Last travelogue left off with our caravan of five solos staying at a Forest Service campground in the mountains near Castaic, CA not far from LA. We did some hiking, called the cops on our loud and intoxicated neighbor, and generally stayed inside during the cold weather and got work done.
Feb 28, Wednesday
Hanging out with this group is making me more of a morning person.
Well before lunch, I’m hitched up and ready to depart Oak Flat Campground. The sun is shining and the skies are clear… for now. We’ve timed our departure with the weather, today is the one nice day in a week of rain, wind, and snow. If we don’t leave now, we’ll be stuck here longer.
As usual, members of our caravan depart at their own pace and we make no move to actually travel together. We’re all headed to the same place and get there when we get there.
I make my way gingerly back down the dilapidated Golden State Highway to where it ends at I5 and turn north. It’s time to finish the rest of the Grapevine through the Tehachapi Mountains.
I swear the Grapevine is haunted.
Last time I drove through here south to north two years ago Bertha’s check engine light came on near the bottom of the hills, and the exact same thing happens this time too. And like last time, it turns out to be nothing. The light goes off on its own a day later, but it still causes me to be hyper alert to how the truck is running and detracts from my enjoyment of the drive. (Clearly, something about this particular drive trips some sort of false alarm in Bertha, but saying it’s haunted is more fun.)
With the engine light on but Bertha running perfectly normally, I arrive in Bakersfield at about the same time that Marshall and Kelly arrive. We meet up at Costco for really cheap pizza (not being a member I had no idea such a thing existed before now), and moderately cheap propane. There are going to be some cold nights at our next destination and I want to keep my heater happy.
After getting groceries in town, I get on 178 heading east.
This is a beautiful drive along a twisty, narrow road following the Kern River that won my heart last time I drove it. And this visit I’m not racing the clock, so I stop a couple times at pullouts for pictures.
Yep, I’m heading back to Keyesville Rec Area, near Lake Isabella, CA. I’m retracing the route I took in spring 2016, if it were me alone I’d probably go looking for new places to camp, but the rest of the caravan has never been out here and it is an undeniably pretty place to boondock, so I don’t mind going back.
I direct the group to the sandy dispersed camping area at the bottom of the hill right on the Kern River where I’d stayed previously. Given the upcoming poor weather, the place is deserted save for one closed pop-up trailer parked in a back corner. Oh, and a small herd of free-range cattle that wander through occasionally.
Now, here I have to point out that Joni lives in a van, and that van is currently parked down by the river. And being the goofballs we are, we get quite a laugh about it. It might be silly, but it’s the little moments like this that really make my day.
In the evening I have a sit down by the water and enjoy the ambiance, all bundled up against the cold. I’ve never had the river all to myself like this, it’s a great way to unwind at the end a busy travel day.
March 4, Sunday
Last night was to be the big snow night, with winter storm warnings going out for higher elevations. I peek out my blinds in the morning and am disappointed by the lack of snow. There’s a little in the hills across the river though.
Well, if the snow didn’t come to us, we’ll just have to go to it.
The five of us get into Kelly’s truck and we start driving north, passing the lake and getting onto Mountain Highway 99. The higher we go the closer the snow gets, but we’re not really in it yet. Then we see a turnoff for Sherman Pass Road, that sounds more promising!
Sherman Pass Road is not, I repeat NOT for RVs. It makes 178 look wide and straight, there are signs for falling rocks all over, and the drop-off is steep. In a truck though it’s a lot of fun! We gain elevation quickly and the snow becomes deeper and more prevalent.
Then abruptly around a corner, there’s snow sticking to the road. Being in a 2WD vehicle driven by a Florida girl, this seems like a good place to stop. We take a bit of a walk further down the road, and I get a bunch of pictures. We aren’t the only ones to have done so, there are tracks all over of other people and their dogs who have frolicked in the snow.
There are some pine trees here, and higher up it looks like there are a lot more of them. We’re technically in Sequoia National Forest, but this far east there are no sequoias, they’re on the wetter western slope of the Sierra.
After getting our fill of the winter wonderland vibe, we turn around and head home. Sherman Pass Road continues on (sixty-some miles in total) and connects with 395. I bet it’s fun to take it all the way when the weather’s nicer.
March 7, Wednesday
Besides the one big snow adventure, most days we also take breaks during the work day to explore along the river near camp. The shore is littered with massive boulders and fun rock formations and it’s good exercise to climb up and down them. One can even sit in them on occasion…
Not to mention, it also makes for some good landscape photos.
On evening my friend Ethan (the one who convinced me to climb Mt. Elbert when my truck broke down in 2016) stops out to visit and I drag him along for a little river fun.
As you can see, even down here at lower elevations there are trees. After months of boondocking in the desert, it’s a nice change of pace. Tomorrow our caravan continues on and it’ll be back to the desert for a while.
Our week here has passed quickly, but I’m really looking forward to our next (and final) stop as a caravan! The gorgeous Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA.
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