Rooster: I’ve been slacking! Our time in Kernville has been a whirlwind of activity. As I write this, we’ve already left California for new adventures. I’ll get to those in future posts, but let’s wrap up all the great times we had on the Kern River.
We had previously mentioned on Facebook that a fire that sprung up nearby in August, but it’s hard to convey the devastation that these things cause. As we left Kernville on Friday, the French Fire had consumed over 25,000 acres, and was only about 55% contained. It had burned several buildings and a couple residences. The smoke in the air ranged from being a mild eyesore to blocking the sun, irritating your eyes and lungs. While Kernville itself was never critically in danger, Maverick and I often drove up into the high country after work to get away from the smoke, and stayed overnight in the van. But even that option was taken away when California closed all National Forests in the state. Other, even more destructive fires had stretched the fire and support crews so thin that they closed most public lands.
Despite all this, work carried on at Mountain River Adventures. Because of our very low water year, whitewater rafting was over by mid July. We concentrated on standup paddleboard (SUP) and mountain biking trips, which Mav and I both had a chance to guide. The campground filled up every weekend with city folks looking for some fun on an unusually calm river. Being in the desert meant that we would often cap off a hot day of work by soaking in the river with a cold drink.
We had a very welcome visitor from Wisconsin: Robin, aka ”Toots Magoots”! She hiked the PCT in 2013, and was also the inspiration for us getting into trucking. We were able to give her a little taste of our life by taking her on a three day roadtrip. We started by going to the Sequoia National Forest to see the big trees. We camped there the first night, then took a long meandering drive to the base of Mount Whitney. Along the way we stopped at Kennedy Meadows to visit the general store there, an iconic place among PCT hikers. We camped at the Whitney Portal that night, and took a beautiful, but strenuous 14 mile hike the next day. Our destination was Meysan Lake, an alpine lake above 11,000 feet. Toots wasn’t leaving without jumping into the frigid waters, and Mav and I couldn’t let her do it alone! That night, we camped down in the Alabama Hills, an eerie landscape where hundreds of Westerns were filmed.
Living in the van has been mostly good. The absolute freedom we have to just bug out to a new place, and enjoy our coffee with a beautiful view makes us giddy at our good fortune. It’s also rewarding to live within such an efficient space. We have only what we need, and it’s all within arm’s reach. Even when we stayed in the campground, we would sit and stare at the mountains, enjoying the antics of the deer, lizards, and woodpeckers that shared our space.
The downsides have been few, with our small and not particularly comfortable bed topping the list. I’ve also been fighting through some electrical issues. Despite all the insulation we installed, our refrigerator still had to work overtime in the 100+ degree heat. This often led to the solar panels not being able to keep the battery topped off. A combination of more ventilation fans, an isolator, and a strategy of parking in the sun in the morning, and shade in the afternoon have improved matters somewhat. Once we start heading to cooler climes, I’m hoping this will become a non-issue.
As we move on, we reflect on our good health and fortune to be able to live this life. We have met so many great people this summer, and deepened relationships with others. Tops on this list are John and Rhonda at MRA, who have been so gracious and welcoming. We consider them lifelong friends, and know that our paths will cross again.
Enjoy the pictures, it was a struggle to pare them down! More updates to follow…