L D Waller, Pack Trip into Kern River, Summer 1934

Year based on “Saturday June 30” written in the text.

I have inserted some information in brackets to make the diary clearer, as I transcribed from his note book ~ Richard Waller

Left home Saturday June 30 at 8:00 PM. Arrived Paso Robles 10PM. Arrived Lemore 12 PM. Arrived Porterville 2:00 AM. Camped 9 miles east of Porterville on river and turned in at 2:30 AM. Roosters, owls, mosquitoes, no sleep.

July 1. Rose at 4:30 AM [drove] 9 miles back to Porterville for breakfast and on to Camp Nelson arriving at 8:30 AM then on to Quaking Aspen Meadows arrived at 10 AM and rested, altitude 6500 ft., very tired.

[ Pack station at Quaking Aspen could be Rutherford’s?]

July 2. Up at 4:30 AM packed and started for Camp Lewis at 8 AM with 6 pack mules. Fred [Goble, partner in Preisker, Goble and Twitchell attorneys, still in business today as Twitchell and Rice in Santa Maria] Bill [Keefe? ], Doris [Goble, daughter of Fred, sister of Lorraine, as a small child I took dance lessons from her, no idea why I took dance lessons, but I did, My mother says that Doris was glamorous] John [Waller, our father age 16] and I rode horses Jim [? ] walked and fished on the way. Arrived at Willow Meadows at 4 PM having made 15 miles that day. Camped and to bed when John blew taps at 8 PM.

July 3rd. Up at 4:30 AM packed and on the way by 8 AM arriving at Camp Lewis at 12 noon making 10 mile[s] for the day or a total of 25 mile[s]. Made camp and the mule[s] and pack horse[es] returned to [Quaking] Aspen Meadow. John and Jim went fishing and John brought home 2 fish, the first to be brought to camp. And Jim brought 8 or so, we had trout for dinner and soup and marmalade. Fred and Bill worked like beavers getting the camp in order. We are camped by the side of a rushing brook [Coyote Creek]. Which flows into the Kern River about 100 yards away.


July 4. Up at 7:30 pretty late rising for this trip but it was the 4th so we indulged. [undecipherable] and John played colors. Breakfast of hot cakes, sausage, coffee (good). John and Jim left [for] fishing. Bill and Fred ‘scouted‘?? table. Doris washed dishes and I wiped. Everyone is so energetic that the only job I can grab so far is dish wiping. Deer crossed the camp. [I] shaved for the 1st time today. Altitude about 6500 feet. [I] fished up at the bridge and caught 1 fished and lost a spinner. Evening Fred lit 5 Chinese lanterns and after dinner we paraded up to Conterno’s [store. There is a Conterno Peak] carrying the lanterns with John heading the parade with a bugle march, to bed about 9 PM.


July 5. Up at 4:30 and breakfast and hiked to Golden Trout Creek. Doris said it was two miles but seemed like five. I think it was 5 miles and it seemed like 10. For half the trip the ground was flat, but the other half seemed straight up on end with huge boulders everywhere in just the wrong place. Then a hike straight down to the creek. One continuous cascade of rushing and falling water hedged in with towering cliffs of volcanic rock. We immediately began fishing for the famous golden trout as this is the only place in the world where the specie is pure. A huge waterfall at the lower end of the creek making it impossible for the other trout to come up the stream and breed. At noon when all assembled Doris had caught 12, John 12, I 11, Jim 9, Fred 9 and Bill who did not do any fishing caught 1 [?]. We cooked 55 golden trout for lunch right on the edge of the stream and were they good!


The waterfalls on the upper end were magnificent. We started back for the camp about 3:30. Fred, Doris and John taking a new route up over one of the falls and around to another trail and found an easier way out, something that had never been done before and arrived back a good time ahead of Bill and I who returned to camp the same way we went. We were all pretty tired from the trip and were all in bed at 8 PM after a dinner of chile con carne and golden trout.
July 6. We all stayed in bed until 8 AM and this was supposed to be a rest day. John and Jim went on a trip down the river fishing after breakfast. Doris was fishing later on her own while Bill and Fred worked all day in the camp and cooked corned pork and cabbage and as a piece de resistance made a lemon pie. It seems that I am the only one that did any resting. However, as they continue to feed me I am ok so far. Doris returned with 8 trout, Jim with 2 and John 2 one of which was 13 ¾ inches long, a rainbow. John and Jim had hiked about 10 miles to Little Kern Lake and back. Tonight [we go] to Conterno’s, deer in the meadow.

July 7. Up at 5 AM Breakfast, 6:30 on to Coyote Creek Meadows arrived at 10:30 AM, 6 miles in 4 hours all up hill. Altitude 9500 ft. John and Doris and Jim arrived much sooner and fished up. John had limit of trout by noon. Jim and Doris got limit. I got 8 and Fred cooked the trout right beside the creek. John ate 15 and then as he said, came up for air and ate 9 more. We had no bread or knives or forks so we ate the fish that were alive a few minutes before with our fingers. We all caught all the fish we wanted how they did bite every time we threw in a hook or fly. The meadow was beautiful. John and Doris and Jim returned and Bill and I left about 4 PM leaving Fred to visit Mr. Chiow [sp?]. Who had come in with his party from Mineral Springs [Mineral King?] . Bill and I made the trip back in two hours. John made it in 1 ½ taking shortcuts down the mountain [father always warned me about taking shortcuts down mountains!] We were all tired as we had climbed from 6500 feet to 9500 feet and back, so to bed by 8 PM.

Sunday, July 8. We all stayed in bed until 9 AM except Fred who was up and around early. John ate a 15 inch trout for breakfast and 11 large hotcakes. We all loafed all day more or less ( I more and the others less ). In the evening we went to Conterno’s store about ¼ mile and sat around his campfire until 8:30.


Monday, July 9. Bill, Fred and Jim as usual were up early. Fred brought his breakfast and ate it at the foot of my bed, a new refinement in torture. John as usual ate a large breakfast, a boiled egg, a trout, some sausage and about 6 biscuits with jam. All went fishing except Fred and I. Fred spent more of the morning making gooseberry jell [not a misspelling, apparently the pre jello term] from gooseberries we had picked yesterday. I as usual rested and read. This is a funny climate. I never realized how fast the sun moves. I place my bed in the shade of a nice pine tree and lay down for a nice nap when the sun moves her hot rays of light on me. Before the morning is over I am wore out moving my bed into the shade and by evening I have made a complete circle. It is hard work being lazy here alright. Fred has cooked the gooseberries and we do not know yet whether we will eat or drink them, only time will tell if they are going to jell.

It’s noon and John is back and has just thrown his line into the creek here and caught a trout. He could easily have landed it with his rod right from the water into the frying pan on the hot stove. [My mother, who is the last person still around to have gone on one of these trips to this camp, which were done for decades, has told me that the stove was kept in pieces hidden in the rocks between trips. She made one trip, in 1956, her first and only time on horseback] John saw two deer and a brush rabbit this morning.

Mr. Conterno’s wife [is] coming in on horseback over the trail by Golden Trout Creek. Last night was quite cold and very windy toward early morning. The wind seemed to blow from all directions right down into your sleeping bag.


In the morning when I wake up I generally look at Johns bed, he is snugged down almost at the bottom. It is a good thing there is not a hole in the bottom or he would work right on down through and out.

Then I look over at Fred’s bed and it is generally empty with Fred up and cooking breakfast. That makes me feel guilty for still being in bed. Then I look at a pile that is supposed to be where Bill is sleeping and I figure he is also up, until a slight wriggle proves that he is still in bed, that makes me feel better and I take another nap. However as soon as the sun gets over the mountain and shines on the bed, the heat just makes you get up. It is curious to watch the sun strike Johns bed and a few minutes later a convulsion takes place way down in the bed like a Chrysalis trying to emerge into a butterfly, then a hand shoves out, then a shock of blond hair followed by a face with blinking eyes which slowly develop into a large grin. This happens regularly every morning.


Fred is still experimenting with his gooseberries and we don’t know yet whether we will eat them or drink them. He says he is experimenting with them in different stages, whichever way they turn out, we know they will be good. Everything we eat or drink is good. Fred and Bill certainly love to cook and work around the camp. Jim fishes and hunts arrowheads, Doris bathes and washes the dishes (I dry them). John fishes or reads, but Fred and Bill are the cooks par excellence.

We each have our private bathing hole. I’ve not used mine much.

Fred has systems, whenever he takes a walk he always brings back an armful of wood. I can never remember to do this. It must be early training that counts.

The Kern River here runs due north and south for 20 miles almost in a straight line through a canyon. On the east side sheer cliffs about 3,000 feet rise straight from the river and on the west side high mountains.


Our camp is situated on the banks of Coyote Creek about 100 yards from where it enters the Kern River. Our dining table, stove and food is right at the bank of the creek about 2 feet above the water on a small ledge. This is a typical babbling brook and you must talk fairly loud to be heard above the noise of the dashing water. Everything is very neatly arranged, coal oil boxes being made into shelves. We have table and benches to sit on all improvised by these hardy mountaineers whom I am privileged to be with. We have a folding sheet iron stove with a four foot chimney mounted on a rock altar right at the edge of the brook. [it is entirely possible that this is a different stove than was there in 1956 twenty two years later] The whole is shaded by a large tarpaulin stretched between the trees with wire.

At the upper part of the brook by some falls are stored our perishable supplies, lettuce, tomatoes, butter and any supplies we want to keep cold. At the lower end is were we wash and the bathing places are still lower down in nice secluded spots. The bank then rises to our backs about 20 feet and there are our sleeping quarters. We all sleep in the open under the stars except Jim who has a kind of a pup tent which he crawls into. Fred and Doris have a good sized tent handy for dressing and keeping clothing in. Bill has a very large tent which we used for the same purpose and which we could get into if it rains.

We look like quite a little settlement. We have discovered however in the middle just in front of Jim’s tent a grave. We do not know if it is a horse or Indian. [!] To the east of our sleeping quarters about 100 yards away is the Kern River about 100 feet wide which here is one continuous series of rapids with deep holes where the fish are caught. In bed at night we can hear the water of both Coyote Creek and the Kern. The sound is like a mighty wind in the tree tops. The camp is very beautiful. As I write these lines Fred is still working with his gooseberries.

I am sitting at the dining table and can look up the creek and see a series of more beautiful cascades [not decipherable] with pine, cedars, willows, alders, ferns and grass. I can look down the creek to the huge walls of Kern Canyon rising 3,000 feet more or less in one sheer wall of granite but dotted all over with pines growing on the granite ledges.

Less than 200 yards from camp is a soda spring. This water is regular charged soda water all that would be necessary for perfect happiness would be a nice spring alongside it of Scotch Whiskey. Whiskey and soda is perfection. Various flavorings were brought along and soda pop was quite popular with Doris and John. The other members of the camp however preferred their soda water straight or flavored with something stronger.

The air here is so dry that we are continuously drinking water. Trout are abundant but still require some skill to catch. A fly is the sporty thing to use but worms are not entirely unknown.

Golden Trout Creek where we went July 5 appears more beautiful the more one thinks of it. At the time of being there one was so tired by the climb and excited by catching the golden trout than one was really unable to realize the true beauty of the place. These trout are really golden and look like glorified goldfish. The whole stretch of creek for about a mile from the lower fall to the upper fall being one continuous series of rapids and cascades the white tumbling water and the gold trout making a celestial gold fish paradise of such beauty that there is no doubt that it is one of the great beauty spots of the world and if more accessible would be visited by millions of people. I cannot conceive it possible for any more beautiful combination of water and fish to exist.


Doris caught the biggest fish today, 15 inches long. We can’t quite get used to Bill’s Dungarees. They are horizon blue, we don’t know whether he is out of the French Army, the Navy or San Quentiin.

The gooseberry jell goes swell in whiskey.

Tuesday July 10. All went fishing down the river to the lakes. I stayed in camp. Jim caught the biggest fish, 19 inches. Doris lost one she claims was 24 inches.

Wednesday July 11. Jim, Bill and John off to Golden Trout Creek about 7 AM and returned in the afternoon with the limit of golden trout all around 8 inches some of which were pickled in brine and some dried to bring home.

Thursday July 12. All hands fishing so that we would have complete limits to bring home. John and I fished in the lower end of Golden Trout Creek. In the afternoon we broke as much camp as we could, expecting an early start the next morning. About 5PM our packer arrived with the mules and horses and we paid our last evening visit to the campfire of Conterno’s. To bed early for the
big day tomorrow.

This is the end of the diary. There is a quote from a sign post near camp.

Ranger Station

Mt. Whitney

Coyote Pass 6

Camp Nelson 33

Trout Meadow 12

Soda Spring

Lewis Camp 1/4m

Sequoia National Park

Kern Canyon Entrance

Department of interior

Richard Waller, Pack Trip into Kern River, Summer 2010

I with my horse Robinson Jeffers, and my pack mule, Betty, followed in the footsteps of my Grandfather,  looking for traces of his trip 76 years ago.

We drove through Paso Robles, across to Porterville and up to the Golden Trout Wilderness. The pack station descendent of Rutherford's is Golden Trout Pack Station. http://www.goldentroutpacktrains.com


I camped at the trail head and headed out the following day. LD and crew camped at Willow Spring, I camped a few miles short at a small meadow.


Camp at Willow Springs


Concrete and stone water catchment at Willow Springs



We continued the next day and camped at Little Kern Lake


Little Kern Lake


Betty and Jeffers at camp.


Trail section enroute to Coyote Creek


View from trail enroute to Coyote Creek


This is a remarkable photo taken in 1962, Fred Goble and Bill Keefe, the Fred and Bill of LD's diary are pictured, along with Jean Goble Hagerman, Doris's sister, Fred's daughter. Jean was born at the same birthing hospital at the same time as my father, they shared the nursery in July 1918. This photo commemorates 70 years of Fred making this trip, his first trip in 1892, before there was a Sequoia National Park or National Forest. The photo is on the wall at the Kern River Ranger Station, just inside the park.


Kern River near confluence with Coyote Creek, photo taken from suspension bridge.

Based on LD's descriptions I was able to locate their camp.


"The bank then rises to our backs about 20 feet and there are our sleeping quarters. We all sleep in the open under the stars except Jim who has a kind of a pup tent which he crawls into. Fred and Doris have a good sized tent handy for dressing and keeping clothing in. Bill has a very large tent which we used for the same purpose and which we could get into if it rains."


" Our camp is situated on the banks of Coyote Creek about 100 yards from where it enters the Kern River. Our dining table, stove and food is right at the bank of the creek about 2 feet above the water on a small ledge. This is a typical babbling brook and you must talk fairly loud to be heard above the noise of the dashing water. Everything is very neatly arranged, coal oil boxes being made into shelves. We have table and benches to sit on all improvised by these hardy mountaineers whom I am privileged to be with. We have a folding sheet iron stove with a four foot chimney mounted on a rock altar right at the edge of the brook."


I found this old can, could this be an artifact they left behind?





"Less than 200 yards from camp is a soda spring. This water is regular charged soda water all that would be necessary for perfect happiness would be a nice spring alongside it of Scotch Whiskey. Whiskey and soda is perfection. Various flavorings were brought along and soda pop was quite popular with Doris and John. The other members of the camp however preferred their soda water straight or flavored with something stronger."

This is the soda spring today, it does not look very appetizing.


I am sitting at the dining table and can look up the creek and see a series of more beautiful cascades [not decipherable] with pine, cedars, willows, alders, ferns and grass. I can look down the creek to the huge walls of Kern Canyon rising 3,000 feet more or less in one sheer wall of granite but dotted all over with pines growing on the granite ledges.


My mother told us of a section of trail so narrow the horse had to swing its feet out over the Kern River far below, I thought she might be exaggerating, until I rode the trail: