Mill Creek Hike

March 17, 2007

In a gray pine that was peppered with woodpecker holes there were stashed acorns
Mill Creek tumbles down a beautiful canyon off of Breckenridge Mountain's north slope and eventually empties into the Kern River.  The trail along the creek, Forest Service Trail 31E78, is a really nice one to hike this time of year.  There is plentiful water in the creek, abundant wildflowers, and tons of newts!  Sierra newts, Taricha torosa sierrae, are endemic to California and range from northern Shasta County south to Breckenridge Mountain.  This is the best time of year to spot newts as they are hanging out, and reproducing, in slow moving pools in creeks such as Mill Creek.  It is not uncommon to see a whole bunch of newts in one swarming tumbling mass and they pay no mind to you and this is cool because you can get good upclose photos :)

I hiked this trail on Saturday with a group of folks from the Kern River Valley Hiking Club and a friend from backpacker.com, Debra or Mtnmnslady as she is known.  The day was sunny and warm and the scenery and company were terrific :) 

To get to the Mill Creek Trailhead take Highway 178 east of Bakersfield or west of Lake Isabella to the Old Kern Canyon Road (County Road 214).   Make your way about 1.5 miles east of the Democrat Fire Station. Here you'll find the trailhead on the south side of the road. The trail starts by skirting a grassy bench above the creek but soon enough you'll be hiking along Mill Creek and you'll have to cross the creek several times. There are no bridges, just rocks to hop across or you can wade through the water.  Open oak/grass and riparian woodlands are found along the creek, with fine spring wildflowers. After about 2 miles you leave the creek and climb moderate to steep grades through brush fields to mixed conifer forest. The trail ends at a small spur road just north of Squirrel Meadow on Breckenridge Mountain, 6.6 miles from the trailhead. From here you can hike along Forest Road 28S07 for 5 miles more to the summit of Breckenridge Mountain.  But we only hiked as far as the saddle south of Point 3295' at a location known as "Indian Pothole Rock." Here there is a large granite boulder not far from the creek with a grouping of deep mortar holes.  This was obviously a much-used camp for the Native Americans and I can see why.  There are ample camping spots near the creek and the surroundings are quite pleasant :)  To get to the rock the hike is about 2.5 miles with 900 feet of elevation gain.

Gray Pine, above and below

Beautiful Sycamore bark

Spring green California Buckeye

Good newt habitat
Debra wades through the creek
Looking for newts
There's one!  They can blend right in with those sycamore leaves
These ones should get a room!  lol
Nice campsite
Wild Cucumber
A bad blurry photo of an as-of-yet unidentified flower
As we hiked higher the flowers covered the hillsides
Taking a break at Indian Pothole Rock
Point 3295'
Scenery atop Point 3295'
Heading back down...
Thank you Backcountry Horsemen!



Mill Creek Hike in April 2009
More info about Sierra Newts
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I've never seen this particular Forest Service sign before!  And it wasn't in a particularly scenic location...  Hmmmmm...