We departed Stovepipe Wells on Tuesday and drove 33 miles to Furnace Creek. The nice hookup campground was full so we ended up at Sunset CG, a gravel-pit. After settling in, we headed up to see the Pupfish, tiny little critters that inhabit Salt Creek. After all the rains here, they were all over the creek, looking for a little fun.
We had a boring drive through the dull Mustard Canyon and went home to see a spectacular sunset.
The next morning, we got up early. (Again!) Dave started to load the Rav, came in and told me “We’re dead in the water.” “Huh?” “We have a flat tire.” Apparently our little detour through Mustard Canyon had inserted a shard of something into the tire. My intrepid husband put on the spare and drove about a 100 yards to the only gas station in Furnace Creek. As luck would have it, the garage man at the gas station lived in Pahrump and if Dave ordered a new tire from there, he could pick it up and deliver it to Death Valley for us on Thursday. That’s service! So a half hour after Dave returned, we drove the 6 miles to Golden Canyon and were on the trail by 8:15, early enough to still have some shade.
Golden Canyon is our favorite hike in Death Valley. The soft golden shades are beautiful, there’s not too much going up, there’s lot of little side canyons to explore and you can loop around to Zabriskie Point or Gower Gulch.
The varieties of shape, color and consistency are mind boggling. How did all this stuff arrive at one location? (Could it be wind and water?)
As you wind your way up the canyon, eventually, a turn reveals the Red Cathedral, a radically different rock formation.
After that, as Dave puts it, we reach “Georgia O’Keeffe country”. The trail starts to rise and you look down at hills that are melty amalgams of beige, butter, tan, cinnamon, sepia and all their color cousins. I could photograph this stuff forever.
As an added bonus, you are high enough to have a line of sight to Death Valley’s floor.
After a bit of a sit, we started down the other side.
Our big decision was to go up to Zabriskie Point and return down Golden Canyon or make a loop out of Gower Gulch. We had tried Gower several years ago and were not impressed. But I thought we should try it again. And it was good. The light was good, it wasn’t super-hot and we weren’t too tired. There were colorful rock formations. So stuff looked good. It was fun.
We were supposed to get our new tires on Thursday, but the service station guy had a really sore tooth and called in sick. He was going to pick them up in Pahrump, Nevada, where he lived and bring them to Furnace Creek. So no tires for us. We languished around the morning and early afternoon and then headed for a sunset at Dante’s View. At 5,000 feet altitude, Dante’s is a welcome refresher on a hot day.
Zabriskie Point is on the way to Dante’s and we made our obligatory stop there. We have spent several hours there before, but the heat defeated us and we took a few shots and got back in the air-conditioned Rav.
It’s about 20 miles further to the Dante’s View. No flowers – a little disappointing. But we started winding our way up and arrived at the view around 5:30. Alas, the clouds weren’t that thick but the great light and color just wasn’t there. We stuck around until 6:30 and then headed back. The dusk critter count crossing the road: 1 vole, 2 moths and 1 jackrabbit. But the night was young – we were going to get a Death Valley pizza!
Dave had a beer and I had a pretty insipid cocktail while we waited for the pizza. Then we took it home and enjoyed it. The crust was tough to cut through but the pepperoni was plentiful and the mushrooms were meaty. Afterwards, we finished our wine outside, identifying the Big Dipper and Orion. A nice evening.
We decided to check out Ashford Mill, about 35 miles south of Furnace Creek., so we got up early. Our critters of the day: two roadrunners in camp. One of them looked like it was begging – approaching very close to a guy in the next camp over. We hit the road about 8 a.m. and it was quite pleasant, with clouded skies.
A little before we reached Badwater, the lowest point in the United States, we saw something stalled in the middle of salt pan. Binoculars revealed either a van or a boat. We continued to Badwater and started walking out onto the salt pan.
We saw someone walking towards the vehicle and decided to follow. About 15 minutes later, we found a Chevy van, deeply sunk in the muck. It’s tracks looked like the debacle was fairly recent. The hula doll in the windsheild hadn’t provided luck. Dave and I debated: had the guy got drunk and decided to camp out there? The next day, when he couldn’t drive away, did he walk back to the road and hitch a ride, saying he had car trouble? Did he call AAA? We’ll never know.
As we started to walk back, there were two groups of people heading our way. Once people see someone else go somewhere, they will follow. (Well, so did we.) Although Dave lent me his ballcap, I had a slight sunburn from the sun reflecting off the salt by the time we got back to the car.
As we headed south, we noticed the Creosote bushes were in bloom. So we stopped to photograph them. Further south, we found a small marsh with crickets singing away. The greenery lined up next to the road revealed some small wildflowers. If you look close, you will see.
We finally reach Ashford Mill, a long-abandoned business.
In 2010, we had experienced an exquisite bloom there, but it was too early or perhaps the bloom just wasn’t going to be great this year. I found one sand verbena blooming and Dave found 3 desert gold plants. Oh well, it was nice anyway.
We went back, knowing that we would get the new tires installed in Pahrump, and settled down for a slightly sweaty afternoon at the rig. Tomorrow, on to Nevada.