Luilil - Traveling with the Blue Star


March 2017 — Death Valley National Park
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Copyright © 2017 Larrie Easterly

Death Valley National Park sign

Entrance Sign — Photo Galley

The end of December Ann went to Texas to visit the grandchildren for a few weeks while I stayed home to take care of the dog and cat. One evening I was reading the posts on the Expedition Portal Forum and found a post from the Retired Ol’ Farts (ROF) group. They were planning a eight day excursion and camping trip in and around Death Valley National Park for mid March. Getting a strong nudge from my inner guide I signed up.

The camper van that we usually take on trips is in the middle of an interior remodel and is not four wheel drive (4WD). That meant that our Toyota 4Runner would get to go. The 4Runner is a good vehicle to take on solo camping trips. It holds all my camping and camera gear with enough room left over for me to sleep in it. We used it in 2016 on the Oregon Geological Expedition and it worked out very well.

The next two and a half months were spent working on the van remodel and researching Death Valley. The trip leader had the campgrounds and travel routes worked out for the DV portion of the trip so I did not have to do any of that. My time was spend time figuring out routes to get down there by March 19th and home by the 29th. This involved calling my friend Donna about the best route to take to Reno, Nevada, researching campgrounds that were along the route in the Ultimate Public Campground App and making lists of food, camping and camera gear to take along.

January, February, and March were unusually rainy, cold and snowy in Oregon. The March 17th departure date arrived and I was very ready for the warm and dry of the desert. Temperatures for the week we would be there were predicted to be in the upper 70s to low 80s during the day with clear sunny sky's.

The first part of the trip was a ten run down I-5 to Mount Shasta, CA then across to Susanville, CA and on to Reno where I spent the night. The original plan was to camp the first night near Susanville, CA. That plan was scrapped after research showed that all of the National Forest campgrounds in the area did not open until April. Plan B turned out to be a hotel in Reno, NV.

Mono Lake, CA

Mono Lake — Photo Galley

The next day, Saturday, the five hour drive along U.S. Highway 395 to Lone Pine, CA was beautiful. After leaving Reno the road passes Washoe Lake, Topaz Lake, and Mono Lake. In addition, road runs along the valley formed by the snow capped Sierra mountains on the right and the White Mountains on the left. Their snowy peaks glistening in the morning sunshine made for a beautiful drive all the way down to Lone Pine.

Alabama Hills, CA

Alabama Hills — Photo Galley

Arriving in Lone Pine around 1:30pm I put gas in the 4Runner and filled my spare gas cans. Then it was on to the local grocery store to buy Lone Pine Peppers at the request of friends. Turning right took me to the Alabama Hills and the meeting spot off of Movie Road. The Alabama Hills is a famous film location. Many of the early westerns were filmed on its many roads and rock formations.

Several of the group were already there. Introductions were made all around and we talked and visited until the rest of the group arrived. Then it was on to a local restaurant for dinner and more conversation, sharing of cell phone numbers and overall trip instructions. After dinner it was back to Alabama Hills for the night.

The Vehicles

The Vehicles — Photo Galley

Morning came and we all headed for the Eastern Sierra Visitors Center where a group photo was taken and final instructions were given. We headed east on California 190 east into the Inyo Mountains and past Lower Centennial Flat. A right turn took us to the old mining town of Darwin, population 45.

Darwin Art Gallery

Darwin Art Gallery — Photo Galley

Darwin was founded in 1874 after lead and silver were discovered in the area. It was a company town. The company provided the housing and the food for the workers and their families that lived and worked there. There is still a lot of old mining equipment around as well as the remains of houses that were dug into of the hillside. These were call Cousin Jack’s House or more commonly dugouts. The mining process used arsenic to remove the precious metals from the ore. Many of the tailing piles around the mine are still contaminated. Now days the town has become somewhat of an artist colony with a few shops selling hand made items. The people living there love their privacy and solitude. If you are planning a visit be respectful of there wishes.

From Darwin we took a dirt/gravel road to Darwin Falls. From the parking area to the falls is a 2.2 mile round trip hike. While there was gold silver and other valuable minerals in Death Valley the most precious resource was water. Without it people could not live and mining could not take place.

Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls — Photo Galley

The start of the hike to the falls is in a wash with a loose gravel bottom that takes quite a bit of energy to walk through. The hike gets easier as you get into the trees and bushes. Many of the bushes had yellow flowers called Desert Gold on them. They reminded me of daisies. Soon tall grass appears around a corner and you can hear the babbling of the stream as it flows over the rocks. The vegetation continues to get taller and more lush as you near the falls. The falls itself is a narrow stream drops about ten to 15 feet into a pool that is about 20 foot in diameter and six foot deep. It is a cool and refreshing area to be in after sandy desert.

We were using 2 way radios to keep in communication during our trip. As we were walking up to the falls I happened to look down and saw what I thought was a collapsible metal pointer. Thinking it was a piece of trash I picked it up and absentmindedly put it in my pocket. At the falls we met some of our traveling companions, one of whom had just fallen in the pool while trying to wash her hands. She had asked her husband to hold her stuff and realized that she had lost the antenna to the radio she had borrowed.

Sharon asked what it looked like and we realized that what I thought was a pointer was actually the antenna. I searched my six pockets and could not find it. I was sure that I had put it in my pocket but it was not there. We looked for it all the way back to the cars but did not see it. Once we got to the cars I reached into the pocket for my keys. Mixed in with the keys was the the antenna.

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush — Photo Galley

There are two nice things about going to Death Valley in March. One is the temperature. The highs were in the mid 80s with lows in the 50s. The other is the wildflowers. There are lots of them at different elevations in the park. They range from bright red Indian Paintbrush, to yellow Desert Gold that reminded me of daisies, to tiny blue ones and many more.

Warm Springs

Warm Springs — Photo Galley

Once the antenna was returned we continued on the dirt/gravel road through Darwin Canyon. At CA-190 we turned left and then right on to Saline Valley Road and over South Pass. Once over the pass Saline Valley Road led us down into Saline Valley. The dirt track eventually led to the turn off to Saline Valley Warm Springs where we camped for the night.

The hot springs is a small oasis in the middle of the desert. There are palm trees, other trees and grass around the spring. The rest of the area is barren desert. There are several soaking pools and even a sunken bathtub where you can take an open air shower. If you decide to go to the hot spring area be prepared to see things you may not want to see. Clothing optional for all ages all the time. This applies to the soaking pools, shower, pit toilet area and campground.

The next day several of us used the soaking pools and shower before heading out on the days adventure. Leaving Lower Warm Springs we headed northeast past Palm Springs and Upper Warm Springs into the Saline Mountains and Steel Pass. The track up to Steel Pass was, like most of the roads we would be traveling on, was rough and rocky. To make up for the road conditions the views of the surrounding mountains were beautiful. The road, if you can call it that, got rougher and rougher as we continued to climb. My full attention needed to be focused on the track at all times so that the ride would be as smooth as possible for me and as easy as possible for my stock 4Runner. Many times my comfort came in second.

Most of the people on the trip were driving modified 4WD vehicles. The modification included 3 to 4 inch body lifts, larger tires and other accessories to help them navigate rough terrain. They handled the rough and rocky sections of the road much better than my 4Runner did. Makes me think about upgrading the 4Runner so that it handles this type of terrain better.

One of the tricks to driving on rough gravel roads roads is to lower the air pressure in the vehicles tires. The lower pressure makes the tires more flexible and smooths out the bumps. It you decide to lower your tire pressure be sure that you are carrying an air compressor with you so you can air them back up to normal driving pressure when returning to pavement. Driving at highway speeds on under inflated tires can be dangerous.

Steel Pass

Steel Pass — Photo Galley

Getting up to Steel Pass was fairly easy compared with the downhill side. Once over the pass the trail drops over three rock ledges. The ledges are about three four foot high and are sandwiched between the canyon wall and very large boulders. Rocks have been piled up on the downhill side of the ledges, like ramps, to make the passage somewhat easier. To get down the ledges the more experienced drivers act as spotters for the driver traversing the steps. The spotters tell the driver to turn their tires either left, right or straight with both voice and hand signals. The goal is to get down the steps without damaging the vehicle.

The owners of most of the vehicles traveling with the group had little problems because of the raised the bodies of their vehicles and taller taller tires. The 4Runner does not have those advantages so I needed to be extra careful. The spotters, Charles, Chuck, Ace, and Frenchie did an excellent job of guiding me over the three ledges. The only damage was some scraped plastic on the passenger side running board. It sounded much worse than it actually was.

The rest of the way down the Saline Mountain Range into Eureka Valley was fairly easy. The road was rough and rocky so the going was slow. Once we got onto the valley floor the road turned into sand so our speed picked up and driving was easier. We made good time.

Eureka Dunes

Eureka Dunes — Photo Galley

We stopped at the Eureka Dunes for a little while to make repairs to the bumper on Len's Jeep Cherokee. It was bending low from the weight of the trailer he was pulling. After the repair we headed to the Last Chance Mine. Our campsite for the night.

It took me four tries to find the right place to park the 4Runner. The first place was on some white sandy material that I did not like the feel of. The next place was on brown dirt. It had a slight sulfur smell to it. The next spot had the same smell. The last spot did not smell at all. As I looked around the rejected campsites and could see small bright yellow looked like sulfur. This is probably what was causing the smell.

After we were all setup a white rental car stopped and asked for directions to Eureka Dunes. They were suppose to meet the rest of their geology class Central Washington University there. After dark they came back and told us that they had come across a stranded vehicle and were wondering if we could help them. Chuck and Frenchie from our group followed them to the broken down vehicle. They found that the rough washboard road had vibrated the battery hold down clamp loose causing the battery to shift and short out the electrical system. Chuck and Frenchie were able to reposition the battery and install a temporary hold down. Once the this was done the car was able to be restarted and they were able to continue on their trip.

As we were about to leave on Tuesday two young women came into camp to ask for help fixing a time. Chuck and I took them back to their Toyota Tundra pickup and showed them how to change a flat tire. Just as we were finishing the rest of our party showed up. There was much joking and laughing about how the woman’s husband owed her big time for sending her on a camping trip with tires that needed to be replaced. After finishing the tire replacement we went our separate ways.

Wild Horse Running

Wild Horse — Photo Galley

From there we headed out past Last Chance Canyon and up Tule Canyon. Turning left at Crankshaft Crossing, yes there is an engine crankshaft there as a marker, we went over Slate Ridge where we saw a heard of while horses. They took one look at our caravan and took off running. A short while later I saw a lone horse at a water hole. I slowed, stopped and slowly got out of the car. I was able to several photos before he took off running. We got back on pavement and headed to mining town Gold Point.

Gold Point Store

Gold Point Store — Photo Galley

The mining operation stopped in the 1960s but the town survive with a few residence. It is a nice place to stop and look around. The two owners of the town have turned it into a slice of the old west. There is a small campground, old buildings and mining equipment that you can look at. The local saloon is like a time capsule of a bygone era. There is a beautiful wood bar, a long shuffleboard table, gambling tables, signed photos of famous people visited, and antiques on the walls. Beer, soda, and ice frozen in water jugs, are available. There is no set cost for these items but donation is requested.

After buying supplies we headed back onto pavement towards Beatty, NV. This turned into a problem for several of us. Driving on rough gravel roads requires you to stay focused on the road so you miss the larger rocks that can damage your vehicle. We found that when we were on pavement we tended to lose focus and not pay attention to the road. I resolved this by turning up the stereo. It also helped that some of us were low on fuel. Several of us stopped along the side of the road to refuel. I had not used any of the ten gallons of space fuel that I carried. Charles put five gallons of my spare gas in his rig so that he could make it to Beatty.

While the rest of us got gas in Beatty Roger and Susan stopped at a tire store to replace one of their tires that got damaged on Steele Pass. It is not safe to travel the back roads without a good spare tire. After Beatty we stopped in the ghost town of Rhyolite.

Rhyolite Bottle House

Bottle House — Photo Galley

Founded in 1905 Rhyolite served as a shipping hub for gold produced at the nearby Goldfield Mine. Three railroads served the town. At its peak Rhyolite had a population of between 5-8,000 people. Fifteen years later the population had dwindled to 14. There are several ruined buildings in clouding what is left a a three story bank and the mostly intact train station. The most building in town is Tom Kelly's Bottle House. The exterior walls are constructed from old bottles. It is an amazing site. From Rhyolite we took Daylight Pass Road back into DVNP and the Stovepipe Wells Village.

Stovepipe Wells is operated by a concessionaire to the National Park. There is a hotel, gift shop, restaurant, gas, general store and campground. This would be our base of operations for the next two days. The good things about Stovepipe Well is everything but the campground. It is a gravel parking lot with spaces for about 100 plus vehicles. There are a few low bushes scattered around the edges. The great thing about the place is the pool and showers. To access these go to the hotel reception and ask for a shower card. The $4.00 cost gets you unlimited access to the pool and showers until midnight of that day. We shared the shower cards and all got showers that night.

We tried to leave each campsite by 9:00 am and get to our next campsite or back to camp by 3:00 or 4:00 pm. Wednesday was no exception. Since we were staying two nights at Stovepipe Wells Len, Minor, Charles, Debbie and Ace left their trailers in the campground when we headed out to run Titus Canyon. We headed east up Daylight Pass Road and turned right at a not very well marked dirt/gravel road toward Chloride Cliffs.

Cousin Jack's House

Cousin Jack's House — Photo Galley

There is not much left in Chloride Cliffs just a few rusted hunks of mining equipment and other items. The hillside is dotted with mine shafts that you can walk up to but not enter. They have metal netting over entrances. On the way out we found a well preserved Cousin Jack’s cabin. It was quite large, maybe 12x15 with a tall ceiling. The back three walls were cut from the rock with a pick. A narrow entrance let in light and a stove pipe exited the roof. This was one of the best preserved dwelling of this type that we would see on the trip.

Backtracking to pavement we turned right then left on to another semi hidden dirt road. After a few miles this road turned into a narrow oneway track that led up over and through the Grapevine Mountains. It is a beautiful drive through canyons and along narrow cliffs as you rise above the valleys below. The colors of the rocks and vegetation took my breath away. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Leadfield

Leadfield — Photo Galley

About halfway between the starting point and end of the road is the ghost town of Leadfield. Like many of the ghost towns in the area Leadfield was a get rich scheme promoted by the Western Lead Mine Company and J. J. Julian. The town was started, blossomed, and died from 1925 to 1926. There are a few buildings that are partially standing and a Cousin Jack’s house.

A few more miles brought us to Titus Canyon. The gravel track twists and turns its way down through the narrow canyon for several miles. The road goes down hill as the canyon walls get steeper and taller until it pops out high above Death Valley. The exit leads to a parking lot. From this point the gravel road is two-way and follows the alluvial fan slope down to Scotty's Castle Road.

By now it was about 4:00 pm so we headed back to the campground at Stovepipe Wells. As we headed into the valley we could see that the wind was blowing the dust around. Once we got onto the valley floor we could see that the wind was blowing the dust and sand from the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes into a full fledged dust storm. Cooking outside at the campground was out of the question because of the 25 MPH gusts and sustained winds of 12 to 15 MPH. The group decided to head to the restaurant for dinner and conversation. We had a great time and then headed back out into the storm and to our vehicles to hunker down for the night. The wind continued to howl most of the night. It gently rocked the 4Runner as I slept.

Thursday dawned clear and sunny. The storm had blown itself out sometime during the early morning only leaving a gentle breeze to greet us. We said goodby to Carl who needed to pack up his gear and headed back to New Jersey. The rest of us decide to spend one more night at the campground so we left the trailers there and headed southwest towards Emigrant Canyon. The road up the canyon is paved for most of the way up to the charcoal kilns. It was a pleasure to drive on pavement instead of gravel and rock.

Charcoal Kilns

Charcoal Kilns — Photo Galley

There are ten kilns at the site. All are 20 feet in diameter and 30 feet tall. They were designed by Swiss engineers and built by by Chinese workers in 1879. The location was picked due to the plentiful supply of pinion pine trees. It took about two weeks to convert the wood to charcoal. The charcoal was then shipped 30 miles to the Modoc Mine smelter where it was burned in a mining operation. The smelter burned charcoal instead of wood because it burns hotter and was lighter to transport. The kilns were in use for only three years.

Skidoo Mine

Skidoo Mine — Photo Galley

After the kilns we headed black down the canyon and took a right towards the Skidoo Mine site. Once again the road to the site is rough and rocky but well worth the trip if you are driving a 4WD vehicle. The mine site is at the top of a mountain and is well preserved. The view of Death Valley below is fantastic.

The structures at the mine are rundown with some restoration work done to stabilize the buildings.. The mine extracted gold from quartz using a hammer mill process that was operated by water pressure. The hammers, sluice tables, ore carts, and other mining equipment are still there. Heading back along Emigrant Canyon road we turned right and drove across an alluvial fan along a very rocky track. This track eventually led upTelephone Canyon and under its overhanging ledges and eventually to the Tucky Mine site. The mine is one of the few that you can still enter. The mouth is probably 15 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Frenchie has done extensive exploration in the mine and told us that it has many levels and horizontal shafts.

Cabin

Cabin — Photo Galley

There is an old cabin at the mine that is still standing but dilapidated. Like many cabins that are still standing it stocked with some food and water. This custom comes from the days of the Wild West when cabins like this could save a weary travelers life. The people that stock these cabins are carrying on the tradition. After exploring the site we returned to the Stovepipe Wells to refuel the vehicles dinner and conversation around the campfire.

While at the gas station we saw the two women we had helped with the flat tire. They were changing a tire, their third. They thanked us again for the help and we wished them well on the rest of their journey.

Borax Wagons

Borax Wagons — Photo Galley

The next morning Grace needed to head home so we said our goodbyes to her. The rest of us packed up and headed east and then south to the town of Furnace Creek. Just before Furnace Creek is the remains of the Harmony Borax Works. Of all the minerals found in Death Valley over the years borax, the white gold, was the most profitable of them all. The the borax industry is famous for the 20 mule teams shown on product labels, in history books, and in television programs. Wagon trains of borax weighing up to 36 tons, including 1200 gallons of drinking water, 136 miles from Furnace Creek to Mojave, CA.

Our first stop at Furnace Creek was the Death Valley Visitors Center. From there it was a relaxing lunch on a lush green lawn and a tour of the town. The town is privately owned and items such as gas and camping are much more expensive than than at Stovepipe Wells. It is a quaint place that reminded me of the old west section of Disneyland. There is a general store, several restaurants (closed between breakfast, lunch and dinner), a museum and a post office. I had purchased a couple of post cards at the store and addressed a note to each of our two grandsons. At the post office I asked for two postcard stamps. The only ones the clerk had showed images of warm water sea shells like you would find of the coast of Florida or Hawaii. I started laughing because here we were in the desert and the images on the stamps were from lush tropical locations. The clerk knew exactly what I was laughing at and said that those were the only one she had. Unlike most post offices she hand canceled the stamps with the Death Valley postmark.

282 Feet Below Sea Level

282 Feet Below Sea Level — Photo Galley

We continued south from Furnace Creek to Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level it is the lowest point in North America. Our stop was a brief one. Just long enough to take photos at the elevation sign and a quick walk out on to the salt flats. If you ever get to Badwater be sure to look up on the rock wall behind the parking area. There is is sign way up on face denoting sea level.

We continued south on Badwater Road turning right on to West Side Road and then left on to Warm Springs Canyon road. Both have a dirt/gravel surface with lots of lose rocks and washboard. We stopped to camp at the Warm Springs Mine site. This was a talc mine. The talc was used to manufacturer talcum powder. The entrance is gated off to prevent entrance. As you look at the hillside you can see the layers of talc sandwiched between other rock layers.

A short walk up the road are several well made buildings and a swimming pool. These were constructed by the mining company to ease the rigors of life in the desert. We hiked up behind the structure along a narrow path that led to a spring. The path leads to a tiny canyon where warm water pours out of a crack in the rock wall into a shallow pool.

Warm Springs Mine

Warm Springs Mine — Photo Galley

A bit further away from the buildings is the remnants of the gold mining operation that preceded the talc mine. Like many mines in the area companies and miners came back to the area to extract other minerals and precious metals as technology improved or the needs of manufacturing demanded. The talc mine closed in the 1980s. After dinner we once again sat around the campfire swapping stories.

Saturday morning it was time for the group to break up. Frenchie, Len, Debbie, Brian and Natalie, as well as Roger and Susan departed for their respective homes in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. After saying our goodbyes the remaining six vehicles headed east through Warm Springs Canyon and Butte Valley. As usual the road was rough and rocky in spots, smooth and dusty in other areas. The views of the mountains and rock formations were out standing.

The most impressive rock formation we came to was Striped Butte. The butte sits is a broad valley high up in the mountains. The butte gets is name from from the alternating light and dark colored steeply tilted limestone that make it up.

Striped Butte from the Geologists Cabin

Striped Butte from the Geologists Cabin — Photo Galley

A little ways past Striped Butte is the Geologists Cabin. Built by prospector Asa Russel around 1930 it sits on the side of the Manley Peak overlooking Striped Butte and the valley below. When we arrived at the cabin a couple and their son staying in it. The cabin and the outhouse are both made of stone. There is a fireplace and electricity from solar panels. There are some supplies already stocked in the cabin that are available for the weary traveler.

The road to the west winds its way up the southern part of the Panamint Mountains to Mengel Pass. The road gradually deteriorating into a steep pile of rocks in the narrow pass. This was the most challenging part of the trip for me and my 4Runner. The vehicles that normally travel this route have a body lift and taller tires than normal. Having none of those advantages I slowly and carefully guided my vehicle over the obstacles with the help of Charles and Bruce who were acting as my spotters. All was going well until I made a mistake and turned the wrong way. My left front tire slid against a large bolder resulting in snapped off valve stem.

Mengel Pass

Mengel Pass — Photo Galley

Charles put his finger over the leak while Minor carved a wooden plug to put into what was left of the valve stem. With the leak temporally slowed and Charles spotting I attempted to drive out but could not. Chuck drove his 4Runner back drown the grade and used his winch to assist me over the rocks. That was the first time he has used his winch to pull someone out of a tough spot since he bought it four years ago. The funny part is that I also have a winch on my vehicle that the group did not remember that I had.

Once at the top of the pass we changed my tire and had a bit of lunch. Since this was a Saturday there were lots of other vehicle coming up and down the pass. It was quite busy at the top.

From Mengel Pass we worked our way down the east side of the mountains to Barker Ranch. The ranch was built in 1940 by the Thomason Family to support their mining operation. In 1956 the family sold the ranch to the Barkers who expanded the main house to accommodate their large family. In 1968 Charlie Manson traded a gold album from the Beach Boys to the family as rent and moved his “family” to the ranch. The rest is history. There was a fire that pretty much destroyed the main house in the 90s All that remains is some stone walls and rundown outbuildings.

We continued following the rough road to the west and into Goler Wash. In the desert the term wash is used to describe a river bed that only has water in it after it rains. Goler is no exception. The bottom of the wash is a mix of gravel and sand that has been compacted by the vehicles that have driven over it. Partway down the trail we came across a spring flowing down the trail enlivening the trees, bushes, and flowers along its path. The trail winds it way down the mountain between towering cliffs until it emerges onto the alluvial fan at the base of the mountains.

Rain Over Manley Peak

Rain Over Manley Peak — Photo Galley

Death Valley National Park has strict rules about driving and camping in the park. You have to stay on established roads, paved, dirt or gravel, and can only camp 1 mile from any paved road, developed campground, or day use area. In addition you need to be at least 200 feet from any water source. These requirement make it challenging to backcountry camp within the park. As a result all of your backcountry camps were outside the park boundary. After exiting Goler Wash it took us a while to find a campsite that was outside the park and was also large enough to fit our six vehicles. We ended up finding a spot about four miles from Goler Wash. It had a beautiful view of the Manley Peak across the valley.

Morning came after a long night sitting around the campfire. We packed up the rigs for the final time and headed for the semi ghost town of Ballarat. There we aired up our tires made a monetary donation for a soda and to help with the upkeep of the town. Then it was time for our final goodbyes. Minor, Chuck, Charles and Sharon all headed west towards, home while Bruce, Ace and myself headed north back to Stovepipe Wells. Ace needed fuel before continuing back to Colorado. Bruce needed ice for his cooler and we needed to transfer the food he put in my refrigerator the night before back to his cooler. Once the food and ice were back in his cooler we said our goodbyes. He headed north to travel the Big Pine Road while I headed for the campground.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes — Photo Galley

The rest of the day was spent at the Stovepipe Wells campground relaxing and reorganizing my gear. It was nice to just sit in the shade of the awning. No driving on rocky roads. Just resting and planning Mondays activities.

All week we had been getting up around 7:00am doing morning activities and hitting the road about 9:00am. Even though I was on my own Monday was no exception. The night before we were told that high winds and blowing dust were expected in the valley Monday mid day. I wanted to be gone before the wind picked up and the dust started blowing. The National Weather Service was predicting 50 mph winds that day for the valley. Having experienced one sandstorm the Tuesday before I wanted no part of another one.

The choice of places to see was narrowed down by the upcoming storm. The the wind was expected to be from the northwest. The best solution appeared to head north to Ubehebe Crater and Mesquite Springs Campground. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the Stovepipe Well were on the way so a quick stop was made at each location. The sand dunes were impressive. The well got its name from a stovepipe that was installed above it after the well was covered by a sandstorm.

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater — Photo Galley

Ubehebe Crater was formed when hot magma struct the ground water in the area causing a steam explosion that threw large quantities of pulverized rock across the alluvial fan. The crater is about 777 feet deep and one half mile wide. There is a walking trail that circumnavigates the crater and another that leads down into the crater.

Camping Setup — Photo Galley

About two miles before the turnoff to the crater is Mesquite Springs campground. This is a very nice place with large camping spots and good separation between them. Unlike Stovepipe Wells there are lots bushes and some trees to make it a much nicer place to camp. The wind was blowing from the north at a steady 10 mph with higher gusts. Camp was setup using the 4Runner as a wind block. This combined with the awning made for a nice place to hang out and rest for the balance of the day. Bedtime came at sundown. The wind was blowing all night rocking me to sleep in the 4Runner.

Dawn came with reduced wind and a clear sky. Packing up the 4Runner for the last time took longer than usual. All of the items on the roof rack needed to packed inside for the drive to Las Vegas. Loading the items inside streamlines the 4Runner for better gas mileage on long drives.

Mesquite Springs is at the north end of Death Valley. There are several possible paved roads that lead out of the valley to Las Vegas, today's destination. The one I chose was at the south end and went through Shoshone, CA and Pahrump NV. This route would take me past areas of the valley we had not traveled through on the official trip. The south end of the valley was just as beautiful as the other areas that we traversed.

Continued on the Las Vegas trip report.

Summary Am not sure I can express how grateful I am to my traveling companions that were along on the trip. It was wonderful to meet and get to know a little about all of you. I had a great time and have fond memories. Happy travels to you all.

Statistics Total days on the road: 12 Total miles from home Las Vegas: 1,885 Total miles in Death Valley: 790 mostly dirt, gravel, sand, and rock

Past Travels
282 feet below sea level

282 feet below sea level

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Twin Rocks

Twin Rocks