Author photo

By Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

Weldon no, Kernville yes

Day Trippin' with Mel


March 30, 2024

I've written a couple of times about winter walks, fine places to go for a day or an afternoon to just take an easy stroll on a cool winter day. I've also been saving my favorite winter walk – in the woods at the Audubon Kern River Preserve in Weldon – which was what I wanted to write about today. But, alas, as sometimes happens, my day trip to Weldon did not go as I had planned.

I headed out of Tehachapi on a rare sunny day with high hopes of taking a walk through the woods in the Kern River Valley. I go there often – usually a couple of times a year – because walking through those Weldon woods reminds me of walking through the timber back in my home state of Iowa. As it is a nature preserve, it's also a great place to catch a glimpse of all different kinds of wildlife, especially birds.

The last few times I've gone up there, over the last couple of years, the dirt road into the preserve has been flooded and I couldn't get to the visitor center or the walking path. I've been disappointed but not deterred, and I was hoping that this day was going to be the time that I could get through.

It was not meant to be however, as the place now has a closed sign, the road is barricaded, and the Audubon Kern River Preserve sign is gone. I know I won't be the only one who will miss that little nature setting and the sense of tranquility it offered.

Mel Makaw.

Kernville is full of shops and historic landmarks.

But the day was not lost for me as I always enjoy a drive through what is known as Cowboy Country. To get there I took the 58 West, then the Caliente exit, then followed Caliente Creek Road through Twin Oaks and Piute into Walker Basic, where I hooked up with Cal-Bodfish Road and drove through Havilah and on into Lake Isabella, then on to Weldon. It was a beautiful drive – the hills are a gorgeous green, the trees are budding out and the lake is full. It's a little early still for wildflowers, but they'll be along soon.

Once I found out I couldn't take my walk in Weldon, I drove back to Lake Isabella and turned off to go to Kernville. Actually, Kernville is another favorite destination of mine because there are so many things I like to do there.

In the mood to take a little stroll that day, I parked by the river park and did just that, then sat on a bench in the sun taking in the sounds of the rushing river. It was a Tuesday and not very busy, but there were some picnickers and dog walkers, and kids playing on the playground equipment in the distance.

It was such a lovely day I could have stayed there longer just people watching and enjoying the ducks that were hanging out by my bench, but I opted to go into town and poke through a couple of the shops instead. There are a number of different interesting gift and antique shops, along with river outfitting stores. The museum is also a favorite haunt of mine, but I didn't take time to check it out on this trip.

I did take time for a late lunch at Cheryl's Diner, which serves a variety of home cooked meals (as opposed to the many burger joints in town). I feasted on a yummy open-faced, roasted turkey sandwich.

Later, with the sun setting low in the sky, I headed home, opting to come back via the canyon (Highway 178 East), another beautiful drive, this one a narrow winding road through giant canyon walls and right by the river.

No matter how you get there, the drive to Lake Isabella and Kernville is always a scenic adventure, unique in our county. You can take the backroads like I did, or you can take California 58 West to Commanche Drive and go over to the 178 West, which takes you up through the canyon and on into Lake Isabella (follow the signs to Kernville). Or you could go the other way: take California 58 East to the 14 freeway, then north to the 178 (just before the Inyokern/Ridgecrest turnoff), then west on 178 to Weldon and Lake Isabella, through the mountains and a Joshua Tree Forest.

Mel Makaw.

In Kernville you can stop in at the ranger station and get all kinds of information about the surrounding area.

I've always loved taking drives, almost as much as getting to a destination, and any of these drives is a great way to see some beautiful countryside (I almost always go one way and come back a different way, just for variety). And even when a desired destination is closed, like the Kern River Preserve, a drive is never a waste. As it turns out, it was a great day for me to spend in Kernville, even though that wasn't what I had originally planned.

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer and avid day-tripper; she welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions at


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