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Death Valley, 2022

my favourite photos

A winter camping trip to Death Vally is the only way to survive the environment with any reasonable quality of life. We arrived on January 30 and left on February 4. Weather was pleasant enough - highs mostly in the mid 60s, lows in the 30s & 40s. We had one day of overcast and two days of significant winds. We stayed in the Furnace Creek Campground, ranging far and wide from that location. Distances within Death Valley itself are vast - it's a 160 mile round trip from Furnace Creek to Racetrack and back. Death Valley is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware together. It is 3/4 the size of Connecticut. There are way more miles of unpaved roads than paved roads in Death Valley. Besides points of interest in Death Valley, we also included side trips to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the Trona Pinnacles.

This documentary is arranged by general destinations in mostly chronological order. After we were done in Death Valley we hit a couple of additional sites on our way home. So, off we go...

  • Furnace Creek - Things are really getting an update around the Ranch and the village of Furnace Creek. I've not been there in 10 years or so, but it used to be a dusty hole that you tried to avoid. A lot of upgrades have been completed that make it a nice little oasis. Old Dinah has been removed to the museum out back with a lot of additional relics I've not seen before. BTW, the Ice Cream Parlor is great!
  • Harmony Borax Works - Some things never change. Always worth the drive on past to Mustard Canyon.
  • Salt Pan - Death Valley is known for its salt pans. The characteristic fracturing of the salt is becoming more and more difficult to experience. These fragile structures have pretty much been obliterated near badwater by heavy traffic. This site is .75 miles NNW of a parking area 2.7 miles down the West Side Road from Badwater Road. This route crosses some of the most evil terrain you will ever see. Here's a short video of trail conditions.
  • Natural Bridge - a nice, short 'get acquainted with Death Valley hiking' kind of hike. A gentle slope, not a great distance, lots of interesting features. The photo album includes Badwater.
  • Shoshone - This was our day to get out of the valley to have a look at the top side. Dublin Gulch, on the south side of town, is a unique collection of old miners' homes constructed into solidified volcanic ash.
  • Ash Meadows - Look this one up. This place is fascinating! The largest remaining Mojave desert oasis, and home to more than two dozen endemic species - plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Most fascinating are the pupfish - large guppy looking fish that live in a river that has no connection to any other water system. The springs come up out of the ground, grow fish, and then disappear into the desert sand. Most striking is Devil's Hole, a huge underwater cavern system with only one known surface appearance in a hole on the side of a hill. The pool is >600 feet deep and supports a colony of pupfish that are a unique species. It's Amazing! (I'm not an underwater photographer. I got one pupfish picture, but it wasn't good enough to post.)
  • Golden Canyon is listed as a moderate level hike. We started at the bottom and hiked up to Zabriskie Point, returning by way of Gower Gulch. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Here's a short video.
  • Panamint Valley is a very large and mostly empty valley, except for a radar installation, the semi-ghost town of Ballarat, and a few sand dunes in the far north. The valley is about 50 miles long
  • Wildrose - Charcoal Kilns are relics of mining activities used from 1877-1879. The Kilns were used to reduce wood fuel to charcoal, much lighter and energy dense than raw wood. These are believed to be the best known surviving example of kilns of this type. But, first, a quick stop at Devil's Cornfield - clumps of arrow weed creating weird desert 'corn shocks'. Native Americans used the tough, strait branches of arrow weed for arrow shafts.
  • Trona is a mineral found in abundance in the bed of an ancient lake, from which the town of Trona derives its name. We were mostly interested in the Trona Pinnacles - tufa - formed as calcium carbonate rich underwater hot spring waters entered a cooler lake, causing the calcium carbonate to precipitate and form the pinnacles. Then the lake went dry leaving these spires, some of which exceed a hundred feet in height. We also stopped to photograph Fish Rocks, a quintessential example of mid-20th Century Americana. Some sources suggest the rocks were painted as early as 1928.
  • Rhyolite is another ghost town relic of the gold fever that gripped the region from the mid 1800s until the early 1900s. The town was founded in 1905, sported electric lights water mains, telephones, a hospital, school, and opera house by 1907-1908. By 1911 the mine closed and most everyone was gone by 1920. Not far from Rhyolite is the open air sculpture museum of Goldwell.
  • Titus Canyon is a wonderful scenic drive. The first few miles cross the flat Amargosa valley. The road is rough but quite drivable by vehicles with reasonable clearance. The single lane dirt road has no barriers to keep you from driving off over cliffs, so pay attention. The road is one way, and starts from the top, a couple of miles west of Rhyolite/Goldwell. Total distance is a little less that 25 miles.
  • Ubehebe Crater is a volcanic crater in the northern part of Death Valley. I've been there several times but I'm always startled by how big it is. I always seem to minimize it in my mind since I'm only there on my way to somewhere else.
  • Racetrack has been a fascination of mine for decades. This was my second trip out there. Since it's an 160 mile round trip drive from Furnace Creek, it's a commitment. Recent research (2014-15) confirmed that the rocks on the playa are embedded in ice and drug through in the mud as wind blows the ice sheets around. The results are fascinating. Recent years have produced much less rock moving activity and very few tracks were clearly visible.
  • Zabriskie Point is a great view of desert badlands. It's also a great place to watch sunsets.
  • Calico is a ghost town and former silver mining town in San Bernardino County, California. Purchased in the 1950s by Walter Knott (Knott's Berry Farm) and restored to look as it did in the 1880s. Since donated to the county of San Bernardino, I last visited Calico in the very early 1960s.
  • Bakersfield - Kern County Museum exhibits historic buildings - homes, shops, outbuildings - collected from around the county. They have been restored and arranged into a small Pioneer Village on 16 acres. Additionally, other exhibits feature transportation, neon signs, and the oil industry. The Beale Memorial Clock Tower was constructed in 1904 at the intersection of 17th and Chester Ave. The tower was heavily damaged in the 1952 earthquake. In 1961 it was rebuilt on the current site with surviving parts from the original. We spent half a day wandering through the museum.
  • Canyonville was our last stop on the way home. I photographed a few flowers.

Looking forward to our next trip to Death Valley