Monday, April 11, 2011

Death Valley 2011

April 7-10, 2011

Camping at the edge

We squeezed out a long weekend and took a mad dash trip to Death Valley. It took all of Thursday to drive down and all of Sunday to drive back, but we had two glorious days in one of the most spectacular places we've been.

We chose a campsite at the edge of Furnace Creek campground with an unfettered view of the eastern side of the valley.

Tight driving in Kern Canyon
Getting there was an adventure unto itself. A sign at the beginning of the Kern River Canyon reads "Kern River. 231 lives lost since 1968. Think safety." The views are worth the driving conditions and the adrenaline.

Death Valley is over those distant mountains
The final challenge was the 9+% downgrade on the backside of the Panamint Mountains descending into Death Valley.

Surrounded by mountains
 We camped roughly in the center of the valley, within easy driving distance of more sights than we could see in our brief visit. Furnace Creek allows site specific reservations (we were in site #122) but offers no hookups. Our 1971 trailer has no grey water tank. We used a 5 gallon bucket for grey water and emptied it in the restroom.

Tasty lizard, anyone?
 A handsome road runner perched in the campground trees, offering a delectable dead lizard to any lady road runners in the vicinity.

Death Valley bares the bones of the earth. Tremendously varied colors point out intrusions of different kinds of rock. Sweeping panoramas and tight twisted canyons offer insights into time on a geological scale. Rock shapes that seem frozen in the present  result from eons of motion both sudden and gradual.

From the hills at the side, the valley opens up below. A trip up the 4 wheel drive road into Echo Canyon took us to the abandoned Inyo Mine. The elevation rise brought us up into the snow. We had the place to ourselves on that Friday morning.

The highways is the line below the dunes.

Ghost mine

Snow at Inyo Mine

Enough of the mine's equipment is still visible to give a feel for the workings of the place.

 We also got a close up view of an amazing steam tractor. "Old Dinah" used to haul borax out of the valley, replacing the 20 mules teams used before.

We explored the natural wonders as well, hiking around Zabriskie Point and up Mosaic Canyon and under Natural Bridge. In some ways, two days were plenty to begin to grasp the amazing tale the rocks can tell. One could also spend weeks and years here and never get the whole story.

Zabriskie Point
Mosaic Canyon
Mosaic Canyon
Eye of the Needle, Echo Canyon
Natural Bridge

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