Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Death Valley Adventures

My trip to Death Valley started out with me stumbling out of my bed, getting dressed, and hopping in my car at 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday. I drove till around 9:00 a.m. when I stopped for coffee, a Cliff Bar, and gas somewhere on highway 5. My next stop was at noon in the town of Pearsonville on highway 395 where I had a Subway sandwich for lunch, got more gas, and headed off on the last leg of my journey to Death Valley. I arrived at the Furnace Creek group site H at 3:30 pm. No one else had arrived yet so I had first choice of where to locate my tent. I got a nice spot in the shade of a one of the few trees at the site. By 4:30 pm four of the five others joining me on the campout had arrived at the campground. Everyone got set up and we made our dinners and then enjoyed an evening of chatting and some star gazing once the cloud cover went away. I went to bed around 8 p.m. and while I was asleep the last person arrived.

Friday I had agreed to lead an 8 mile and 3300 feet elevation gain hike from Dante’s View to Mt Perry. G. and S. decided to join me and the C., T. and J. decided to spend the day relaxing in camp. We set off in my car at 8:45 a.m. to drive to Dante’s View. We got to Dante’s View around 10 a.m. The view from the parking lot of Bad Water was amazing!

We set off on the Dante’s Peak trail towards Mt Perry. We passed by Dante’s peak and found the use trail to Mt Perry. A use trail is a trail created because so many people use the same route to go to a destination. About 2.5 miles into our hike, I lost my balance for reasons unknown to me and took a hard fall onto the rocks. I fell mostly on my right side and gouged my knee on a rock, scraped my right forearm, and got a bruise on my right elbow. G. and S. ran over to be sure I was OK. I sat there for a bit doing an inventory of my body and felt like I was OK to get up. I got up and saw the gouge on my knee. I got out my first aid kit to take care of the cut. I washed it with an alcohol swab and then put a bandage on it (click if you want to see a pictures of the boo boo) and on the scrapes on my right forearm. I walked around a bit and determined that I was OK to hike a bit more.

After about half a mile though I decided that it was a bit much for me to continue on with the hike so asked G. and S. if they were OK with having lunch and then turning around and heading back to the car. They were fine with that. We admired the view of Mt. Perry and hoped to tackle it in another year. 

The hike back was uneventful and beautiful. We had hiked mostly down so we had lots of exercise on the way back going back up! We got to the parking lot at 3 pm and headed back to the campground.

G. and S. headed off to check out the Furnace Creek visitor center and stores while I settled down to remove my bandage and do a more thorough job of cleaning my wound and putting antibacterial goo on it to prevent infection. I finished up my cleaning and then settled back in S.’s comfortable camp lounge chair and had a nice nap in the shade to escape the 96F heat at the campground. I woke up for my nap and was heading to the bathroom when C. showed up at the campground. She had run into G. and S. at the visitor’s center and came to check to be sure I was all right and invite me to go to the visitor’s center to escape the heat. We ran into more of our gang there and C., T., J., and I ended up at the saloon for a beer. That was fun. We laughed and drank in the cool of the bar until someone put on loud music on the juke box that drove us back to camp. At camp we all started in on cooking our respective dinners and then settled in for another nice night of chatting and star gazing. 

On Saturday we split up into two groups again. C., G., S., and I decided to go to Ubehebe crater, Scotty’s Castle, and Titus Canyon. J. and T. headed off for a hike at Golden Canyon. After an hour or so in the car we arrived at Ubehebe crater and decided to hike around the crater rim first and then descend to the bottom of the crater. 

The hike around the rim took about forty five minutes and was awesome! When we finished our circuit of the rim, C. decided she wasn’t up for descending into the crater so she remained at the top while G., S., and I descended to the bottom. The trail down to the bottom was very gravely loose dirt. It made the descent very easy on the knees to sink in the gravel instead of jarring the knees against hard packed dirt. At the bottom we ran around like little kids and enjoyed the views. G. decided to pretend to be exhausted and lay down prostrate on the ground and had S. take a picture. Unbeknownst to us, C. on top was watching us with her binoculars and she was panicking that G. had hurt himself and was rehearsing in her head what she needed to do to rescue us if G. turned out to be hurt. Fortunately we decided to head back up and so she could see that G. was OK. The trip up was tough because of the loose gravel. It was one step back for every two steps forward. But we persevered and made it up to the top in 23 minutes. 

Next up in our day was to see Scotty’s Castle. It was a short 15 minute drive from Ubehebe crater. When we arrived at the Castle we were pleased to see a shaded lawn with picnic tables. We parked and snagged a table under the shade of a tree and ate our packed lunches with a marvelous view of the Castle in the cool shade. 

After lunch we decided to not tour the Castle as none of us wanted to pay for the tour and we wished to remain outdoors. We did pay a visit to the visitor’s center and I purchased a post card there to send to my parents while G. purchases a topographic map of the park. We then checked out what looked like a moat of the Castle but turned out to be an old swimming pool that is no longer full of water or used and that slaked our collective curiosity about the Scotty’s Castle and we ready to be off to our third location of the day, Titus Canyon. 

We arrived at the mouth of Titus Canyon at about 2 pm. It was hot and we were glad to enter into the Canyon and find shade. As we hiked we saw cars, other hikers, lizards, and beautiful tall canyon walls! Titus Canyon is open to four wheel drive cars so as we hiked we had to step aside to let the cars pass. 

One car stopped to ask us if we were all right. Apparently they had trouble figuring out that some people like to hike on foot in the canyon! The canyon goes a long way so we decided to hike till 3 pm and then turn around and head back. On the way back we realized that we had been hiking slightly up before and were now hiking slightly down. It was a small relief as it was getting quite hot and we were getting tired. We arrived back at the cars satisfied with our adventures and ready to get back to camp to relax.
When we got back to camp we dropped S. off at the visitor’s center and the sign out front declared that it was 100F. Oh my! When we got back to camp some of us dunked our heads under the water faucet at the sink and then put our chairs in the shade to cool off! That felt good! I also took my bandages off my cut to check on it and it seemed to be healing and not infected so I cleaned it again and put on more antibacterial goo and put on a new bandage. We then had another pleasant evening of cooking dinners, talking, and star gazing.

I was up at 6 a.m. on Sunday, my travel back home day. I got all packed up by 6:30 a.m. and started my trip home. I was the first of our gang to leave. I took my time traveling on 190 and stopped to take pictures of the Devil’s Cornfield, the Mesquite Dunes, and the Eastern Sierra mountains on my way home. After leaving the desert area I did my usual hardly stopping driving till I got home at 4 pm. It was good to be home in the cool air and be able to shower and relive the memories of my the Death Valley adventure by downloading all my pictures! 

Mesquite Dunes
Devil's Cornfield in Death Valley
Highway 190 View
Eastern Sierra Mountains from highway 190