Kern River June 2012
Spirits were high as we looked forward to a week of hiking, camping, zip lines, spelunking, and whitewater rafting. We arrived in Wrightwood, CA at mid-morning and hiked to the top of the Angeles National Forest for some amazing zip lining. We reached speeds of 40 + mph as we zipped over canyons and between the branches of majestic pine trees. We experienced a total of 10 zip lines, 3 hanging log bridges, and 3 rappels on our tour. It was quite a rush with mountain air blowing in our faces as we watched the tree tops fly by beneath our feet.
After zip lines we set out for our drive to Lake Isabella and our campground at Sandy Flats on the bank of the Kern River. As we entered the windy canyon we passed a foreboding sign which displayed that there have been over 260 deaths on the river over the decades and thus warned us to wear our PFDs. If anything the sign got our group amped up for the adventures ahead! We arrived at the river bed in the evening and set up our base camp amongst the trees. We ate a delicious chicken dinner and settled in for some experiential activities around the fire followed by SMOREs and finally sleep.
We awoke to the sounds of birds chirping, animals scurrying about, and the Kern River rapids flowing by our campground. We had a filling breakfast of egg burritos and got our hiking gear together for the day. We headed north above the banks of the river to our first hike of the day, Packsaddle Cave Trail. With our water packs full and the sun beating down we began the 6 mile roundtrip hike. The first few miles took us straight up a single track trail through scrub brush until we summited the peak where we were greeted with panoramic views of the valley floor. We headed down to the entrance of Packsaddle Cave. We got into the mouth of the cave and donned our headlamps. The next hour was spent exploring the cave, its different tunnels and caverns, and various stalagmites and stalactites. The cave was a cool 54 degrees which was a nice change from the 90 degree heat we were hiking in.
Reluctantly we left the cave and headed back out into the heat and down to the river. We drove another few miles north up the river bank until we reached the River Trail trailhead. We took a leisurely hike along the banks scrambling up and over boulders until we found a secluded beach to enjoy to ourselves. We spent the next few hours basking in the sun, cliff jumping from several river overhangs, and swimming in the pools beneath the rapids. We had a great time seeing how big we could make our cannonball splashes. We left the river in the late afternoon and head back to camp. We spent the evening involved in some experiential activities, eating SMORES, and sharing stories. After a full day in the sun we all slept like babies.
After a restful night of sleep we broke down camp and loaded up the Adventure Van. We had a quick jaunt up to the launching site for our rafting trip. We met our river guides and went through a safety orientation before we were outfitted with helmets, and PFDs. The sun was out and the water was cool as we set forth on the Lower Kern River for our first of two days of white water rafting. The day began with moderate rapids that built up just before lunch. The afternoon was mainly class III and IV rapids including the rapids that were used in the 1984 Olympics. We rafted through gorges lined with boulders and other sections full of lush foliage. We tackled rapids with names like Oscar’s Nightmare, Hobo, and White Maiden’s Walkway. It was a blast paddling full bore into the foaming holes and being spit out the other side soaking wet with huge smiles on our faces. Our rafting day ended along the banks at a campground set up by the rafting company. We enjoyed appetizers and board games while waiting for a smorgasbord of food to be served. We stuffed ourselves silly and settled in around the campfire and listened to one of the guides strumming on his banjo and singing for our enjoyment. We went to sleep underneath the stars with no tents listening to the rapids flowing below and watching for bats as they flew above as we stared off into the sky observing the numerous stars.
We woke up to the smell of bacon as breakfast was being prepared for us. We packed up camp and enjoyed some fresh brewed coffee. We got back into our paddling gear and pushed off from the river’s edge and immediately were thrown into our first class IV rapid of the day. We spent the next several hours blasting through rapids with names like: Royal Flush, Hari Kari, and Pinball. We bounced off almost every rock in the river and even attempted to surf a hole which did not turn out so well. We all were floating downstream trying to catch up with our overturned raft and waiting to be rescued by the other boats. Back in our boats we stopped for lunch and had deli sandwiches on the side of the river. The rest of the afternoon was filled with class IV rapids that sent us every which way down the river. Our day ended with a relaxing float down a small class II rapid before we found the take-out area. After a quick bus ride back to the van we changed clothes and started driving back to Newport Beach. We shared stories about our experiences and gave each other feedback on what we saw in them. It was great to spend this time together because inevitably when we return people go about their lives. We got back home late in the evening and everyone enjoyed a hot shower and a comfortable bed. Another successful Adventure Trip.