Bucket List – Kern River

Bucket List is a feature that will routinely discuss multi-day excursions around the state of California, as well as outside the state.  This intended as a travel guide and resource for areas that would otherwise offer little information.

Nestled in the foothills of the south western region of the Sierra Nevada mountains is the Kern River.  Fed by runoff from Mount Whitney, Kern River is most notably known for it’s white water rafting and bed & breakfasts.

The weather in the canyon itself is dynamic.  Ground temperatures can be hot and dry, while rain can roll in at any moment and coat the surrounding mountain peaks with snow.

kern river

A scant 3 hour drive north of Los Angeles, Kern river serves as a perfect get away for those looking to immerse themselves in nature for a day.  The river serves as a gateway to the Sierras for those living in the southern half of the state.

River side campgrounds are a plenty, and reservations can be made here, here, or here.  Camping is plentiful in the area, so while reservations might get you a better spot next to the river, they’re not necessary.

This means Kern river is open to the best kind of travel accommodations, impulsive weekend trips.  Outdoors adventures are not meant to be planned out, down to each and every step of the way.  Nature has no schedule, and planning minor details to your trip prevents you from living in the moment.

Swimming in the river is strongly discouraged.  The river itself was named after Edward M Kern, who nearly drowned to death while venturing out into the waters.  Kern has strong under currents, so even when it looks safe, the river can grab you at any moment and take you down it’s turbulent path.


Five Household Items That Can Save Your Life

We’ve all heard it.  Two backpackers went out on a seemingly easy hiking trip but fail to return.  This situation is more common than not, and can happen even on a trail you may have visited once or twice.  While there’s no remedy to prevent getting lost, there are remedies to improve your survival odds.

Rather than preaching the preparation of an ’emergency kit’, I’d like to tell you about five small everyday items that can be used to increase your survival odds.  Emergency kits are often cumbersome and overlooked because of the additional weight they add to a backpackers payload.  In total, these items should weigh less then half a pound and fit inside a pill box.



Aside from their intended use (which is also helpful while camping), Condoms are a vital survival tool.  Most utensils used for storing water are bulky and inconvenient, but condoms come in a small package (pun!) and can hold up to a gallon of water without breaking.  It’s still unknown whether the flavored condoms will actually make the water taste better, but this will help prolongue dehydration nonetheless.



Whether you wear them or not, glasses are the Swiss Army Knife of this blog post.  Aside from making you see better, a pair of glasses can be used as a distress signal.  By holding the glasses at an angle relative to the sun, the glasses can grab the attention of somebody up to a mile away.

But that’s not all… glasses can be used to start a fire.  Remember lighting ants on fire with a magnifying glass as a kid?  Same concept, just gather some kindling, get a good angle under the sun, and hold the glasses about an inch above the kindling.  The glasses must be convex (usually prescription), and made of glass.  One of the most potent sources of kindling can be found using the lint in your socks, and this generally burns quickly, so make sure to have something that burns a little slower below.  You’ll have to be a little patient, and need to blow on the ashes to give it a little oxygen.


Dental Floss

We all know you have some of this buried deep in your bathroom.  You’ll remember this as that stringy stuff your dentist always gives you, but you always forget to use.  To quote my favorite comedian, the late and great Mitch Hedberg “People who smoke cigarettes, they say ‘Man you don’t know how hard it is to quit smoking’ Yes I do – It’s as hard as it is to start flossing!”

Dental floss is another multi tool.  It’s importnat to note, that floss is extremely valuable as fishing line.  Dental floss can also be used as a belt or shoestring.  But most importantly, floss is a vital tool to adhere sticks together for shelter.  By weaving inbetween poles, floss can hold wilderness shelters together with enough strength to lay brush on top to help preserve heat.



That’s right, Fritos can increase your survival odds.  Corn chips are generally made from dough that’s derived from corn or maize and then deep fried, making these chips caked in oil.  Corn chips burn unlike anything else.  They light as easily as kindling, but they burn slowly, making for the ideal fire starter.

By building a fire with larger logs on top and smaller sticks towards the bottom, you can place a few corn chips near the smaller stuff and let them slowly start the remaining logs.  You might have to feed the fire some smaller sticks until the larger logs light, but if the flame goes out, you can just as easily light another corn chip.


Paper Clips

Paper clips make for the perfect emergency fish hooks, should you find yourself stranded near a body of water.  Fasten together a long pole and your dental floss, and you’ll have yourself a nice makeshift fishing pole.  Paper clips are small and add almost no weight, making this tool a near necessity for any backpacker.

Escape LA – Hermit Falls

Welcome to Sixty Eight West, dedicated to inspiring outdoor adventure.

This is the beginning of a blog which requires a little audience participation.  This is a blog which requires some creativity on your end.  And if read correctly, this blog will inspire you to get outside and explore the world around you.

Eighty Six West will routinely visit a few different columns.  Based in Southern California, we’ll visit day hikes just a stones throw from the urbal sprawl of Los Angeles.  We’ll provide insightful equipment reviews, resources for planning the big backpacking excursion, and MacGyver-like camping inventions that are borderline genius.  Expect some music reviews for the dusty trail, and maybe some interviews as well.


For our first installment of Escape LA, we’ll discuss Hermit Falls.

Santa Anita

Less than 25 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles (no traffic) sits Big Anta Anita Canyon in the hills overlooking Arcadia.  Head east toward Pasadena, and continue along the 210 to Santa Anita Blvd, exit and make a left.  Stay on Santa Anita as the road begins to climb into the canyon and park once you reach the Chantry Flats Pack Station.  Before you park, remember to buy an Adventure pass ($5), otherwise the ranger will ticket your car!

chantry falts

From the parking area, follow the asphalt utility road downhill.  After about half a mile, look for a small dirt trail with a sign labeled ‘Hermit Falls’ that breaks off from the main road.  Although it does not look like much, this trail descends deep into Santa Anita Canyon.

As you wind into the canyon, it’s easy to forget how close to Los Angeles you are.  The foliage is lush, water is plentiful, and animals are abundant.  Once you reach the bottom of the descent, you’ll find a couple cabins.

These historic landmarks were constructed between 1890 and 1920,  and are remnants from the recreation era of the San Gabriel mountains.  While many more existed at the time, these remaining cabins have eluded wildfires and flooding for nearly a century.

Today, they are privately owned and exist much as they did 100 years ago, with supplies hauled in on the backs of burros.

To reach the falls, follow the creek downstream.  As the trail crosses over the river, the trail will be ambiguous but picks up just before the first dam.  As this trail winds around another cabin and some vibrant wetlands, you can help but feel at peace.  The air is cooler this deep in the canyon, and the stream provides subtle tranquility.

After about a half a mile, you’ll come to the main swimming area.  Two natural water slides and three cliff-jump spots (20 ft, 30 ft, and 40-45 ft) provide ample opportunity to cool off from the summer heat.  Bring a couple beers and some goodies, this is a great summer hang out spot and you will not be alone.  MAKE SURE TO PACK OUT ALL OF YOUR TRASH.