Overview: 20 mile loop around The Kern River, starting from The Johnsondale Bridge located approx. 20 miles north of Kernville. 2 nights, 2 days. Winter weather expected.
Route: About 4 miles along the eastside of The Kern, then up to the Rincon Trail, down to Durrwood Camp, across The Kern, up to Peppermint Creek, and then back down the Westside of The Kern.
This was a last minute trip that was a replacement for another loop planned in the higher mountains directly to the east of The Kern. My friend Tony (BPL member: Wopster) and I were planning on doing a short trip into some snow conditions in the Kennedy Meadows Area, using a trailhead just a few miles from The Johnsondale Bridge. The weather forecast just kept getting worse, and the fun winter trip started to seem more uncomfortable and dangerous. By Thursday the expected lows at the elevation we would be at were down to -1 deg, and a 70% chance of snow over the weekend. We opted to take another route that only reached about 5500 to 6000 ft elevation.
We got some great winter weather with snow flurries and sunshine on Friday afternoon, rain Friday night, snow and hail Saturday, and some more snow/hail/rain mix on Sunday.
We hiked to the junction of The trail which takes you up to the Rincon Trail Friday evening and camped near the river. Saturday we hiked up to the Rincon Trail and followed it to the junction where an old trail takes you back down to the river at Durrwood Camp.
The trail to Durrwood Camp, from The Rincon Trail was almost inexistent. I don’t think anyone has used this section of trail for many years.
When we arrived at the cable crossing, we found the car to be tied off on the opposite side of the river. For those of you who are not familiar with The Kern River, it is wide, deep, and swift, especially on this section. It is very difficult to wade across.
After debating our options, I volunteered to swim across the river untie the cart and take it back across, where Tony would have a fire waiting for me inside the old cabin. I swam across the river just about 100 yards upstream from the cable car, where the water was much more tame. I tied a dry sack around my waist, which I filled with my insulated clothing, balaclava, etc., to put on when I got to the other side. Everything worked out as planned, and we ate lunch and hung out in the cabin until I warmed back up from my arctic swim. We then crossed the river in the cable car with our packs.
From there it was up Peppermint creek to camp for the night. Below is Peppermint falls.
Sunday we headed back towards our starting point, on another hard to follow trail. I’m really glad I brought the GPS on this trip. If we didn’t pay attention for 1 minute, the trail would just disappear on us.
Although this trip was not our original plan, it turned out to be a lot of fun.
Thanks for reading-