From the Desert to the Sierra Nevada in a day Plus Giant Sequoias
October 26 - 27, 2013
Written By Norma & Danny Siler, photos by Mal Roode
Our meet-up was Saturday morning, October 26, 2013 at the BLM Jawbone Canyon Station on Highway 14. We were 6 vehicles with Danny and Norma Siler; Craig Baker; Leonard, Rebecca, and Hannah Friedman; Bob Jacoby and Richard Brazier; Nelson Miller; and the infamous Malcolm Roode. Some of the folks left home early in the morning while others stayed Friday night in motels in the town of Mojave.
As quickly as we started on the trail up Jawbone Canyon we crossed two pipelines of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. We had a CB radio discussion if these should be called penstocks or siphon tubes. They were maybe 20 feet in diameter. Craig Baker is the expert on these. Jawbone Canyon is a popular Off-highway Vehicle Open Area. We saw many campers and RVs but very few, if any, off-road vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs.
As we gained elevation above Jawbone Canyon we saw many, maybe 25 or more of those giant wind turbines. Craig Baker explained to us over the CB radio that these were owned and operated by the LA DWP. In an hour we began to see changes in the vegetation as we gained elevation. We were losing the Joshua Trees and adding juniper bushes. We crossed Kelso Valley Road and noticed the maps showed a landing strip there but we never found it.
Eventually we are in high enough elevation for pine trees as we have left the desert and entered the Sequoia National Forest. The Geringer Grade switchbacks are ahead of us and we climb rapidly. No one needs four-wheel drive but it’s still kind of a thrill. Before long we are at 7,000 ft. elevation and in the Piute Mountains. It must be deer season because we passed hunters in their trucks about every 30 minutes. Never any deer, though.
For our lunch stop we pulled into a 3 mile long narrow forest road that ended at Inspiration Point. It’s a great lunch stop plus we can hike to the top of the point and wander around the foundation of a lookout that was once there. Plus it’s a gorgeous view 360 degrees. Another stop we made is at the remains, or ruins, of a lumber mill that must have been more than a hundred years old.
As we round the mountain we are greeted with an aerial view of Lake Isabella and that begins our descent on more switchbacks for six miles of exciting shelf road. When we reach the town of Kernville we have entered the “Whiskey Flat Fall Festival” which is some kind of annual street fair to celebrate the town. This town was originally named Whiskey Flat in the gold rush days of the 1850s but was later changed to the less wild and wooly name of Kernville. We scatter and go our separate ways to motels and camping spots. Later we have a group dinner at the Kern River Brewing Company. Everybody is tired and goes home early to bed.
Our meet-up site Sunday morning is 7:00 a.m. at a country store and deli. A full breakfast is available and lots of coffee to drink. By 8:00 a.m. we caravan traveling north on the Sierra Highway adjacent to the Kern River.
Danny and Norma had identified 4 potential places to explore Giant Sequoia trees on Sunday. On Saturday a ballot was given to each person with the four choices listed as well as a description for each. After election and some discussion the winning choice was a large grove of Sequoias called the Black Mountain Grove. As we drove to get there, Danny pointed out the roads to the other choices. These were the President George Bush tree in the Freeman Creek Grove, the Trail of 100 Giants in the Long Meadow Grove, and the Belknap Grove which is adjacent to the Belknap Campground.
We reached Camp Nelson about 10:00 a.m. on Sunday and rendezvoused at the sign board and flag pole next to the market. We bought goodies, used their toilet, and then hit the dirt road. Our planned route would be an hour and a half down the forest road, have lunch, then an hour and a half drive back to Camp Nelson. The Fall colors were great!
The forest road was rough, bumpy, narrow, and slow going. There were hundreds of Giant Sequoia trees along our route. Most of these were at a distance from the road. Because we were on a shelf road a tree might be down the hill but these trees are so tall the crowns would still tower above the pine and cedar trees right next to the road. We saw many Giant Sequoias right on the road and we stopped at many of these for photos. The largest, which we used for our group photo, must have been 30 feet across.
We finished our exploration and found our way back to pavement in Camp Nelson about 2:00 p.m. Surprisingly, as beautiful as the forest is with all these Sequoia trees, on a Sunday morning and afternoon there were only two other vehicles besides our group.
We said our good-byes and went home our separate ways. A good time was had by all. If anyone would like to know the route we took, call Danny or Norma Siler at home (714) 639-6555 and you too can travel here any time.