Monday, August 8, 2016

California June 2016 Sequoia National Forest, The Trail of 100 Giants and Fairview Campground in Kernville, CA Jun 14- 19

We wanted to see BIG trees and so, despite the fact that our route would take us back and forth across the state, our next destination was in Sequoia National Forest, close enough to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park to see some big trees AKA sequoias, or technically Sequoiadendron giganteum.  There were so many other places on the coast and other people we really wanted to see but the dearth of available spots, even in the ridiculously priced (for us) private campgrounds did not allow it.  We also planned to be in northern CA by mid-July and that was rapidly beginning to appear to be a pipe dream.  

We drove up CA-14 until turning west on 178 and the views on both routes were interesting at times and monotonous at others.  What surprised us was to see hundreds of joshua trees on 178.  Because we had not explored that much of Joshua Tree National Park other than the Jumbo Rocks area, we had seen some but there seemed to be many more here.  As we continued west the terrain became drier and rockier. In fact it was very dry and mostly barren with soaring cliffs and hills until we came to Weldon just outside Kernville.  Suddenly there were green trees and grass and we were not at all surprised when we came around a corner to see Lake Isabella.  Of course, due to the ongoing drought, the lake levels are not at all near full but after all the brown and tan rocks and grass it was a nice site.  We wound our way around the lake, through the town of Kernville and then climbed up to our campground which was a long way up a steep hill that runs alongside the Kern River which winds its way down, over rocks and boulders, through canyons, forming rapids and eddies from where it starts, fed by snow melt from Mt Whitney to just northeast of Bakersfield a distance of 164 mi/264 Km.  Fairview Campground is situation on the banks of the Kern.

As I have mentioned before, the interior temperature of the MoHo is hot after several hours travel and unless it’s really hot outside we don’t run the a/c but today we had.  We knew the temperature outside was in the 90sF/mid-30sC and with the sun beating down we would not cool off.  But we only ran it for the last 2 hours and since we had turned it off as we entered Kernville, the MoHo was actually quite hot again by the time we got to Fairview Campground and we were tired-not a great combination.  

Although we are NOT the most experienced full time RVers, we have done a fair amount of camping in the past 15 years and finding where to go in developed campgrounds is usually a no brainer.  Either there is an entrance station or a camphost or there is a board with information where registration information packets are often posted if neither of the former are available.  Here? No. So, we drove around and didn’t find the site.  On our way back to the entrance we saw another loop that we’d missed and lo and behold, there it was. But we weren’t out of the woods yet.

Our campsite was very difficult to get into and we had JUST enough room for both length and width but the table and fire rings were behind us and blocked by the slides; we stepped off the stairs into a small ditch and to top it all off, the water spigot across the road, which we’d need to fill our tank, did not have threads or a twisting handle.  Phoenix was desperate to empty her bladder, Cadbury HAD to explore and neither of us had temper fuses longer than our pinky fingers. It was not a very “Mr Rogers” time (sorry to all who are not familiar with the very nice man on the show that taught about manners and being nice.) After much trial and error, I was able to use our “Hose Bandit,” a little silicone tube with an opening at one end and garden hose threads at the other, to slip on the spigot, hold it with my hand and hip and turn the handle to let the water flow at its very slow pace.  We each did 20 minutes and then decided to call it a day.  We go for 10 days with 78 gallons ( severely limiting  showers)  and we were only going to be here for 4 so we figured either we had enough or we could add more if needed.  

At this point we were all really hot and tired and while Don took a bike ride around, Phoenix and I walked down to the river and took a dip.  She stopped panting after standing in the cool water for 5 minutes and I realized how hot I’d been when stepping into the very cold water felt good. Then Phoenix and I went for a look-see and along the way we saw an unreserved space EMPTY that was perfectly set up, large enough AND the water spigot next to it had threads.  Just after I’d returned to tell Don I wanted to see if we could switch, I saw one of the rangers and asked and the answer I hoped was coming, came.  Sure!  So we took everything back down, pulled in the slides and drove around the circle and set back up.  What a relief.  We were all happier and cooler since at this site we had a nice big tree over the non awning AKA hot side  that provided cool shade. Our stairs opened to a nice sandy area surrounded by trees but we had plenty of sun for solar.

Fairview campground, in addition to being on the banks of the river is surrounded by mountains so we watched the sun moved down the western faces and up the eastern faces each morning and evening.  Well, *I* watched the sunrise.  Most other people, including Don, are usually asleep when Phoenix and I go for our morning greeting walk and it was lovely there.  The rushing waters, the birds greeting the daylight and the cool air were always welcome.  The jets, from what we think must have been the Navy base at Lemoore CA streaking right overhead a few times each day...not so much.

I knew we'd found a good spot when the gorgeous night flowering Moonflower was still open.  I'd seen them on our walk but all were closed.  This one stayed awake to greet us.

The Kern River down near town-at the campground it is calmer and great for floating or tubing

Shade, space to spread out and privacy

We were surrounded by the hills

and on our first morning they were lit up with fiery clouds of sunrise

This was after the sun had disappeared from our view sending one shaft of light to a dead tree.  It reminded me of being in France and suggesting to my friend Patrick that he should cut down some of the dead trees on his property.  He responded: Il faut respecter les morts.  (One should respect the dead.)
We were eager to get up to see the sequoias because our stay was not going to be very long.  The drive looked pretty easy just winding and twisting and the next day we set out to go up the “hill” to see the Trail of 100 Giants-a grove of sequoias and other old growth trees. Now, here’s a “thing”: Maps are not always the best ways to get an idea about a drive unless they have landscape.  What we thought would take “maybe 15 minutes” ended up being a LOT longer.  The road hugged the side of the mountain, something Don really hates and there were numerous hairpin turns. We drove v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y  and finally arrived.  Before entering the grove we spent a bit of time talking to two young women who were college friends and live on opposite sides of the country now. They met in Flagstaff and had been bicycling from there, headed to Portland, OR- a distance of about 1500 miles/2400 Km with numerous mountains along the way. They enthusiastically shared their tales and verified that while it was difficult riding it was one of the best things either had done...since their road trip through the Rockies last year.

At first I was disappointed with the trail because the map we had was not labeled correctly and I was all concerned with what was what and where, rather than just taking the time to gaze at these awesome trees and take in the beauty around us.  I will say that had they not just felled tens of trees (for control and disease,) it would have appeared a little more pristine but with boardwalks and lots of people who was kidding whom? Having posed next to the giant petrified tree at PFNP of course we had to pose next to one of the sequoias that came down last year.  They are ridiculously tall and wide!!  

Don is looking up at...

There are doubles, too.

They all seem to reach to the sky

except when they have fallen over. Don is standing at the root end, the top is out of the picture

The roots have beautiful patterns

and some host other trees (note the pine tree growing out of the side of this tree)

It's not all trees.  There are wildflowers 

and it is a mix of trees-fir, pine...

While this looks like moss it is actually a lichen

This tree thoughtfully grew a place for weary hikers to rest

And this one looked ready to hug the pine growing next to it

We’d talked about possibly going to other sites but the drive really bothered Don so we went back to camp.

The rest of our visit was laziness.  We read, ran down to town one day to look for a bike tire tube  and let people know we had no cell reception and would remain incommunicado until the end of the week.  We ate at McNally's right down the road one night and came back to a bit of excitement at the campground.  A couple who were in a site right on the river at the far end from us had gone to move their chairs and the (non-poisonous) snake that was resting under the husband’s took exception to being disturbed.  He bit the man on his arm, then on his hand as he tried to pull it off.  He wasn’t seriously hurt and refused medical care but everyone got a good lesson about the wilderness and the need to always check for little critters.

Our time at Fairview had been short and we were driving BACK to the coast next but since the drive was long we’d broken it into 2 days and were on our way to another winery.  This time the Rio Seco Winery in Paso Robles.

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