Archive | July, 2012

Camping at the Kern River

2 Jul

It had been a pretty crazy week.  One day swimming in the ocean chasing white seabass and the next camping in the mountains.  Man it’s no wonder people love living in California!

It wasn’t even two days before when I had spent the day freediving, I had lucked out and shot a nice 44 lb white seabass on my buddy Bill’s boat.  In hindsight I should have saved some of that seabass for sashimi and poke for the camp trip but I only kept a few pieces for myself and gave the rest away.

Me and Alex, yah so what if it doesn’t have anything to do with camping.

We had talked about the camping trip several weeks before but there was so much going on that it slipped my mind until that last week.  After my spearing trip I hastily tore apart the garage looking for my gear, tent, stakes, lantern, fishing gear, and sleeping bags littered my garage floor.  I love camping but haven’t done a whole lot since I was in college.  Back then it was pretty hard core camping, we worked for the US army doing desert studies.  The hard part was spending a week out alone in temperatures that reached 110 degrees at ten in the morning.  Sweating my ass off all day long pretty much is why I figured I’d never do that again, which is why I’m a marine biologist today.  But that’s another long story.

The alarm began it’s annoying shriek at 4 am, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and Lea and I started getting the last minute things ready.  In no time we fired up her little Honda and began the 3 hour drive to beautiful Bakersfield.  I immediately placed that location as another place I didn’t want to live, lots of dirt around there!  Eventually we left that city behind and started to snake our way up the windy hill.  There were trees around and way down below I could see the river.  I imagined big trout swirling in those streams and couldn’t wait to go fishing.

We arrived at the river rafting location, and I was a bit uneasy.  They charged us for parking and directed us a couple hundred feet away against a run down barn.  The expedition site was bordered by battered trailer homes (like the for reals trailers that have wheels and everything) and ghetto campers.  I imagined I’d hear banjos playing soon followed by “you sure have a purdy mouth”.  I immediately wished I had brought my 9 mm.  I noticed some porta potties lining the side but there was a real bathroom and as I headed in there to use it found out it was a pay shower area with trough style urinals (I’m sure every single guy here groaned when they heard that) and a single stall head.  Someone was in there making unnatural noises so I hastily retreated back outside.

We met with the staff and they indicated that the river level was so low that we’d have to use IK’s (inflatable kayaks).  We were all kind of bummed because we wanted to hang together in a raft but it would be impossible to navigate the river with all the rocks exposed. I was pretty sure it might be a lot harder to kayak by ourselves through rapids and rocks.  I picked up the waiver we’d have to sign and read through it, it was filled with all kinds of warnings about getting hurt and dying (I shit you not) and there was a lot of misspellings in it.  I signed it anyways because I’m pretty dumb and we jumped on the old bus and headed to the launch site.

Our guides were really nice and pretty helpful, the kayaks themselves were two person kayaks and were of heavy duty pvc so you wouldn’t have to worry about ripping them on the rocks.  We jumped inside and started paddling behind the guides.  Right away I knew there would be a slight problem, I have a lot of experience kayaking and have three kayaks at our house but it would be Lea’s first time paddling and if you’ve never done it, it takes a short time to get used to steering.  We paddled through the calm water and then headed towards the rapids.  Guys were fishing all over the river banks and some of them had some small trout.

This is kind of like that faces of death picture, if you fools had it your way it would be the last picture you’d have to see of me.

When we got to the rapids the guides started talking about Big Daddy’s (boulders with significant waterfall drops) and how we’d have to navigate around the rocks and that if we fell out to just float with your legs outwards so you don’t jam them in the rocks and break your ankles.  Or drown.  I filed that away in my little brain and then watched the guide expertly navigate through the rapids and over the big daddy.

“See all you have to do is turn here, and then here and you are done”.  Yeaaaaaahhh Rigggggtttt.

Pretty soon it was Lea’s and my turn.  I told her not to try to paddle at all and that I’d try to steer us through which turned out to be a major mistake.  I found out quite quickly that a longer kayak with two people is a hell of a lot harder to turn in fast water than a single kayak.  We made it about 1/2 the way through with no problems and then I couldn’t turn fast enough and our kayak turned sideways to the big daddy.  The force of the river was so strong that kayak folded in half like a tortilla and filled with water in an instant and threw me out.  It was a painful ride.  Every single rock wanted to make its presence in my ass and back but I pointed my feet down until I could grab on a rock and look back.  I haven’t been that scared in a long time, I couldn’t see lea at all and was scared that she had been pinned under the raft and under the water.  I knew I couldn’t swim uphill against that current and was calling for her and then suddenly I saw that she had passed me and was almost to the end of the rapids.  WHEW!  What a relief, I was worried that I’d have to find another date to bring to her funeral ;).  By the way you don’t want to tell your wife that after having a hair raising experience because more than likely you will have a hard time walking around anywhere with her foot stuck in your ass.

Our guide brought us our kayak to us and we hopped inside, shaken but not hurt.  We continued down the river and stopped every once in a while (sometimes because we got stuck on rocks and sometimes because we actually wanted to stop) to enjoy the scenery.

Life After Death.  Yes we are actually smiling after getting thrown out of kayaks.

The whole thing took maybe an hour and a half and we had the option of going again.  Most of our group went a second round but Lea didn’t want to go again and I was pretty tired of being lame and getting stuck on the rocks all the time so I did the courageous thing and took a nap on the bench instead.  Would I do it again? Yes, it was a lot of fun but I’d only do it if the water was a bit higher so we wouldn’t get stuck on the rocks all the time.  The rafting expedition provided a nice little lunch and then we headed to our camp site.

The camp was fantastic, our spot was located right next to the Kern river.  Our tent was literally ten feet from the waters edge.

Home sweet home

Lea took a nap and I gathered my trout gear to try to fish.  I started right in front of our tent with lures but the river was racing along so quickly that my trusty powerworms didn’t have time to sink.  So I cheated and broke out the bait.  For those of you who have never fished in a river for trout, one of the best baits are salmon eggs with a small split shot.  You cast it upstream and lightly hold the line, you won’t get a huge hit like when you are lake fishing but you will feel a “tick” where the line jumps slightly and that’s when you set the hook.

Balls of fire. No I did not make up that name and no it’s not a joke you pervert

On my first cast I felt that telltale tick in the line and promptly missed my first bite.  It was hard fishing, you had to cast exactly in the right spot and then wait for that bite, most of the time the eggs would fall off the hook and you’d have to rebait and try again.  But after a few minutes I was fast onto fighting my first trout of the day.

The master at work.  Did I ever mention that I worked for 8 years at a fishing tackle shop?  And yes I still suck at fishing

5 monster trout (3/4-1lb)  Please do not concentrate on the fly that is sitting on one of them probably spreading diseases after coming out of the outhouse.

In a half hour or so I had my limit of five, we could probably have limited out for everyone who had a fishing license but we only wanted a few for dinner.  And man when these guys got ready for dinner they weren’t fooling around.  Our friends had brought Korean short ribs, carne asada, white rice, shish kabobs, hamburgers, pasta, and all kinds of other good things to eat.  They gave me the iron chef challenge.  Make something out of the fish.

Unfortunately I lacked the things I normally use at home but I borrowed some oil, salt and pepper, cilantro, onions, garlic, paprika and the main secret.  A small bag of potato chips!  If you’ve never had potato chip fish, it’s pretty damn good, I got the recipe years ago out of some magazine.  Basically I filleted the fish and gave it a light coating of oil.  I rubbed onion and cilantro on it, a dash of salt and pepper and some garlic and paprika. Then I crushed up the chips and coated the entire fish, wrapped it up in aluminum foil in a drugstore wrap (a type of technique of wrapping food in foil for cooking, google it your ignoramus) and placed it on hot coals for ten or so minutes.  My friends were leery of the poison I was trying to fool them into eating but when I unwrapped that fish and placed the steaming pile on the plate it quickly disappeared. If you want the whole recipe email me and I’ll give it to you.

We ate like kings and then our group took us to the secret hot springs.  That place is so secret I couldn’t even tell you how to get there, but you have to walk down a windy ass road to get to the springs.  Hippies had cemented rocks and stuff into makeshift spas, it’s like being in a big ass hot tub except it smells of sulfur from the spring.  After a hard day of river kayaking and fishing it was exactly what I needed to relax. I don’t have any pix of it and plus you might not want to see it. That’s because there were real live hippies down there and some of them were naked.  Before you get excited try to remember things about hippies and hygiene. It wasn’t like it was Brad Pitt and Megan Fox chilling in there.  There were naked hippies.  HYGIENE!!!   Thank god the sulfur in the springs killed all the nasty hippie germs.  We spent a few hours there and then trudged back to our cars and back to camp.

In yet another genius moment I realized that I had forgotten to bring an axe and we didn’t have any in our camp.  I scoured around for some twigs to use as kindling, thank god for reruns of “man vs. wild” because I was able to get a fire going.  We kicked back and ate smores.

“Have some smores”  “some more what?” “SMORES, you’re killing me Smalls!”

Yes I admit we cheated and used reces peanut butter cups, they make killer smores btw.  As we sat with stuffed satisfaction we were in for yet another surprise.  Two of our group were professional fire dancers.  They busted out their gear and we had our very own fire dance in our campsite, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.

The fire dance was mesmerizing and my body was slowly shutting down.  After two great shows I staggered into my tent and pulled the sleeping bag over me and was asleep in an instant.  Which was super annoying to Lea because she and the rest of the campers had to listen to my snoring for the rest of the night!

In the morning we slowly began packing up our gear.  That’s the part I always hate, leaving after a great weekend of camping.  As we began putting our gear away we had one last surprise.  A little treefrog poked its head from under the rainfly of the tent and paid us a visit and hopped around our camping gear.  I tried to catch him and make Lea give him a kiss but then I remembered she already married her prince (that’s me you buffoon).  Plus the excited frog decided to empty his anus all over my hands anyways.  I carefully put him next to the river and we headed back to LA.

It was a great end to a great trip and I can’t wait to go camping again…