Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Ukulady's Guide to Camping: Part 1: Lake Isabella & Keysville, CA

PHOTOS: The Ukulady & Ukulad in Keysville & Kern River

Dear Blob,

The Ukulady's Guide to Camping* (While Being Home-Based in Southern California)
*The Ukulady seeks naturetastic car-camping devoid of RV's, partying peeps & amenities.

PART 1: Lake Isabella/Kernville/Keysville

Manpanion and I were planning on camping in Pinnacles National Monument, but a mid-March rainstorm changed our plans at the last minute and we found ourselves heading Northeast from LA towards Lake Isabella.

An unattractive drive through Bakersfield rewarded us with an attractive, alpine-ee, scenic road to the rural mini-towns encircling Lake Isabella, where we found all the campgrounds around the Lake seasonally-closed. However, even if they were open, they are not my cup of meep. Most of the official campgrounds are located right next to the highway and one is even in the town of Wofford Heights and I imagine all are packed and RV-Fevered in the summer.

Luckily, we discovered a giant expanse of BLM land called Keysville, an old mining area, where the river rafters launch into the Kern River, wild cows wander and you can camp anywhere for FREE!

There are a couple restrooms at the river launch picnic-eries, but the majority of potential camping-land is pee-in-the-woods party! We found a pretty hilltop, overlooking Lake Isabella, and discovered at twilight that it was right beside the untethered Cows-Wandering-Home Path.

On our second night camping, an SUV drove by with a Mining official, who informed us we were camping across from a Pioneer Graveyard! It was exciting for us, being Pioneer-Enthsiasts (I am a Donner-Party semi-expert). Sadly, the Keysville Pioneer Graveyard was full of babies and children, but luckily none of them haunted us.

Keysville is a gorgeous place to hike around. There are many trails frequented by ATV riders and while I imagine the summer is redneck central, mid-March, was fairly empty and quiet. We did hear some target shooting and ran into some families of ATV riders, but saw more free-wandering cows than anything else. The land is full of Halloween-ee trees, granite rocks and mini-wildflowers in spring.

The Kern River launch area is landscaped with ridiculously beautiful rock slabs and the water was super inviting-looking. It was too cold to take a dip, but has many swimming-hole spots, as well as rapids, so be careful.

Keysville is a fabulous place to camp for peeps seeking tranquility and nature. And it's free! Pack in, pack out. A permit is needed for campfires and camping stoves and the permit office is inconveniently located in Bakersfield. We didn't have a permit and were ultra-super-safety-conscious and no one busted us. We did see a BLM ranger or two driving around, but mostly Keysville is wild land.

About 2.5 - 3 hours from Los Angeles.

Love The Ukulady
ps: Keysville & the surrounding evirons seem to be on the flight-path for fighter jets.

pps: Camping Meal Menus:

LUNCHES: Fancy Irish Cheddar Cheese (keeps super-well), Salami, Crackers, Pita Chips, Peas, Carrots, Persian Cucumbers, Clif Bars.

1. Using pioneer Iron Skillet: small, yellow potatoes, thinly cut, stir-fried with broccoli, butter & already-cooked chicken-apple sausage, salt, pepper & parmesan cheese to taste.

2. Pre-cooked basmati rice skillet-cooked with broccoli and chicken-apple sausage.

(I find salt, pepper, butter & parmesan cheese are the essential and only camping seasonings needed)

BREAKFAST: Pre-cooked banana bread, bananas, apples, french-press coffee (pre-ground).

pps: I bring 1 awesome cutting board, hand-made in Mexico, which has a scoopy-bowl on one side of the board and the other side is the chopping area. Perfect for camping!

pppps: ROAD-INFO: Parts of Lake Isabella are part of Sequoia National Forest & Park. The scenic road from Wofford Heights to the 99, is interstate 155 and is very windy, very remote and takes about an hour and a half to get to and from.

The 178, which is the road from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella, is somewhat windy and takes about 45 minutes and is the shortest route from LA. The 155 has all sorts of Sequoia National Park campgrounds and is alpine. Beautiful, but even the driver got carsick. We took the 155 on our way out because we were headed to Yosemite. I would not take that road again, regardless of the beauty. 178 is recommended.

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