Tiny California Towns: Kernville

Why hello there!

I’ve been absent for a bit.  Zac and I went out of town and met up with some friends at the Kern river for a few days, so I was busy preparing to go away, busy being away, and then busy coming back after being away.

My life is tough.

Especially last weekend.  Jill and Michael, two of my favorite people in the world, have a friend who has a house in Kernville on the Kern river, about an hour away from Bakersfield in the middle of nowhere.  Its far to get to, especially now from San Francisco, but a hookup for a cheap getaway is one of the simple pleasures in life.  So last Thursday after Zac and I were both off work, we packed up the car and drove all night.  Our friends Diana and Greg joined us around noon on Friday, and Jill and Sara later that night with Michael coming on Saturday for a full house of 7.

I’m not going to give you a play by play of the entire weekend, as that would make for pretty boring reading.  Suffice it to say that a weekend at Kernville is full of hard choices:  Do we want to swim in the Kern River or should we go down to Lake Isabella?  Would you like a margarita or strawberry daquiri with that s’more?  Jill and Sara each seem to have brought their entire collection of board games.  Does Taboo sound fun or are you more in the mood for some Nuns on the Run?  Which is an actual board game, in case you were wondering.

It was a pretty relaxing weekend, chilling out, laughing and catching up with some of my oldest friends and their significant others.  It was also hot as hell.  Now, I know that the rest of the world is experiencing this hot as hell weather as part of their daily lives.  I’m living in San Francisco.  I’m currently wearing a sweater and slippers.  So this was very different, and at times nice and other times exhausting.

The Kern River

I love being in water and I was able to spend a significant amount of the weekend thus.  One of my favorite moments was on Sunday.  Diana, Greg and Sara had left in the morning so Jill, Michael, Zac and I piled into Jill’s little Honda Fit to check out another part of the river.  We parked on a big bridge and hiked for a bit on a rocky trail overlooking the water, until we found a secluded little beach.  We splashed in the icy cold water and spent some time swimming and floating.  In many places one could stand on the rocky bottom, and I was standing in the river with the water rushing by.  A warm wind kicked up and I filled my lungs with air again and again, taking deep, soothing breaths.  I love the way the air smells up in the mountains, like dirt and trees and just so fresh.  I’m a city girl, but when I do get out into nature I get that feeling of oneness with the world and act like a little hippie child.  As cheezy as it sounds, I love to smell the mountain air.

Us as river rats
Sara strikes a pose whilst going down some rapids
Just chillin’

It was also fun to visit some tiny California towns, one of my loves as you all know.  Kernville itself is gloriously tiny, with it’s population just over 1,000.  Most of the “town” consists of a central square with multiple antique shops, a coffee shop, a few bars and a museum about the town’s history.  Zac and I stopped at the museum last year when we visited.  It has some memorabilia from the mining days and a large section dedicated to movie making, since many westerns were filmed in the area.  Across the river, there is also the Pizza Barn, a grocery store where an old man complimented my cowboy boots (and said I wasn’t too bad either!), and the Kern River Brewing Company, a surprisingly awesome brewery and restaurant.  Zac’s friend Casey had requested that we fetch him a growler of their stout, and we happily complied.

Our dangerous cargo from Kern River Brewing Company

Down the road from Kernville are two other awesome middle-of-nowhere towns, Lake Isabella and Wofford Heights.  With well over 3,000 people, Lake Isabella is much larger, but just as much of a nothing town as Kernville, and more spread out since it is on flat ground rather than up in the mountains.  For me, it has two attractions: the lake itself and a thrift store that benefits the local hospital.  You have to sift through all the old lady crap but when you find gems, you strike gold.  It is the cheapest thrift store I’ve ever seen.  Purses for $2!  Jeans for $4!  Books for a quarter!  Unfortunately I didn’t find anything, but my companions made a killing.

Wofford Heights is between the population sizes of Lake Isabella and Kernville and was originally founded as a resort town.  And it shows.  It boasts vacation rentals, several bars advertising kareoke nights, a movie theater with one screen, and a liquor store with a walk-in beer cave.  This trip was the first time I’d actually stopped in Wofford Heights, and we stopped to go in the beer cave.  It was nice and chilly and, well, beerful.  Also, the largest building in Wofford Heights appears to be the local Elks Lodge.

Before leaving the Kern county area on Monday, Zac and I drove through Lake Isabella to Silver City Ghost Town.  I’m really into Westerns and had to wear my vintage cowboy boots, of course!  As it turns out, Silver City isn’t a real ghost town, but rather a collection of buildings and artifacts from ghost towns that used to be but fell into decline.  And they were also charging an admission.  So we just poked around the rooms of stuff that were for sale.  They had some cool antiques and memorabillia, but everything seemed to expensive.  As we were about to leave, we spied an old and really dusty electric mixer high on a shelf.  We cook and bake a lot, but don’t have a mixer.  It looked pretty good, just dirty, and they were only charging $24 for it.  I reasoned that that was a great price for a mixer, but does it work?  The guy running the shop plugged it in for us, and lo and behold, it worked!  So we didn’t see a ghost town but we did take home a vintage electric mixer, which I’m almost happier about.   It looks so cute up on our counter.

Some people pose with their cars. I pose with my mixer.

I can’t believe it took me almost a week to write about this!  I hang my head before you in shame.  Also, I need to get better about taking pictures.  All of the pictures in this post must be credited to Diana Gisel Yanez, the only one who actually took pictures last weekend.  Except for the pictures of the growler and the mixer, those Zac took with his smartphone.  I hang my head once more in shame.

As Always,

Good Luck and Happy Travels


8 thoughts on “Tiny California Towns: Kernville”

  1. Mo,
    Looks like a great trip, although I would have been afraid of alligators. And that picture of you and the mixer? I sure hope it’s your Facebook profile pic.
    Le Clown
    PS: I am also suspicious of your pics… I think all faces have been photoshopped over other people. Just sayin’…

    1. Le Clown,
      I did not see any alligators, so nothing to fear! Except lake monsters of course. I have not made that photo my profile pic, but what a fantastic idea. Your genius amazes me.
      PS: And yes, it is my real face. Aren’t you stunned by my charm and good looks?

  2. Great review of my town. We live 2 blocks from”downtown” on the mountain side. And there is always so much to do up here. Car shows, craft shows & relaxing

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