Discovering the Wilderness (Hiking at the Wind Wolves Preserve)
Oh, play me some mountain music,
Like grandma and grandpa used to play...
Then I'll float on down the river...
To a Cajun hideaway.
Since moving to California four years ago, I have quickly rediscovered my love for hiking. I'll probably post about several hikes in upcoming posts (I already posted about the Hollywood Sign Hike and my hike in Muir Woods), but today I will dedicate to my favorite hike as of late - the Wind Wolves Preserve in Kern County, California.
The Wind Wolves Preserve is part of The Wildlands Conservancy, a non-profit nature preserve system "... comprised of fifteen preserves encompassing 147,000 acres of diverse mountain, valley, desert, river, and oceanfront landscapes." The Wind Wolves Preserve is the largest of the fifteen, covering over 93,000 acres. The elevation of the park ranges from over 600' to just over 6,000', which gives it the unique ability to expose visitors/hikers to a variety of climates and ecosystems in one area. Late winter and early spring are my favorite times to visit - this is when the hills are at their greenest, and the wildflowers are in impressive bloom!
There are a number of established trails throughout the preserve, but I've really only mastered two. I want to do the others, but they're just far enough to be too far for my dog, so I haven't made it out there yet. (My little basset hound is a trooper, but 3 to 4 miles seems to be his limit.). The trail I most often take with my dog is the San Emigdio Canyon Trail (pictured above). The full length of the San Emigdio Canyon Trail is just over 9 miles long, but we never go that far with Diego (my dog).
When hiking trails like this, I always look at the trail map and establish a goal turnaround point. I know my dog's limits (and mine), so I plan ahead. The worst thing you can do when you're hiking is get ahead of yourself, hike too far, and not have the stamina (or enough water) to get back safely. We always hike out to the willows/wetlands on this particular trail, and turn back. To this point, San Emigdo Canyon Trail is easy enough for almost all fitness levels and you get just enough elevation gain to feel like you have to work for it. It's not very shady, however, so take plenty of water and wear sunscreen! I've been told that you get greater elevation gain as you continue toward the reflection pond (approx. 1.8 miles further), so I rate the entirety of the trail more moderate than easy.
The other trail I like to take is the Tule Elk Trail. Both the San Emigdo Canyon and Tule Elk Trails start at the same location, just south of the parking area. You'll veer to the left (east) for the San Emigdo Canyon Trail, and to the right for the Tule Elk Trail. The Tule Elk Trail looks deceptively easy. It's not easy, but it's not too hard. During the first two miles, you will steadily gain roughly 1000'. But then you get to the top... Oh, how it's worth it!
If you're smarter than me, you will follow the trail as it makes it way to the valley south of the summit, circling back to the parking area via the El Camino Viejo Bike Trail. This will give you a total distance of 7.8 miles, but your legs will thank you. If you're not as smart as me, you'll turnaround at the summit and go back the way you came, shaving off only 2 miles from your trip, but it's a steeper descent. (oh, my burning shins!) Haha. Lesson learned!
One of these days I'll go without my dog and hike the full length of the San Emigdo Canyon Trail. The folks at Nobody Hikes in LA did the full hike - you can read about it on their website. It looks awesome! Kern County is home to some of my favorite hikes in California, several within an hours drive of Bakersfield (Sequoia Park, Kern Canyon, Tehachapi, Wind Wolves, etc) and only two short hours from LA. I definitely recommend adding it to your list of hiking destinations! Hope you have a fun and active weekend, my friends!