Early on the morning of Oct. 1, 2007, the iconic Kennedy Meadows Lodge was reduced to a pile of ashes.
Built in 1941, it was the centerpiece of the Kennedy Meadows Resort and Pack Station.
Fire is a fate that has claimed many landmark Sierra buildings: the El Portal Store in 2008, the Dodge Ridge Lodge in 2005, the dining room and cafeteria at Curry Village in the mid-1970's, Yosemite's Glacier Point Hotel in 1969, and El Portal's Del Portal Hotel in 1917, just to name a few.
Thankfully, the fire wasn't the end of the story for Kennedy Meadows. Almost miraculously, the Bloom family managed to rebuild and have the new lodge open and running again last summer.
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I stopped through Kennedy Meadows last Saturday. After fishing the Stanislaus River, my friends and I enjoyed a hearty meal on the front porch of the new lodge. Kennedy Meadows is back in business and better than ever! My chili burger was delicious and our table on the lodge's front porch was hard to beat. The new lodge retains the classic look of the original. It sits on the site of the old lodge facing the meadow and the river.
We sat on the porch soaking in the view. A wedding was taking place in one of the meadows. Some families were barbecuing in front of their cabins. Others were walking around enjoying the evening and the scenery. One group was having an extended family reunion. Everyone was having a good time.
Kennedy Meadows Resort rents 20 cabins with kitchenettes that can sleep anywhere from 4 to 17 people. It's a great place to get away from the crowds, but not from all the comforts of home. It's the kind of place that brings the same people back, year after year. Many of these people donated their time and services to help get the resort operating again after the fire.
You can find out more by calling (209) 965-3911 or visiting http://www.kennedymeadows.com/. It's 60 miles from Merced to Sonora, and another 57 miles from Sonora to Kennedy Meadows. The meadow and river are so nice that you may not feel any need to drive anywhere else.
If you prefer to camp, there are 25 Forest Service campgrounds on Kennedy Meadows Road and Highway 108. Three of them (Beardsley, Herring Creek, and Herring Reservoir) are free. It's also free to camp outside a developed campground as long as you check with the Forest Service for suitable areas.
Spectacular nearby hikes:
The Trail of the Gargoyles (http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/stanislaus/summit/hiking.shtml): a 1.5-mile walk through unusual volcanic formations. Be careful with children. Steep areas.
And the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River provides excellent fishing and an easy hike. Park at the end of the Clark Fork Road and follow the river on foot for the next 2.5 miles.
As for backpacking...
Kennedy Meadows is a good starting point for backpacking trips leading into the Emigrant Wilderness.
This 113,000-acre wilderness area looks like Northern Yosemite, but receives fewer visitors. I've backpacked this area a couple of times and the trout fishing is superior.
Many lakes are stocked yearly. You can get supplies and advice at the Kennedy Meadows Store.
The USFS website provides a backpacking map: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/stanislaus/maps/emigrant/ and a mileage map http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/stanislaus/maps/emigrant/trails.gif.
Wilderness permits are required for overnight trips and can be obtained by calling the Mi-Wok Ranger District at
If you are looking for an alternative to walking, horse and mule packing services are available at both Kennedy Meadows (http://www.kennedymeadows.com/) and Aspen Meadow (http://www.aspenmeadowpackstation.com/).
Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman and local historian who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at email@example.com