get some good views of the surrounding area.
As the sun started going down we decided we better find a good spot to watch it set.
Saturday morning we took the Catalina Flyer over to Catalina Island for a two day trip. Once we got to Avalon we cruised over to the Descanso Beach Club which is North of the Catalina Casino.
Upon arriving there, we found that all the private cabanas and lounges had been reserved and the beach was already packed. So, we ended up just grabbing a table in the patio area where we could order some food and drinks.
Everything was pretty good here except the service. It took forever to get anything, and I’m being serious, like at least half an hour just to get a drink. My sister never even got one of her drinks, and after an hour of waiting we just asked for the bill and they tried to charge us for it! I suppose the view and the people watching made up for the bad service.
In the afternoon we had to head back into the main part of town where we were to catch our Safari Bus that would take us to our campsite. On our way up into the hills we came across a buffalo lying on the side of the road.
We finally got dropped off at our stop which was still 1.5 miles from our actual campground. It was a lot hotter up in the interior of the island than it was down by the shore.
The hike was pretty grueling and I’d say about a 1/4 of a mile in a road maintenance worker picked us up in his jeep and drove us the rest of the way. He was super nice and friendly and even declined the money my sister offered him for the ride. Super nice guy.
There were only a few other people at the campground when we got there so most of the sites were open, however we were assigned to site #2. We couldn’t find our site at first so we decided to just grab site #5 which had two tables, a nice fire pit, and some good trees for shade.
Shortly after claiming site #5 a guy walks into camp out of nowhere. He was a New Zealander hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail which stretches the length of the island and just so happened to have site #5 reserved. He was really nice about it and even said we could share it but we thought we’d give him some space and found our way down to our site which was just down the hill.
After getting camp all set up we made our way over to the tire swing we saw earlier.
We all had a pretty good time on the tire swing and it tired us out quite quickly. Since it was almost sundown we decided we should grab some snacks and drinks and make for a vista point. We climbed up one ridge but thought we could find a better view. We hiked a little more and came across a water tank on the top of some hill. It looked perfect.
As I approached the water tank I saw a pair of silhouetted ears popping up in the distance; sure enough it was a Catalina Island Fox.
We hung out by the water tank and ate pita chips and hummus and drank beers.
The views we got from our spot were amazing.
That night everyone was turning to bed early so I cruised up to see if any other campers were still up since I still had three pieces of firewood, two beers, and a mini wine bottle. The only people I saw were a couple that seemed like they wanted nothing to do with me, so I was about to head back to my campsite when another couple I had met earlier hollered at me. Their fire was just about dead so I tossed on my wood pieces and we drank and chatted for a while. They were really nice and I was glad I ran into them.
The next day we hiked back to the bus stop (no cheating this time). Even in the morning it was super hot. At least the bus stop was shaded. We waited for the Safari Bus and rode back down to Avalon where we got lunch and then were off to zip line!
The zip line tour started off up in the hills kinda where we had just came from. There were five different zip lines and they were all pretty fun. The tour took about two hours and luckily we finished zipping down through the hills just in time to catch our boat back to the mainland.