Published in the August 2015 Issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine
The first time I heard someone brag on the beauty of Kern County’s landscape, I was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. I listened politely to the stranger from out of town, but I didn’t quite share his appreciation. Not yet anyway.
The year was 1982 and three of us, all students at Arvin High School, were squeezed into the back of a driver’s education training car as we took turns getting our behind-the-wheel experience. Back then, driver’s ed was a class in school and an instructor from Los Angeles had come in to handle the final component of our training.
“I love spending time up here,” he said. “It’s so beautiful. Sometimes I bring my kids here and drive them around, just so they can experience it and see where our food is grown.” I don’t remember what I said in response, or if I replied at all, but I’m pretty sure I thought it was one of the strangest things I had ever heard!
Odd as it seemed at the time, though, that instructor’s comments encouraged me to look at my world differently. I started paying a little more attention to my surroundings, and I began to realize that Kern County is, indeed, a unique and beautiful area. By the time I graduated high school, in front of the purple backdrop of Bear Mountain, I had a whole new perspective of our region’s beauty.
During the next few years, I kept the road hot between classes at CSUB, a part time job in Arvin, and my home in Lamont. Driving past acre after acre of orange orchards, grape vineyards, and tall stalks of corn calmed my mind and helped me transition to the next part of my day. It’s not what most people think of when they hear the word “commute,” but logging dozens of daily miles between city and farmland and oil fields is quite common in an 8,100-square-mile county like ours!
Maybe it’s because of my roots, but I still enjoy a nice, long drive along country roads. Not long ago, I couldn’t resist pulling over to photograph a field of onions, their tall shoots proudly hoisting up white blooms as if presenting them to the sun. And who hasn’t at least been tempted to plan a family photoshoot among Kern’s blossoming almond trees?
I’m thankful I live in an area where I can still discover local treasures after all these years. One of my favorites is Kernville’s rugged Whiskey Flats trail that meanders by the Kern River, and I recently fell in love with the panoramic valley views visible from the Wind Wolves Preserve near Hwy. 166 and Old River Road. And while I’ve always enjoyed the colors of Red Rock Canyon in northeastern Kern County, I just this spring saw for myself the bright orange wildflowers popping out of the brown desert earth along the road to Ridgecrest.
Beauty truly does surround us here in Kern County! It took an outsider, decades ago, to help me see what was right before my eyes. Since that day I’ve made it my mission to take in the majesty around me and to appreciate it all.