Kern River to Death Valley

Saturday, May 06, 2006, Death Valley National Park, CA
Juergen spent a couple of hours in Porterville on Tuesday, washing the truck and camper. It was a big job and now it looks like we really haven't been anywhere... We arrived in Bakersfield in the late afternoon and went straight to see Doc Dennis. After a much needed adjustment, we settled into an RV park with all the appeal that we are becoming used to in urban areas - between a couple of freeways with a train line down the other side! All tar and no trees - well this one had a few palm trees, but that was it. The trains came by at irregular intervals, but they all seemed to be very long freight trains. And then there was the sound which may have been a large diesel generator - I could feel it rather than hear it, and it kept me awake until the early hours of the morning.
On Wednesday morning we found a local automotive repair shop to have the air conditioning checked out. The guys there were great - very thorough and not overly expensive. They were also very friendly and were interested in what we were doing and where we were going, so we spent a pleasant time even though we had to wait for a part and sit around doing nothing. We went for a final visit to Doc Dennis, and I had another adjustment. My back has really improved under his care and I am really grateful for that. We had some well-planned shopping to do after that and then we were going to head out of town in the early afternoon on our way to Death Valley. "Plans are made to be changed", as I've often been told. We got caught in a traffic jam, caused by a blackout, heading to our favourite supermarkets. When we finally arrived, one of them was closed and the other was open, but with minimal lighting - you really needed a flashlight in some of the aisles. When we were almost done, the lights came back on so that we were able to go to the other one to complete our shopping and finally got out of town at about 6.30.
We had planned to drive to Lake Isabella - at this stage we decided to drive until we found a campsite out of town! The drive turned out to be stunning - it was along a gorge carved out by the Kern River and the scenery was breath-taking. We turned off the road a few kilometres before Lake Isabella and followed signs to a campground beside the river. Once again we had found a place to rest with few other people around, no lights at all, a road in the far distance that really didn't make its presence felt, and, most important of all, quiet. It more than made up for the previous nights lack.
Thursday morning found us back on the road on our way to Death Valley. We drove through the town of Lake Isabella - not very interesting - and then followed the lake shore up to Kernville and then to Weldon. It must be a great place for a holiday if you like fishing or boating, but since that isn't really our thing we continued on to Ridgecrest. We parked our truck outside Starbucks and got in the back to have lunch and check emails. A local, called Barry, stopped by to say hello - he actually asked if he could come in and have a nap! He turned out to be a mine of information and as a result we decided to change our plans and drive into the Eastern Sierras to stay in Lone Pine Campground, almost at the foot of Mount Whitney, which is the highest mountain in contiguous United States (their highest mountain is in Alaska). Once again, it was a very quiet campground with no lights, no highway, and no train line. And the scenery was absolutely stunning all 360 degrees around us: behind us the jagged snow covered tops of the Sierra Nevadas, to the north large boulders surrounding the campsite, to the south a bubbling creek studded with lush low greenery, and to the east a range of large boulders piled up to form the Alabama Hills, a mountain range which could as well be in Utah or Arizona. Further in the distance a large white salt pan (the source of a sulfate mine), and behind that another colourful mountain range which forms the border of Death Valley. This is getting to be more like it!

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