Wednesday, August 8, 2012


August 3rd, Friday and August 4th, Saturday

We left the casinos behind, traveled through the arid, barren Mohave Desert and stopped in a little place called Tehachapi which is between Andrews Air Force Base and Bakersfield. The campground is located beside the Mountain Valley Airport which is a very small facility but does do all of the soaring training for the Air Force pilots. The town has everything you need and is quite charming. It's like a jewel in the middle of nothingness. There are literally thousands of windmills on the hills surrounding the airport and before that along the highway. We were told this wind farm creates power for the entire Tehachpi Valley and even sends some down to Los Angeles.

Saturday, Tim took a glider ride in a German Grove 103 which is a sleek high performance sail plan weighing about 800 pounds. It was towed off the ground directly behind our RV, dropped its tether at about 2000 feet and soared to heights of  3000 feet in the thermals with its 20 year old pilot before making a gentle, quiet landing back onto the airstrip. The views of the valley and surrounding mountains were spectacular. Thermals and rotators can be quite violent.  They had to quickly move away from the rotator which is actually visible in the air.

Before Takeoff

We took a ride out to the Tehachapi Loop which is a hill in the Caliente Mountains where you can see the train enter the hill via a tunnel, come out the other side, and back into another tunnel. You can see the front of the 4000 foot train while looking at the caboose of that same train. The front actually travels over the middle of the train in a circular fashion. This is an engineering feat that is legendary and attracts thousands of people a year to the area. In 1896, while building the railroad from San Franciso to Los Angeles, they realized that the grade here was too steep for a simple up and down route. This gradient circular solution was very inventive and was completed by the  thousands of Cantonese brought here for just that purpose. There is smaller version of this a few miles north of here and there are eighteen tunnels in total throughout this mountain range.

Tahachapi Loop

August 5th, Sunday and August 6th, Monday

Continuing our journey towards the Sequoia National Forest, we stopped midday north of Bakersfield in Lake Isabella  at an RV Resort with electricity and a pool. The ride up 178 was not what we expected. We expected a two lane highway with some elevation. It was a two lane highway alright, but it was narrow and very curvy with large rock formations protuding from the cliff walls. A few times we thought we would hit the rocks with the side of the RV, but Tim is an expert at driving this vehicle now and we made it up without issue. However, we made a wrong turn in Lake Isabella and found ourselves on the Bodish-Caliente road that was not only narrow, but had hairpins turns with nothing but sheer drops on either side. There was no place to turn this big rig around until we were at the top of the pass. We gingerly did a U turn to maneuver back down off this mountain at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

 We back tracked, found the RV park and settled in. The temperatures remain hovering around 100 or better. The lake itself was serioiusly low and the locals told us it would probably be thoroughly gone by September. They have had no rain and had no snow last winter, thus not a lot of water this summer. There are forest fires in the mountains behind us and we watched as the helicopters would swoop down with snorkels hanging down to suck up the water into its tanks. They then flew back into the hills and dropped their water. They repeated this process all day long as an adjunct to the National Forest Services firemen working to put it out. The sky was grey with smoke and it was beginning to make us a little nervous even though the hills and land around us had very little to burn. It truly is the high desert- dirt, rock, and brush with very few trees.

Lake Isabella
Kern River

On Monday, we drove up the Kern Valley to Kernville and further north towards Jordansdale heading for the Trail of a Thousand Giants in Sequoia National Forest.. The Kern River which is very low, ran along the road at the base of the mountains and was packed with boulders. We were told that the rapids when the river is high has nothing less than a Class V and most are higher. There are warnings everywhere that the river is dangerous and the current treacherous and to wear life jackets if you enter the river. While it looked fairly harmless for rapids at its low volume, you can see where the rapids might be and it is a river we would not want to travel. There were quite a few campers along the river banks and some folks were drifting in the water with their rubber rafts and tubes. They must have been oblivious to the fact that one person died in this river just yesterday when they didn't heed the "dangerous river" warniings and were swept away with the swift currents.

 The road we traveled was narrow, with many switchbacks and no guard rails so we called it quits before we hit Jordansdale, returned to Kernville, had lunch and headed back to Lake Isabella and the cool water of the pool at the RV park from which we watched the helicopters come and go once again.

Snorkeling Water

Heading to the Fire to Dump Water

This mountainous, brown, hot, arid area was a respite for us for the electricity alone, but it is not one that we would revisit. The people were very nice, but the climate and terrain, not so much.

August 7th and 8th,  Tuesday and Wednesday

Since our reservations in Sequoia National Park are not until the 9th, we traveled only as far as Vasilia which is about 50 miles outside of the Park. We found a KOA campground which once again had electricity and a pool. The weather predictions for this area for this week have the temperature going to 115 in some places by Friday. On these two days the highest it got was 104. The pool helped a little with its cool water and little bit of a breeze, but the airconditioned cinema along with the AC in the RV helped even more. I believe this KOA was built from original farm land as there are farms all around and the aroma, when we do venture out, is that of cows. 

Looking forward to forests once again,

1 comment:

  1. We saw one of the helicopters with snorkel attached on Tues. on our drive from Nevada into Oregon (yup, Oregon.. will explain later) Anyway, we were happy to be out of the desert, but today we are in another high desert, a little smokey, several fires burning some distance away. Looking forward to Yosemite, hope it is cooler for you in Sequoia!