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TR: Last chance, lower kern loop

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TR: Last chance, lower kern loop

Postby sirlight » Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:57 pm

This is a somewhat late trip report, but I thought I would post it anyway. As some of you might know, the fishing season for the wild trout section lower kern in the golden trout wilderness ends on November 15th. Since the weather was looking good, I thought one last hike in the sierras would be nice before the snow started falling. I had actually done this exact loop hike last year in early October and had a wonderful time. The fishing was great last year, but such was not the case this time.

The trip consists of a loop hike combining two trailheads along with a short 4 mile section on dirt road and pavement. Last year, I chose to start the trip at the jerky meadow trailhead, exiting at the forks of the kern. This left me the walk on dirt road between the trailheads after the climb out of the Kern canyon. Because this section was rather boring, I chose to get it out of the way at the start and begin the trip at the forks.

I drove out from San Diego to the Jerkey Meadow trailhead friday afternoon on November the 12th, arriving by 8PM that night. There was not another car at the trailhead, and the evening was already quite cool. The plan was to camp there for the night and hit the trail early the next morning. I am guessing that the temperatures were in the high 20's that night and also for the remainder of the nights during the trip. The days warmed up quickly and were very nice, being in the mid 60's and sunny.

The goal for the first day was to hike the road section from the forks of the kern trailhead, enter the wilderness at jerkey and hike another 5 miles making camp at the little kern bridge.

Just before the dirt road reaches pavement, a trail braches off the right. This leads to just before the Jerkey trailhead. One high point of the weather being so cool overnight is that the sandy trail was now frozen and much easier to walk than last year.

Even though I was a little late, there were still some nice fall colors. The area is mixed pine and oak forest and the yellow oak leaves mixed will all the green of the pines was nice.

I reached the little kern stock bridge in the afternoon, setup camp and had some lunch. The remainder of the day was spent fishing the little kern. For all my efforts that afternoon, I only managed one small 6" rainbow. Still, it was nice to not get skunked the first day.

The trail climbs out of the little kern canyon following a ridge and on to trout meadow. Trout meadow is a large open meadow fenced by barbed wire. There is a ranger station there but it is unoccupied this late in the season. On past the meadow, the trail drops down into the main kern canyon and on to kern flat. Unlike last year, I made the decision of following the trial signs pointing me to kern flat. This was a mistake, as the main trail leads you all the way around the top of meadow instead of following the shorter trail below it. This adds about 2 miles to the trip.

I finally reached kern flat by Sunday afternoon.

I broke out my fly rod using the yellow stimulator fly that worked so well last year. On the second cast into a nice pocket of water, I hooked a large fish. Unfortunate, it broke off. My friend Matt who is also a avid fly fisherman had warned me about "wind knots" weakening the leader. I was too lazy to swap out my leader and paid the price by loosing the only decent fish I hooked the entire trip.

I continued down the kern fishing the entire way until barely finding a good campsite before dark. I was only 6 miles from the forks trailhead at this point and by the looks of all the trash, the area here and the remainder of the way to the forks gets heavily used by people with little respect for the wilderness.

The next morning, I decided to spend the rest of the trip fishing and collecting trash. I found a old beaten up day pack in the bushes and used that as the receptacle for my collecting duties. The fishing was unsuccessful for the rest of the trip, but I "caught" all the trash I could carry. Surprising what people leave behind. There were old food cans, empty wine bottles, bear cans, 3 full cans of pork and bean and all kinds of paper and foil. I even found a lasso on the trail, obviously dropped by one of the horse packers. The only useful piece of trash was a full fuel canister that I will use on a future trip.

I finally reached the little kern crossing and it was flowing just a little too high to walk across on the rocks. After wading, it is just a short, strenuous, 2 mile climb back to the trailhead.

All and all, it was a great fall hike. I saw some nice fall colors, walked in the cool morning hours and had the whole place pretty much all to myself. Too bad the area is so full of trash by the forks. I guess that area is just way too easy to access. I carried over 15 pounds of trash out, and guess it would take maybe 10 more trips with a empty pack to clean the area up entirely.
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Re: TR: Last chance, lower kern loop

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:35 pm

Nice report and kudos for packing out all that trash. You probably won't get a thank you from those that left it out there, so please accept one from me. :D

Thank you.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: TR: Last chance, lower kern loop

Postby East Side Hiker » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:09 pm

Kudos also to you from me for packing out trash. I spent a lot of time packing out trash in that "general" area, but I was paid for it; although today I do pack it out on my own time when and if I find it. The Kern region is close to the LA area, and all the Stars, and southern Valley agriculturalists. In the very old days (before my grandpa's time to the late 50's) it was customary (for some unknown reason) to leave garbage. This region has been a backcountry fishing destination for a long time, thus the heaps of trash left behind, particularly old trash.

I remember taking uncountable burlap sacks of garbage on the backs of my mules from the Hole in the Ground on the Kern River. In the old days, the anglers would be packed down there and stay for long periods of time. For me, not only was it a bear to get down there into the canyon, but it was always hot and the hole the garbage was thrown into was very deep. But the area is beautiful and somewhat remote today, and worth evry minute to clean up.
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