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Kingsbury Grade down to Highway 108, Highway 395, East Side of the Northern Sierra Nevada | High Sierra Backpacker

Kingsbury Grade down to Highway 108, Highway 395, East Side of the Northern Sierra Nevada

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 27 November 2011

Over the years I've hitch-hiked to, and walked in and out of many remote High Sierra trailheads. The locals take note the first year, and by the third year they consider you a part of their local scene: The Backpacker.

I was named "The Walking Dude" by locals in Walker before they knew my name. I'm one of the rare backpackers that gets given a trail name by the locals off the trail. The local Marines dubbed me as "Nails." I asked why the hell they were calling me "Nails," and they all laughed, and said in unison, "Al, hard as Nails..."

Steve's BBQ in Walker.

I had family living along the Eastern Sierra at Walker, at the Southern end of Antelope Valley in the 50s to the early 70s. I've always liked the people out there, and this generation along with their kids are good people.

Being a backpacking bum requires me to hitchhike, which allows me to travel without the feeling or effect of being sealed into a car. Locals pick me up hitching, locals hang out with me at the local store, and I get the pleasure of meeting the local folks that most visitors miss when they wizz by in their cars.

And when the folks decide they need to visit the city, they always have a place to stay with their backpacker buddy.

The towns heading North from Walker on Highway 395 are Coleville, Topaz (not a town) and a little ways North of the border into Nevada, Hellbrook Junction, as I like to call Holebrook Junction.

The Lake Topaz Lodge sits on the Nevada side of Highway 395. Look for good meal deals, the cheapest gas in the area, and the cool locals that work there. Stay away from the gaming tables at Topaz. The odds don't seem to work correctly at many of the smaller clubs in Nevada...

Since Bob passed away I can't suggest his fine cafe, The Country Bear, in Walker as it closed. The next best place for breakfast and lunch is the Meadow Cliff cafe just South of Coleville. Great breakfasts there...and great waitresses too. Good old country girls.

Donnie and Jenna in Gardinerville.

Continuing North of the California-Nevada border, and past Holebrook Junction brings you out of the North side of Antelope Valley into Gardinervile, sitting on the South side of the Carson Valley.

Jenna brings it.

From Gardinerville you can access either Highway 88 or Kingsbury Grade West. Continuing North you enter the completely over-developed Carson Valley around Carson City, on your way to Reno. I had to head to Reno one year to hit the VA there for a resupply of anti-inflamatories for my knee after completing a Tahoe to Whitney hike. They took care of me, even though I was far from my home clinic...

Steve introducing swinging fun to a little one.

Heading South on Highway 395, about 14 miles South of  Walker's position on the South side of Antelope Valley sits the Sonora Pass Road.  South of Walker we pass through the gorge that brings the normally placid and scenic West Carson River down to Lake Topaz.

First adventure at the end of a rope.

 This gorge was not cut during the scenic placid flows of the West Walker, but during its frequent fiercely raging floods. Careful observation shows you exactly how the Walker River cut this gorge when it brings down massive flood waters about every 15 or 20 years.

 The powerful thaw, channeled through this gorge, tears everything in the gorge up. The road, the river-side campgrounds, trees, houses, and about anything else in the gorge is swept away. Huge boulders roll down the flow like a kid's marbles...

Heading South from Hwy 395's junction with Hwy 108 we are entering a sparcely populated zone of scenic beauty between the Eastern Sierra and the various mountain ranges to our East during our drive South to Lone Pine. You will see some of the most scenic views of the Eastern Sierra along the Highway 395 corridor from Gardinerville to Lone Pine.

North of Antelope Valley Gardinerville starts bringing population densites up a big notch as you enter the Southern end of the Carson Valley.

Jake and pal getting ready to fly.

Gardinerville sits in the high desert Carson Valley directly to the East of South Lake Tahoe, over the interceeding Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada. Kingsbury Grade will bring us over to the Southeast corner of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe, or we can take Highway 88, the Carson Pass Road over the Sierra Nevada just South of the Tahoe Basin.

Chance kicking it.

Before reaching Carson Pass on Highway 88 you can turn North at the junction with Highway 89 to enter the Southern Lake Tahoe Basin at Meyers.

 Cheers to you, and my fine friends in Walker and the Eastern Sierra along Highway 395.

 Get out of your car and meet the people that live under the shadow of the Eastern Sierra.

 You may be glad you did, and you may add aspects to your backpacking that will really enrich the experiece.


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