Ruby and Bill Jenkins - The Kern River Valley Days

“The North Fork Kern River begins as droplets from snowfields high above timberline on glaciated, craggy slopes of the Kings-Kern Divide. The snowmelt merges to become slender rills, then rivulets, and then gathers neighboring creeks to become a river…”

J.C. Jenkins and Ruby Johnson Jenkins
Exploring the Southern Sierra

In 1979 J.C. (Jim) Jenkins, returning to his job as a ranger for the Golden Trout Wilderness, was killed in a traffic accident. He was 27, the author of Volume 1 of Self-Propelled in the Southern Sierra, the first guidebook to the Sierra Crest and the Kern Plateau. He had completed the fieldwork for Volume 2. Shortly after he died, the Wilderness Press asked his mother, Ruby Johnson Jenkins, if she would be interested in completing the book.

“Hiking kept me sane,” Ruby said. “Being asked to complete Jim’s book saved my life.” While she was writing and mapping the territory, Ruby’s husband, Bill, called himself “Ruby’s Sherpa.” Ruby and Bill hiked many miles into the surrounding wilderness to gather material for “Exploring the Southern Sierra.” They founded the Kern Valley Hiking Club so that they could share their discoveries with local hikers. Bill led the hikes, and Ruby was “the sweep.”

Ruby Johnson Jenkins died on October 28, 2007. She was 82. She completed her last hike in August, 2007. She was looking forward to adding more updates to the books, Exploring the Southern Sierra, East Side, and Exploring the Southern Sierra, West Side. Ruby co-authored The Pacific Crest Trail, Southern California. She hiked over 5,000 miles in the Southern Sierras and climbed to the top of over 100 mountains above 5,000 feet to gather information for the books. When she died, Bill and Ruby had been married for 61 years. They had two children, Janet and Jim. Janet Van Vliet married musician and artist, Don Van Vliet, and she lives in Trinidad, California.

While Jim Jenkins was a ranger for the Golden Trout Wilderness, he introduced Ruby and Bill to Gayle and Ardis Walker. Ardis Walker was born in the Kern River Valley in 1901. He and Gayle worked for more than 20 years to preserve the Kern Plateau and create the Golden Trout Wilderness. In 1967, Ardis helped organize the Kern Valley Historical Society.

Gayle and Ardis Walker encouraged Ruby and Bill to build a home near them in Kernville. After Jim’s death, Gayle and Ardis organized a letter-writing campaign and spearheaded a five-year, grassroots effort to name a 7,921-foot mountain on the Pacific Crest Trail near Highway 178 in honor of Jim. From the archives of the United States Department of Interior: Mount Jenkins, “named for James Charles Jenkins (1952-1979), noted authority on the flora, fauna and history of the southern Sierra Nevada. He wrote guidebooks for the area.”

Bill Jenkins was elected President of the Historical Society in 1989. His experience as an educator and as Assistant Superintendent for the Beverly Hills School District prepared him for the job. He was passionate about preserving local history. He envisioned the Kern Valley Museum as a place to display and collect artifacts as well as a gathering place for local pioneers and visitors.

Under Bill’s guidance, museum membership doubled and then tripled. Bill wrote grants and raised money for improvements. The building was expanded, and the landscape improved. Bill believed in staffing the museum with volunteers, and he recruited many of the volunteers himself. Signs advertising the museum were installed on the highway. History Days, tours of the Walker House and other historical homes, day trips to historical sites, and entertaining guest speakers were added to the museum’s programs. Bill did the paperwork necessary to name a mountain peak in honor of historian, Bob Powers. When Margaret Smith was elected as the first woman president of the Historical Society, Bill told everyone that “Margaret made history. She’s shattered the glass ceiling!”

Bill Jenkins died on Friday, June 7, 2013 at 12:10 p.m. near his family in Thousand Oaks, CA. His daughter, Janet, was by his side. He was 87 years old. His birthday is June 27.

Ruby and Bill Jenkins enhanced our lives. We love them! We miss them!

Reita and Richard Hamilton
Volcano, HI

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Event Organizer Checklist April 22, 2014 9:46 AM Tony S.
Ruby and Bill Jenkins - The Kern River Valley Days June 18, 2013 4:21 PM Alice
Bringing Dogs on Meetup Hikes December 30, 2012 9:58 AM Alice
Backpacking Tips August 24, 2012 2:53 PM Alice
So how long will it take to get there? June 22, 2012 3:56 PM Alice
Liability Waiver August 7, 2014 10:54 AM Tony S.
About Southern Sierra Hiking Club September 14, 2015 12:21 PM Tony S.

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