Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Death Valley

I drove in from Tecopa late in the afternoon, and took rt 178 out of Shoshone into the heart of the valley, stopping for pics and a cache on the way. Leon had told me of Westside road, a gravel route along the westside of the valley floor. In particular, he had said WarmSprings Canyon was a must do! By the time I got to Westside spur it was dark, so I was traversing this route in the dark. WarmSprings is designated as a 4x4 only road, but he thought I could get quite a ways in taking it easy. I pulled out to camp about 4 tenuous miles in. 8 PM and it is 88 degrees! The overnight low was a cool 76. Getting a better view of the road ahead in the daylight, and knowing that a high was settling in and temperatures were expected to go even higher, I opted out of this expedition and headed back to 178. I swear the vans rythym was chanting "wimp, wimp, wimp, wimp" as I made my way out :0 Regardless, I have been beating myself and van up with these backroad adventures, and the paved roads have been set with 1 to 2" stone which was eating my front tires alive. I was starting to see shades of steel belt, and knew it was time to shop for new tires. Anyways, everything added up to proceeding in being not such a good idea, and so I passed. Maybe another visit with better conditions. It sounds like an awesome adventure back there.
Lots of great stop outs and scenic vistas along the way to badwater (lowest point in continental USA). On one such stop, a coyote was out on the valley floor howling away at nothing in particular. I also came across some rocks for my sister Bett to pick up if they do indeed visit the valley this fall (waypointed on my GPS). But as I told CJ, bring along REALLY BIG extra suitcases ;')
At badwater I saw a really cool RV from the 80's. Called a vixen. 21', low profile with a tilt up roof, bmw diesel, very cool vehicle.
After a few more hikes in-between, and a drive out Artists Drive (incredible colors, pastels and blends of rock!! a must see), I made it to furnace creek and the visitors center. Yesterday's high was 99, today was forcast for 102 and tomorrow will be hotter still. Sheesh. I wanted some relief from this summer heat, so I spoke with the ranger about possible camping ops up towards Dante's view. Sure enough, I could drive two miles out a gravel road (furnace creek) that goes to Shoshone and camp there. Before leaving the visitor center, I viewed "America's best idea" a photo gallery of each of the 58 national parks by Stan Jorstad. Fabulous shots. It was nice to identify how many of the parks I have visited, and how many still await me...
I stopped at Zabriskie's point and 20 mule team canyon and mines before heading up to the point at 5400' above sea level. Mucho better temps. But, the inversion from the high pressure system ruined any possible views of the valley. I hiked out to the point hoping that once the sun settled behind the ridge and the glare dissapeared, possibly some photo ops would happen. Not really. Still, nice spot. Back at the parking lot, I struck up conversation with a group of guys hanging out there. One of them did a Kramer :). Just out of the blue, he pulled a driver, ball and tee out of the back of the truck, tee'd up and let'er fly:). I don't know if he made the valley floor or not, but it was close enough for me exclaim "Man, he hit it a mile" ;') A german tourist that was there had never golfed before and was making inquiries, and so the guy tee'd another one up and walked him through a drive. Nice shot for his first time out. Probably not a miler, but a heck of a shot anyhow.
Well enough of those fun and games, so down the hill to 3300' and camp for the night. Overnight low of 53 degrees was like heaven :)
On that note, I decided it was time to move along, so I made my way out of Death Valley and towards Las Vegas...
If I had to wrap up my thoughts on the valley in one word, it would be either "Contrasts" or "Colors", heavily underscored. Hopefully the pics I post will bear this out. Nice place (if you have A.C.).

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