Swimming in the Kern River

Hanging out on the boulders by the Kern River. Courtesy photo
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By Olga Kaczmar, Newhall Community Contributor

 

We were outrageous.  Patti, Lisa, Leslie and I, four cuties,… who after a 40-hour workweek were ready to roar.  We are women, we are strong, we are invincible sang Helen Ready.

“We’re going up to the mountains this weekend. I used to live in Pierpoint Springs and I’ll show you around,” said Lisa.  We packed our bedrolls and bathing suits and off we went up Rt. 5, up Rt. 99.  We were in high spirits and sang to the radio and blew kisses to boys in passing cars.

Jumping off of the cliff into the Kern River. Courtesy photo

We ended up at a bar called Cedar Slope, a landing in the Sequoia National Forest halfway up the mountain. There were no other buildings around but this weekend cabin/bar, which served the local cowboys, campers and fishermen.  We ate burgers, drank drafts, danced to the new line dances and kissed the cowboys until closing at 2 am.

Lisa knew the bartender/owner from living there in earlier years and arranged accommodations for us in the upstairs bedroom under the rafters, with cots lined up where patrons slept off their drunk before heading home.  We left the boys laying in the grass below and howling at the moon.

In the morning, the cowboys, with plenty of beer and sandwiches, took us to Camp Stevenson, the swimming hole they knew along the Kern River.  It was totally beautiful with the big rocks, tall pine trees and various levels of swimming holes amid the boulders.  Many boys were already diving off the rocks and cliffs.

The girls and I jumped off the 20’ foot cliff in the water and slapped ourselves a high-five for our bravery.  The boys then moved onto the 40’ foot cliff and began diving off that one. When I had enough liquid courage, I said I could do that.

When I hit the water from the 40’ cliff, it stripped me of my biking bathing suit and the boys hooted, hollered and clapped until I retrieved my suit.

We swam around all afternoon. Then the rushing water caught me and dragged me down the river.  In desperation, I caught onto a log nestled in the shoreline ahead of the rapids, and hung on.  The water was swift and I slowly pulled myself along inside of the log to the bank. The log had saved me from going over the rapids.  I walked back through thicket brush to where the gang was.

“Where the heck were you?” someone said.  “We’re ready to go back.”

“I got swept away. I had to find my way back along the river bank,” I said.

Olga and Shooter the Airedale. Courtesy photo

We spent the evening again in our attic room at Cedar Slope, tired and sunburned, and prepared to go home the next morning.  It was a long way to Los Angeles to the life we knew.

“Let’s go see the log. I want to photograph the log that saved me,” I said.

We found the swimming hole, but NO LOG.  The log had been swept away by the current.  By divine grace, it had been there to save me and was now down the river. At the base of the mountain, a sign had said ‘280 people have drowned in the Kern since 1968’.   I bowed my head and thanked the Lord for saving the young, the stupid, and the careless one.

 

 

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