Six days in Death Valley and surrounding areas
April 21 - 26, 2003
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||We planned to spend 11 days on this
vacation. We were going to visit a kennel and perhaps purchase a dog,
then travel around Death Valley. Betty had a contingency plan to visit
other places in the area. On our return, if we purchased the dog, we'd
pick him up on our return home. Instead we went home after 6 days
because the dog purchase decision was delayed and the winds were too strong
to make tent camping fun. See map to left and read on for details...
|We spent our first night at the
Navajo campground about 20 miles East of San Luis Obispo. This is a
small camp area at 2,290 foot elevation 4 miles off highway 58. At
night it dropped to 32 degrees.
A cup of hot chocolate was welcome to take the chill off.
||That morning we drove about 120
miles to a breeder in Santa Clarita to look at a German Shepherd.
We loved the dog but the owner had second thoughts about selling him so
we'll have to wait for her decision. This was a big disappointment as
we'd tailored our trip around seeing this dog and if he was a match, we'd
planned to bring him home on our return.
||We left the kennel and drove
another 240 miles, stopping at the town of
Trona. This photo is
of the Westend plant on the South side of Searles Lake. It was
organized in 1920 and produces lime, soda ash, borax, and sodium sulfate.
||For our second night, we camped at
the Wildrose campsite which is in the Panamint Range on the West side of
Death Valley. Elevation was 4,100 feet. In the foreground is the
Ranger's station with the snow on the distant mountains. That night
the temperature dropped to 31 degrees.
||The next morning we drove to the
two campsites beyond Wildrose; Thorndike and Mahogany Flat at the end of the
road. Between them were these huge limestone kilns used to make charcoal.
Ten were built in 1879 and only used for 3 years.
||The roads to Mahogany Flat
recommends 4-wheel drive and reasonable ground clearance. We crossed
muddy stretches and areas with snow on the road. At Mahogany
Flat, elevation is 9,092 feet. Interestingly enough, we found cactus
living in the snow.
These are nice campsites with picnic tables and some shade from the
Pinyon pine trees. But with snow on the ground, we preferred to stay in the
||Looking out at Death Valley from
Mahogany Flat. For those who want a good hike, there's a trail upward
to Telescope Peak which is at 11,049 feet. However, they caution
hikers about slipping on the ice.
||We then drove back down the
mountain into the floor of Death Valley. We traveled to Stovepipe
Wells Village, roughly in the middle, then took a 3-mile side road South to
Rain in the perimeter mountains causes huge torrents to gouge canyons
through the rock. We hiked about 1/2 mile up this beautiful spot - all
the while wondering how many people have been caught in a surprise flash
flood with no why out!
||Continuing about 45 miles, we
visited Scotty's Castle
at the Northern end of the valley. This is a mini Hearst Castle that
was never completed and is now operated by the National Park Service.
There's plenty of water here - and begging coyotes.
||We started to drive 27 miles
off-road to see the
RaceTrack - an area where rocks creep across the desert. But the
washboard road was unbelievable - we couldn't go over 5 miles per hour
without shaking the 4Runner apart. So we turned back and visited the
This is what happens when molten lava meets water-soaked bedrock - boom -
and you instantly have a half-mile wide and 770 foot deep crater.
||Oh, and you've heard of the
fabulous floral display in the spring when the desert in is bloom?
As the desert is tough on plants, I guess we should marvel that anything
grows. Here's a "good" shot of the "flower-covered" highway.
These flowers are typical - small and struggling.
||After a long day of driving, it's
about 90 degrees outside, we planned to stay at a nearby campground,
Stovepipe, only to find out that the National Park Service closed them the
day before. So we drove 25 miles back to Furnace Creek campground just
in time to get this choice spot - near the sewage dump station. Notice
the rocks holding down the tarp. This became standard practice as it
was windy everywhere we stayed. In the valley, it's never very cold.
The lowest it got was 68 during the night as the elevation is 190 feet below
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