This summer has been real busy with travel out of the country and kids coming and going to all kinds of different places. Needless to say, I did not get a hike in this summer. A friend of mine had planned a trip to carry by pack animal his equipment into the Golden Trout Wilderness leaving from Lewis Camp Trailhead. I am not ready for the pack mule yet, however, I still wanted to meet up with him.
The plan was to hike into he spot where my friend and some of his friends had planned to go. The original plan was to start at Lewis Camp Trailhead and hike as far as I could the first day and meet up with them the next. My friend is an avid fly fisher and I wanted to hone my Tenkara skills.
I left home about 2 hours later than I wanted at 12:15 pm and arrived at the trailhead at 4:30. By 4:50 I was on the trail. I hiked down from Lewis Camp Trailhead and then over the Little Kern bridge and up and over to meet up with the main Kern Valley trail. I took a route that took me up and over to the main trail bypassing Trout Meadows. By the time I got to the junction it was pretty dark. I was hoping to make it a bit further so I continued on and ran into another night hiker. I knew the cut off to the Hole in the Ground was hard to find so I was reluctant to do it at night. Fortunately, a bit longer down the trail I saw a headlight. I was a hiker named John that had been out about 9 days.
I asked John if he knew where the trail cutoff was and he said he did not see it. I figured it was best to stop here and bed down. The best part was that John was a fellow lightweight backpacker. As we compared what was in our pack it was almost a mirror image, with a few variations. He is 73 and had started at Onion Valley heading over Kearsarge Pass and down the Kern River Valley after going over Forester Pass. It was such a pleasure to spend some time with him. He has a real neat past and we had a lot to talk about. I asked him if he had seen a group on horseback up by Grasshopper Meadow and he said he hadn’t. I was sure he would have seen them if they were traveling that direction. I was a bit confused so I just went to bed. We got up the next morning and I did not feel the sense of urgency I originally had because I wasn’t sure my friend had passed us yet.
As we were just shooting the breeze in the morning I finally heard some other voices. Around the corner came a horse with someone I did not know. Then the wrangler came and last appeared my friend. I was surprised to see him but I think he was more surprised to see me. He told me his group had fallen apart and that he was not going as far. He was on the trail one day later than he originally planned traveling with his brother. Because I wanted to keep my little secret I almost missed him. He had now only planned to go as far as Hole in the Ground and do some fishing. They went on and I packed up and said goodbye to John who was ultimately heading to Camp Nelson.
It took me about 1 ½ hours to get to the campsite (and yes, the trailhead was not readily noticible) and when I got there Doug had set up his camp with a table and a few chairs. It was awesome! He said to put my food bag away and he had all the food I could wish for. That was the truth. We fished that day having good success and enjoyed a good meal prepared over a 2 burner Coleman Stove. At one point I was thinking that maybe I would be pulling a solo hike and now it was as if I was at the Ritz. We had a nice campfire and I was able to get to know Doug’s brother Al along with the border collie LuLu.
Doug is a great fly fisherman. He kept telling me that he had a real set up for me. I kept reminding him that I had my Tenkara for a reason. Lightweight and simple. The next morning Doug set me up with his waders and we headed out to do some fishing. I caught 2 that morning before it really started raining hard. When it rained so hard we just headed back to camp since it seemed nothing was hitting. While I caught my 2 Doug landed at least 7. All were catch and release. The rest of the day I just kicked back and took one of those great Sierra naps. I am so used to be moving on the trail it was actually nice to just relax. Later that day Al said he went down to the end of the trail and the fish were actually jumping out of the water in a feeding frenzy and all he had to do was put his line in the water and he would catch fish. He said the dog actually caught one too as he wanted to get in on the action. That’s what he said. After a nice fettucine dinner and some soup we hung out around the campfire and had a nice evening. I set up my tarp just in case it wanted to rain but the clouds never produced any moisture.
The next morning we once again had a nice breakfast, cooked over a Coleman stove, and I packed up and hit the road. Right before I left I put my line in the water just one more time and came up with another fish. So far, I have caught at least one fish in every body of water I have fished in the Sierras with my Tenkara. I hit the trail at about 8:30 and about an hour and a half after I left I saw a cinnamon colored bear about 75 yards ahead of me. We saw each other about the same time and it just took off running. I heard some other noises up to my left and saw a little black cut heading up the hillside. I always comment that of all the time I have spent in the backcountry I never see bears. I see evidence of bears but no bears so this was a great treat.
I got to the Little Kern in exactly 3 hours and then headed up the hill to the trailhead. The one thing about this hike is the last few miles are all uphill. It took me just under 2 hours to get to the trailhead. Before I knew it I was in my truck heading down the hill. Although it was short, it was a nice little trip. I only saw 2 other people the whole trip. On the way out I did not see another soul.
My backpacking batteries has a bit more charge in them now.