After leaving Death Valley we headed south in order to go north because there are no roads that go through Sequoia National Forest which is right next door to Death Valley. We had no idea where we would be spending the night but we knew it should be nearby in Sequoia because we were tired of driving and wanted to have time to just chill. Through looking on freecampsites.com we found out that there is free dispersed camping along the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest which is near Kernville, California. KERN. Hahaa. Anyways, we headed towards Kernville not knowing what to expect when we got there…
As we drove through Kernville we passed an abundance of rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and trout fishing establishments and saw glimpses of the river through the trees glittering past us, and looked for places to turn off and explore. We finally saw a parking area with a car parked in it. We parked, got out and saw what looked to be camping spots then explored a bit closer down by the river and found the most magical camping spot we had yet discovered.
Pretty sweet, huh?
And this was our front yard
Another view of the river
Somewhat surprisingly, this campsite turned out to be our favorite so far because it had everything we needed : a lush carpet of grass and wildflowers, a leaning tree to set up the hammock, an icy rushing river which served as our fridge for chilling water and beer,a huge fire pit built out of stone (courtesy of a previous camper), towering trees that served as our walls and gave us complete privacy and a view of the Sierra Nevada’s. We could have happily stayed there a week.
We relaxed and read in the hammock by the river then made a coconut milk stir fry over the fire at night. When I woke up in the morning I walked around a bit while Dan still slept and I found some HUGE spiny pinecones about 10 inches long. I later found out they were from a Coulter Pine and that the cones can get up to 16 inches in length. They are actually referred to as “Widowmakers” by locals because..... well, a 16 inch, 10 pound, piece of wood covered in large sharp spines falling from a height of 40 feet... you get the picture.
We were reluctant to leave our secluded fairytale campsite by the Kern river because of the serene beauty emanating from the place. Our excitement to get to the Pacific Ocean and see it for the first time (and get some In and Out Burger) eventually superseded our reluctance, so we pressed on. During the drive we went through lush farmland with miles of fruit trees. At one point we smelled the heavenly fragrance of what we thought to be jasmine so we rolled down the windows to let the delicious air flood the car. I looked out at the trees next to us and saw little orange balls on the ground and realized that they were orange trees.
We decided we should stop at an In and Out Burger to see what all the fuss was about which would be our first fast food stop of the trip. You might consider us burger connoisseurs and we've heard what a good company In and Out is (they start every employee out with a $10.50/hr wage). We were not disappointed. At the insistence of a friend, we got our burgers and fries “Animal Style” which is code for “Put a load of melted cheese, grilled onions and Russian dressing all over my food, please.” Sinfully tasty and after “roughing it” in the wilderness (not really) we felt we deserved it. Oh yeah, we also each got a Neapolitan shake. Needless to say we didn't eat much of anything else for the rest of the day. By the way, you can set the bar even higher by requesting “Roadkill” which is animal style fries plus a crumbled up hamburger on top.... oh no they di'nt.
After our gorge fest we set out towards the coast. The landscape kept becoming more and more epic with rolling electric green hills swathed in thick patches of fog and sheep grazing on the steep hillsides. I felt like I'd been teleported to Ireland (The Homeland). My excitement began to mount and when we finally glimpsed the coast it was breathtaking, literally. We stopped off at Moonstone Beach in Cambria, CA to explore. The beach was covered, not in sand, as I am used to, but little rocks every one completely unique and beautiful. I could spend hours just looking at all the different ones. We kept driving north along the coast until we saw a sign for a “Elephant seal viewing area” and sure enough there were an estimated 100+ elephant seals lounging about, squabbling and grunting. The sounds they made were hilarious. Listen:
We thought it odd that despite the obvious hilarity of such sounds, we were the only two of the more than thirty other onlookers to laugh. I guess we're still just a couple of four year olds.
Onward in search of Los Padres National Forest, and Big Sur along the California coast.