Friday, April 15 (continued)
After confirming the check engine light is nothing serious, I turn northeast on 178 out of Bakersfield, CA. A barren and rugged fold of mountains lies ahead. I’d heard from the internet that this drive was scenic, but you never really know what you’re going to get until you see it in person. Everyone’s definition of “scenic” is different and I hadn’t looked at photos. Part of the beauty of traveling is not knowing exactly what lies ahead.
The road is joined by a twisting ribbon of water, and mountains golden with dry grass press in on both sides. Yeah, I’d call this scenic.
178 climbs upward into the southern reaches of the Sierras. The grade is not steep, but it is constant and the road is twisty, the speed limit stays low to account for this. The terrain changes, in some places green with trees, and in others rocky and dry. There are several pullouts to let faster vehicles pass, and a couple places where there’s access down to the water. A lot of this is land is a part of Sequoia National Forest, although in this valley there isn’t a lot of forest to be had.
For over 20 miles, Bertha climbs her way through this changing and beautiful environment. Around every corner I think I surely must be almost though the gorge, but it exceeds my expectations. Yes, this truly is a scenic drive, I highly recommend it.
Then the road crests a rise, the valley opens up, and 178 gains two lanes and becomes a proper highway. The town of Lake Isabella unfolds ahead. It’s not very large, but surrounded by pretty mountains and I’m happy to see there are gas stations. I get off of 178 at exit 43 for 155, which passes through a low string of hills and falls down the other side towards the Kern River. Just before the bridge is Keyesville campground. Just past the bridge is Keyesville Recreation Site, which is my destination. Both are BLM managed.
Keyesville road is paved and in good condition, but on the narrow side. It’s already after 5 pm and I’m simultaneously impressed by the area and anxious to find a spot to spend the night. It being Friday, I’m concerned about weekenders coming out after work, reviews said that it can get busy here on weekends. I pass several dirt roads that may lead to boondocking, but none of them call to me. I also pass a couple sites right off the road, but I’d rather be back from the main drag if possible. About half a mile down Keyesville road is a large dirt parking area with pit toilets, a staging area for ATVs. I pull in to do some scouting.
I’m flying more blind than usual at this boondock. I know from reviews on freecampsites.net that there’s boondocking here, and that it’s rated for any sized rig. But I’m not sure where to find it. While I’m consulting my GPS a truck pulling a trailer slightly longer than Cas passes by. Maybe I should follow them. But I see there’s a dirt road leading off of this parking lot that seems in good shape and heads the direction of the river, so I follow it on foot.
Yes! It’s pretty steep but passable for a rig my size, and opens into a camping area right along the river. There’s an R-Pod snugged up next to a huge boulder at the entrance right on the water and a rental van down off the rise on a little rocky flood plain beach, otherwise no one else is around. What great luck! With the sun coming down, the river is already in shadow, I’ll have to get better pictures of the area tomorrow.
I find a level spot with water views from the rear and left side of the Casita due to the way the river curves and opt not to unhitch as I suspect the rental van will be leaving in the morning and maybe I can sneak in right on the beach. As I’m finishing supper, my phone rings. It’s the woman from the dog rescue I’m hoping to adopt from. My heart quickens, this is it–moment of truth. Did the board approve my application?
They did, woohoo! I dance a little jig down the isle of the RV. A little jig, because there isn’t space for a big one.
I spend part of the evening working on plans for heading north to see a dog I’ve been interested in for some time. No, I do not know yet if I’m going to adopt her, that depends on how the visit goes. Not every dog would be a good fit for full-time RVing, and part of the reason I decided to jump through the hoops of adopting from a rescue was because rescue dogs are fostered out. Their foster parents will have a better idea of the dog’s temperament and needs than dogs kept in a kennel at a shelter, and I want to make sure I find a good match. The two available dogs I met in LA were both sweet, but they wouldn’t have traveled well.
As the foster mom of this particular dog works a regular job, we won’t be able to meet until next weekend. That means I get a whole week here camping along the river. Oh darn.
Saturday, April 16
The beach site just down the sandy hill from where I’m parked is open this morning!
I take a walk down and look it over. The path in is soft but passable, there’s enough space on the beach for Cas, and with a ramp 3 blocks high I could probably get level on the slope.
But it just doesn’t feel right. Part of it is the morning shade that would render my solar less effective. Some of it is the loss of the view from higher on the hill. Some of it is the fear that this spot obvious floods when the water gets high, and while the forecast is rain free it’s the season for snow melt. Part of me wants to bring the Casita down here just for the great photo opportunity, but I listen to my instincts and decide to stay where I am. The beach is mere meters from where I’m parked now, it’s not like I have far to walk.
The river is beautiful! When I was at G&G Auto in Bakersfield and told the mechanics of my plans to come out here, they said Isabella Lake was low and brown and ugly. Maybe that’s so, I haven’t seen the lake yet, but the river here is fantastic. I can set my camp chair up on the hill at my site and survey the water running below.
The campground has several access spots to reach the water. The water is flowing pretty good and the sound of it lulls me to sleep at night. A wedding party comes out late in the afternoon for photos and a family sets up tents down on the beach. It’s warm, but the breeze keeps it from being uncomfortable. It’s a good day.
Sunday, April 17
In some places, the Kern River races over rocks, in others, it runs slow and deep. Across the water is Keyesville campground, and a few people are out and about in the morning trying their hand at fishing. I don’t see anyone catch anything, but there must be fish in there.
I write for a while, and read by the water for a while. Cars come and go. In the afternoon, the ranger drops by and busts the tent campers on the beach for driving their ATVs down here, the campground is off limits for them.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as many lizards all in one place before as I have here. The rocks along the edge of the river are full of them, they come out to sun themselves. A pair of Mallard ducks slowly work their way upriver, dunking their heads under in the shallows to feed. Ground squirrels are also in abundance. I chase off any that show interest in the truck or trailer, I learned my lesson at Picketpost Mountain! As always, the lack of optical zoom on my phone camera makes wildlife photography all but impossible, but I try my best.
In the evening the crowds leave and it’s back to just me and the R-Pod trailer. Crickets chirp in the grass, frogs croak from the shallows, and water burbles over rocks. It’s a peaceful night.
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