Little Kern River Loop

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All the photos available here -> Photo Album

Introduction

It was a day hike into the Golden Trout Wilderness. The amount of miles I would cover was approximately 14. It was my first hike of the summer season and, as usual, I would learn a few lessons. I was fortunate enough to have my dog along with me, which was her fist time on a trail and hiking. This was a hike to scope out how the wilderness was doing and to test our physical condition.

The Story

The morning began around 530 AM for me. I quietly left the bedroom and the house around 545 AM. My gear was ready the night before, so I was efficient time wise. I locked up the house and whistled for River. She came running around wondering what was going on. I gave her the command that we were going on a ride and she was thrilled. The truck started up and away we went. It was going to be a 2 hour drive, but that didn’t seem to phase our high spirits.

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We were on the trail just shy of 8 AM. I was hoping River would learn how to walk a trail and not end up doing 20+ miles of hiking. The new smells were enticing to her and she ran left and right, forwards and backwards, tracking down the scent. Her tail was in turbo mode with excitement.After about 30 minutes she was relaxing and getting the idea of what to do. She followed me lead as we made our way downhill. Down trees were minimal and that was good.

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After about 2.2 miles of downhill hiking we arrived at our first creek crossing; Clicks Creek. Here we took a break for a few minutes. Had to let my feet and legs relax from the downhill march. River took advantage and drank some stream water. I had to tell her it was alright and encourage her to do so. She was not familiar with this idea yet, but figured it out really quickly once she had a mouth full of cold mountain stream water.

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The quick rest was over and we had another mile to go until arriving at the Little Kern River. This part of the trail isn’t used as much as others, but it was still distinguishable on the landscape to follow. A series of ups and downs made it nice. We were not gaining or losing a lot of elevation, so my leg muscles were happy. We made good time on this section of trail.

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We arrived at the Little Kern River. You can tell the river had meandered in the past. A big flood at one time must have dropped all the sand and rocks the trail goes through today. We took a break shortly after entering the area. It was time for some PB&J and to let me feet air out. River was too happy to explore nearby. Taking a selfie with her was not that easy either.

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Time was of the importance, so after 15 minutes I pressed on. We crossed Alpine Creek and followed along the northern side of the creek to Parole Cabin. The trail disappeared at times. In fact, we ended up in a meadow north of the actual trail. A livestock trail tied in to the main trail and was easily mistaken. I went back south and found the original trail tread within viewing distance of Alpine Creek.

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We found our junction and made a right, heading north, to Soda Spring Creek or the Nelson Cabin Site. It was a gradual uphill trek with a couple moderate climbs. The views were nice and teasing though. The remaining snow reminded me just how nice it would be to escape the warmth I was feeling in the sandy trail I had been walking. It didn’t take too long and we arrived at Soda Spring Creek for our next break.

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The break was welcomed and was our official “lunch” time. I spent another 15 to 20 minutes off my feet, sandwich in hand, and boots off to air out. River enjoyed exploring again, but soon sat by my side. She was staring at my lunch. After consuming my food, I put some of her food out on a rock. She didn’t want to eat on our previous break, but this time she devoured it no problem. I was glad to see that and rested a bit more before putting my boots back on.

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Time was up and so the boots were put back on. We headed east towards Lion Meadows. The Little Kern River was crossed and is my mental “half way” mark for the trip. My legs and feet were getting tired by this point as I was not resting long enough. I was still on schedule though and needed to maintain my pace. River stayed close by and marched along without a sound. Prior to arriving at Lion Meadows there is a soda spring that comes across the trail. Travertine has been deposited all over the ground and is more of a “cement” when you walk through it compared to a dirt trail. We eventually arrived at Lion Meadows where she was happy to drink some water. It was a little after noon at this point and warming up.

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Now we needed to go north to check out Sheep, Noname, and Willow Creeks. All of which did have water when we arrived. I didn’t like the trip there though as it is a sandy, hot, exposed part of our journey. The sun beats down on your and it is mostly uphill. Once at Willow Creek, both River and I rested in the shade. I filtered some of the water, which was cold and refreshing, prior to heading back south and to our truck.

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Now heading south, we marched on. I was about an hour passed schedule at this point. If I could maintain my 3 MPH pace I would get back to the truck by 430 PM. Unfortunately that was not going to happen. My legs were tired and feet were getting some blisters. I mended them with moleskin and swallowed some ibuprofen before leaving Willow Creek. After about a mile of hiking the medicine kicked in and the trip was a little easier. We found a small nest next to the trail while passing through Lion Meadows too.

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Past Lion Meadows there is a small climb uphill, but most of the journey is a downhill trek to the Little Kern River crossing. It is approximately 3 miles and was a relaxing hike. I was making good time, but knew in the back of my mind the 2.2 miles of uphill climbing would not be easy this time. Both River and I rested at the Little Kern River for 20 minutes. She enjoyed walking and drinking while I unzipped my pants to shorts and cooled my feet.

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There was about 3 miles left of hiking to do. The first mile would be an uphill climb, but it is what I called a “warm up” to the last 2.2 miles I knew was ahead of me. We left the Little Kern River at 330 PM and I knew I could not maintain a 3 mph pace uphill. Our trek was slow, but not because of River. Though tired, she trekked along just fine. In fact, she would check on me to be sure I was still behind her.

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We arrived back at the truck around 530 PM. I quickly loaded her up in the truck and drove back down the mountain. We never saw wildlife or a person this entire time. It was quiet and peaceful. I did learn some lessons though, as I usually do on trips. This time they were some basic mistakes and others subtle.

  1. Hiking poles no matter how short or long of a trip. Bring a pair.
  2. Resting for 15 minutes when “power hiking” is not enough.
  3. Medium thickness socks would have worked better. My light thickness had holes in them by the day’s end.
  4. Expectations too high for a first hike. Even though I cycle 3 to 5 days a week, going on a few shorter hikes prior would have made a huge difference.
  5. The excitement of being outside on a trail clouded my judgement on time. Caused some concerns back home with the family.
  6. SPOT devices do not work well when moving. Make sure to be stationary the entire time when sending a signal.
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