It was Labor Day weekend and we wanted to go somewhere off the beaten path to avoid the crowds of unwashed masses. Greg suggested we check out the Dome Land Wilderness, with a name like that how could we argue?
Greg and Carly came from the south, and I was coming from the north. We met at the Kernville Ranger Station. The rangers and people of Kernville were über friendly. One of the rangers even invited Greg back to go climbing :)
We car camped at Big Meadow the first night. Big Meadow can be accessed via the myriad of dirt roads that run through the park. Our approach was from the Kern River Highway (Mountain Highway 99, M99). We took Sherman Pass Road until it met with a dirt road (Forest Route 22S12 -- the dirt roads all have fancy names like this). These roads are mostly sufficient for any type of vehicle (in good weather conditions).
Big Meadow is at 8,000 feet and it's spectacular. We left the crowds camping by the river on M99, and saw only one other party camping that night. This is a great place to take your family, there's lots of sites to camp around the meadow.
The next day, we drove around to the other side of Big Meadow to the Manter Meadow trail head. The rangers had warned us about snakes, and we arrived to a rude awakening at the trail head. Just as we arrived, 3 hikers were coming off the trail. They told us that someone in their party got bit by a rattle snake. The young lad was doing OK, but was 2.5 miles up the trail at the meadow.
We offered to assist, but there wasn't much we could do. We headed out, a little weary. When we arrived at Manter Meadow, we found the rest of their party and got filled in on the details of the snake bite incident: the lad literally did not look before he leaped over a log, and there was a lot of log-leaping to do. The area had burned several years ago, and there were lots of downed trees and logs to cross. After you get to Manter Meadow, the trails can be difficult to see. Suffice it to say, we were very careful crossing the log fields and often opted to walk through the meadow.
There are some really nice camp spots at the east end of the meadow. We rounded the corner and headed east towards the South Fork of the Kern river, following the trail to Little Manter Meadow and beyond. It was easy to loose the trail here. The fire, resulting flash floods, over-growth, and general under-use of the trail meant that if you weren't paying attention, you might end up doing some bush whacking (and we did!)
There are signs and trail markers along the way. A good map/compass/GPS is advised.