Mount Waterman Hike

I had never been to Mount Waterman so I wanted to check it out.  We left early Sunday morning to knock this hike out before noon.  It was a little confusing as to where the trailhead was exactly, since it is not clearly marked, but we eventually figured it was the trail that had all the blank wilderness signs next to it.

Trailhead

The first part of the hike is a gradual incline that meanders through the woods.

After about a mile you come to a saddle with a nice view to the south.

After the saddle, the trail continues to gradually climb towards the summit.

After a few miles you finally reach a large cluster of rocks which is the summit block.  Climbing atop we were able to find a small tin-can summit register.

Below is the map of our hike.  All of the photos can be found here.

Agnew Meadows to Devils Postpile

We left our car parked outside the Mammoth Mountain Inn where we had stayed the night before and boarded the Red’s Meadow shuttle bus. Moments after being dropped off at the Agnew Meadows shuttle stop we were already getting attacked by mosquitoes despite drenching ourselves in DEET.

We set off down the road, pass the pack station, to where the High Trail of the PCT started. There were some short steep switchbacks in the beginning, but after that the trail leveled out and was pretty straight.

Out of all the days we decided to hike this mostly exposed trail, it had to be during a heatwave. To say the least, it was not cool outside as we hiked but the views from the trail were great.

After about 8 miles we came to Thousand Island Lake which was to be the location of our first night’s camp. Due to camping restrictions around the lake we had to hike about another mile further to find a camping spot, however, many people were ignoring the restriction.

We opted to go for the less popular south side and found a somewhat flat spot up on the side of a hill. The mosquitoes were still pretty bad even being up and away from the lake so we retired to the tent and spent most of the day laying in there resting.

The next day we headed south on the John Muir Trail and passed by Emerald Lake and Ruby Lake, finally coming to the large Garnet Lake.

There was a nice footbridge over the large outflow at Garnet Lake where a lot of people were hanging out and getting water.  We too stopped here to check out the view and collect water for our hike.

After passing over the footbridge we did a little uphill but then peaked out and started heading downward towards Shadow Lake.  For some reason I had in my head that this was what most of the day was going to be like, until we reached the east end of Shadow Lake and I met the switchbacks from hell. I think these may have been the most intense group of switchbacks I have ever gone up.  Maybe it was because I had a pack on, or because I was still tired from the hike yesterday, but either way they made me miserable. Alas I knew it was just after these switchbacks and we’d be at Rosalie Lake which was our planned 2nd night camp. And we needed to get there since the weather was starting to turn.  Just as we finished setting up our tent it began to rain, but just a little bit. We crawled inside to rest as the skies opened up a little more and the wind got more blustery. I think being in a tent when it’s raining outside is one of my favorite things. We rested in the tent most of the later half of the day until the weather let up and the skies cleared again. I took this opportunity to get out and walk around Rosalie Lake a bit.

I felt like this lake had a lot of good spots for setting up tents, unlike a lot of the other lakes we had passed by earlier on the trip. The mosquitoes were also not as bad here, but they were still enough to be a nuisance. I cooked some soup for dinner on our Esbit stove which I finally started getting a hang of, then crawled back into the tent to eat and call it a night.

Back on the trail in the morning after a quick breakfast of trail bars we quickly passed Glady’s Lake, but didn’t stop long due the barrage of mosquitos.

The trail this day was almost all downhill so it went by quickly. It actually went by a lot more quickly than we anticipated. We were planning on spending our next night around Johnston Lake but we got there so early in the day we decided to just keep going.

Not much further past Johnston Lake we entered into the Devils Postpile Monument.

It was still another mile or so until we came across what actually looked like an established area. Our first sign we were getting back to civilization was the footbridge over the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.

At this point we had to figure out where we were gonna stay for the night. We had a couple options; A: We could catch a shuttle bus from the Devils Postpile back to where we left our car at the Mammoth Mountain Inn and try and find a hotel, or B: See if we could get a campground at Red’s Meadow or the Devils Postpile.  We decided to go with the later option and see if we could just find a campsite in the area, that way we could wake up the next morning and check out the postpile before the tourist crowds rolled in. We made our way to the “ranger” station near the Devils Postpile shuttle stop to ask about the campgrounds. The woman working there looked at me as if I was speaking a different language when I asked about the availability of campsites. All she could offer me was, “you can go check.” Last time I checked rangers were supposed to know about these things, but oh well. We walked over to the campground to find that there were a few spots left, but alas, we had no cash with us to pay for a site!

We figured maybe at Red’s Meadow Resort we could get some cash, so we hopped on the valley Shuttle and cruised over there. While there we grabbed some sub-par food at the restaurant, some beer and snacks from the store, which also gave us cash back!

We rode back to the campground on the shuttle, nabbed a spot, paid for it, and then basked in our accomplishments of the day.

The next morning we got up as planned to go check out the Devils Postpile which was very close to our campsite. Just a short walk and we were among the first people there that day.

We took the trail to the top of the postpile as well. It was nice being able to check out the whole area with almost no one else around.

We had a little more time left before we had to be out of our campsite so we headed on over to Rainbow Falls. We took the shuttle to the trailhead and did the short hike, but we only had enough time to check it out from above and had to head back to pack up our camp.

We took the shuttle back to camp, packed up, then took the shuttle back out to Mammoth Mountain Inn where we had left our car. Below is a map of our route.

More pictures from this tip can be found here.

Sequoia National Forest and Kernville

Memorial Day Weekend we headed up to the Sequoias. We stopped in Bakersfield for an early lunch at Camino Real which was pretty good and even offered a good selection of vegetarian options, which surprised me for being in Bakersfield. Back on the road, we drove up through Porterville and then East on Highway 190 into the Sequoia National Forest. We were headed for the Quaking Aspen Campground where I had reserved a campsite for one night.

Once camp was set up we still had some daylight left so we drove down to the Trail of 100 Giants. Parking seemed to be limited when we got there but after waiting a little while we were able to take a spot from a group that was leaving and paid the $5 day use fee. Although I’ve been to the Sequoias before, these large trees never cease to amaze me with their gigantic mass.

On our way back to the campsite we stopped at the Ponderosa Lodge for some extra supplies but also decided to have a few beers out on the patio since it was so nice out. Back at camp we prepared dinner and started our fire.

Dinner Time

We played a fun game of Cards Against Humanity until it was pretty cold and late. It got colder than I had anticipated that night in camp and I was somewhat uncomfortable all night and didn’t get much sleep. In the morning we made breakfast and packed up. We were going to drive to the trailhead for the Needles Lookout but while passing by the Ponderosa Lodge again we saw that the chili cook-off was in full swing so had to stop and check it out.

We hung out at the Poderosa Lodge for a while listening to the live music and people watching (probably longer than we should have). We finally hit the road again and headed out to find the trailhead to the Needles Lookout, which was actually very close to Ponderosa. I turned off onto a dirt road which had a sign and an arrow that said “Needles Lookout” so I figured that was the way to go. When trying to drive up the road to the trailhead the road became less and less passable. There were large erosion ruts in the dirt and the road was becoming very narrow as we got further up. There were a lot of cars that just parked off on the sliver of land next to the road but there was really no place for us to park. Eventually, we had to back our way down and turn around on the narrow dirt road and we left. Since that trailhead proved too difficult to get to I figured we’d try something easier and headed for the Dome Rock trailhead. This was much more accessible and the trail to the top of Dome Rock was super short.

On top of Dome Rock we were able to get expansive views of the forest below and distant mountains. It was such a surreal view it almost felt like looking at a large panoramic painting.

When we descended Dome Rock it was about time for lunch so we made some sandwiches before heading out to our next destination.

I wanted to make it to our next camping spot with some daylight left so we headed for a place called Big Meadow, which is where I wanted to stay. We drove south on the Great Western Divide Highway until we hit M-50 at Parker Pass, then made a left towards Johnsondale.  We made a quick stop in Johnsondale at the R-Ranch for some last minute snacks. The R-Ranch was situated in a nice area with a lake nearby but kinda had weird compound vibe to it. We had to check in with a guy in a toll booth before driving up to their general store. We parked and got out and walked up the steps to the store, but before entering I caught sight of one of the locals hanging out near the porch.

After patronizing R-Ranch we made our way down Sherman Pass Road until we got to Forest Route 22s12 which would take us to Big Meadow. But before getting to Big Meadow we came across a sign for Horse Meadow Campground, which is an established campground versus the dispersed camping we were heading for. We decided to check it out in hopes we could have a fire there since there was a fire ban in all other surrounding areas. Once we found a spot and parked we were approached by an old Santa Claus looking man who turned out to be the camp host. He told us the temperatures here were dropping to the low 30s at night and asked if we had a bucket and shovel, because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be allowed to have a fire. Well we had a bucket but didn’t have a shovel.  It almost seemed like the guy was trying to get us to leave as he chuckled about the weather. But even if we could have a fire we weren’t really equipped to sleep out in weather that cold, so we decided to head down the mountain where it would be warmer and see what kind of dispersed camping we could find near the Kern River.

On our way down the M-99 next to the Kern we saw a few promising spots where other people were camping. We made a pit stop at McNally’s for a bathroom break and then headed back up to one of the spots we saw earlier. We found a good location near the river where no one else was camping. There was already a fire ring set up and even a bench someone crafted out of rocks.  I think the area was called Roads End; it was just north of McNally’s and the Fairview Campground on the west side of the road.

The next morning we stopped by McNally’s again in hopes of getting breakfast but apparently they are not open for breakfast. We continued down to Kernville where we ate the Cracked Egg Cafe (I didn’t think it was anything special, but then again I’m a vegetarian). In the center of town at Circle Park there was a craft fair going on so we checked that out for a bit. But before it was time to depart Kernville, I had one more stop to make, and that was the Kern River Brewing Company.

I first tried their Sequoia Red, which was alright, but then decided I should just order a flight so I can try all of the beers since we had a limited time here. The beer that surprised me the most was their Just Outstanding IPA. I am not an IPA fan by any measure, but this beer was, well, just outstanding. It didn’t hit you in the face with crazy hoppiness, but still had great flavor, was well balanced, crisp, and smooth going down. I feel like real hopheads would actually denounce it as an IPA, but for me it was great.

While sitting out on the outside deck enjoying the beer and scenery, the bartender came out and asked if I wanted to try their 7th Anniversary Imperial Coffee Stout, well that was a no brainer. She brought it out to me in a flight glass free of charge and it was hands down the winner of the day. I really wish I could’ve spent some more time there and tried some of their food since the place seemed to be a great establishment. Next time I’m in Kernville it is on my list for sure.

More pictures from this trip can be found here, and a short video here. Map below.


View Sequoia Trip in a larger map

Visiting Luckenbach Texas

We left our campsite at Pedernales State Park at about 10am and had about an hour to drive to our next stop, which was Luckenbach, Texas. On our way we ended up coming across the quaint little town of Johnson City so we decided to make a pit stop. We grabbed some coffee at the Black Spur Coffee Shop and chatted a bit with the friendly owner who ended up being a California transplant.

Johnson City

We got back on the road and headed west through the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  On our way we passed many wineries and vineyards (I never knew they were so abundant in Texas).  Heading west on Highway 290 we finally came across the small, easily passable sign that read “Luckenbach Road.”  Well, we actually did pass it so we had to make a u-turn on Highway 290 and then we headed down the little two-laned road which finally led us into Luckenbach.

Luckenbach Road

For those who don’t know, Luckenbach is a small town in Texas which primarily consists of just a gift shop, a bar, and a dance hall.  There is also an outdoor stage for live music as well as various sitting areas.  What really put Luckenbach on the map was when Jerry Jeff Walker recorded an album there called “Viva Terlingua,” and later when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson recorded a song simply called “Luckenbach, Texas.”  The town sports a rustic ghost town feel where people gather to play music, listen to music, and drink beer.

Luckenbach

Of course all of this sounded amazing to me so while we drove into this small little town in the dirt road under the old towering trees I felt like I was entering a dream.  We could see cowboys handling a longhorn, people were walking around with beers, the chickens were roaming around and the roosters were crowing.  We rolled in only a little past noon and there was already a handful of people there; probably an equal mix of bikers, locals, and tourists. We meandered into the gift shop and looked around and found one of the local cats sleeping in a bucket of souvenir shirts.

Luckenbach Cat

It didn’t take long to check out the area, so I finally grabbed a beer at the bar and took a seat outside to enjoy the surrounding.

Luckenbach Outdoor Stage

Not long after sitting down a man walked out with a guitar, sat down outside the bar, and started playing some old country songs.  Some songs were originals but most were covers which I enjoyed, especially while hanging out in Luckenback with a cold one in my hand. Since the songs were good I decided to record one and ended up catching this rendition of “Coyotes” which was made popular by Don Edwards (not sure who the guy in the video is):

After having my fill of beer, music, and a little cowboy poetry, we were about to leave when I realized you could get a picture on the longhorn we had seen when were first driving in. Of course this was happening.

Longhorn in Luckenbach

I must say I was saddened to have to leave the little town, but it was Friday, and we wanted to get back into Austin and check into our hotel, get dinner, and experience the nightlife there. If you ask me though, I’d bet a night in Luckenback would beat a night out in downtown Austin any time.

Camping at Pedernales Falls State Park

After flying into Austin-Bergstrom and picking up our trusty rental car we made our way into the city for lunch at Mr. Natural which is a vegetarian store and restaurant on E. Cesar Chavez Street.  We ordered a couple of their sandwiches which were good, but it seemed that most people were there for the lunch buffet.  We finished lunch and made our way more into downtown Austin to stop at REI for some camping fuel and Whole Foods for some dinner and breakfast items.

Austin

I also had to check out the walk-in beer fridge where you could build your own 6-pack, so I created my very own “local roundup” of Texas brews. Among them were a Shiner Black Lager, Shiner Farmhouse Ale, Austin Amber, Independence Pale Ale, Alamo Golden Ale, and Real Ale Brewhouse Brown.

Local Texas Beer Roundup

Whole Foods was even kind enough to supply some free ice to keep them cold!  With supplies all loaded up we headed out to Pedernales Falls State Park, which was about a 45 minute drive out of the city.

Pedernales Falls

The drive through the green Texas countryside was beautiful despite the weather being totally overcast. When we arrived at the ranger station to check in they let us pick out our own camp spot, rather than just assigning us one, which I thought was nice.  With a recommendation from one of the rangers, we chose camp #36 which was near one of the trails that led down to the river.

Pedernales Falls Site 36

Before setting up camp we decided to drive down to where the falls were and check out that area.  From the parking area there is a short hike to an outlook over Pedernales Falls and the river.

Pedernales Falls Pano

Pedernales Falls

The river seemed to be a little low, but it was still a very scenic area. We explored down in the rocks and near the water for a while and then headed back to camp.

Pedernales

Pedernales River

Back at our campsite, we got everything set up and then decided to go down the trail that was right next to us before it got too late.  At the time, we weren’t even really sure where the trail led to but it seemed worth checking out since I had overheard some other campers talking about something they saw down there. 

Trail

We followed it down to a part of the river which was further downstream from the falls we had just visited.  The trail followed the river downstream for a little bit and then came to an area called “Trammel Crossing” where it was shallow enough to wade across to the other side, however we did not feel in the mood for wading so we headed back to camp.  On our way back we came across a family of deer that were out for their evening snacks in the foliage and I realized that this was what I had heard the other campers talking about.

Deer

Back at camp we made our dinner which consisted of the soup and biscuits we had bought at Whole Foods earlier.  Not very extravagant, but it was a quick and simple meal to prepare and eat.

Soup

Somehow we were able to stay up somewhat late despite running on only 3 hours of sleep from the night before, but this made it easy for us to fall asleep. In the morning we awoke to the sound of raindrops on our tent, but luckily it was not a heavy rain, and it let up eventually so we were able to get out, make breakfast, dry the tent out, and pack up.  Then we were off to Luckenbach!

More pictures from this trip can be found here.