Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Death Valley - November 2010

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The Lady had the Thanksgiving week off. Traditional family events were scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, translated means I'm cooking, so that gave us the days prior to make a Death Valley trip.

Blast off from here was scheduled for 5 am Saturday the 20th. The predicted storm came in Friday night and with chain controls along a majority of 395, it looked like 95 in Nevada was the best choice. First we had to get there. We awoke to 8 inches of snow, ran the big snowblower to get out, couldn't get on the highway - closed with a tree across it, went back home for breakfast, power went out as we were locking up, and began the slow trip in the snow before breaking out in Gardnerville, NV. We were three hours behind making a planned meeting in Beatty with friends to join us on a couple of our planned adventures.

With our delay that put us into the park right at dark, we decided to camp for the night at one of the Furnace Creek campgrounds even if it meant the Sunset parking lot. We were surprised to find Texas Springs Campground almost empty on this Saturday night.

We are early risers and were delighted with the predawn light with the passing storm Sunday.

We had plans for today, archeology, and ancient rock art sites. We enjoy research and then taking it to the field and trying to locate hard to reach backcountry treasures.

Lots of driving, figuring out unmarked road intersections, and a long walk put us here.

This site was interesting with its varied figures and differences in ages in the petroglyphs.

This was a cold and windy day at around 4000 feet. What stuck us was the glyphs were in the sunny areas, right where we wanted to be. This one is for Stew as it is a depiction of a spacecraft blasting off.

There was a second site we were also looking for, we were so close we could taste it, but with our searching we fudged on our turnaround time as much as we could and had to head back. Looks like we will continue this search next spring.

We were far off the beaten path and completely alone this long day in just wonderful big country. What a joy.

We found a nice pull off along the road for a dispersed campsite. Armed with a great cup of coffee the next morning was clear and cold and great to watch the world wake up.

Since our friends are birders, they suggested visiting Saratoga Springs. We had to exit the south end of the park and make our way to the Amargosa River.

At an unmarked intersection there was a sign for travelers coming from that direction. I got curious as to what it said.

To get to Saratoga Springs from the south is via the Harry Wade Road.

Saratoga Springs is a place of striking contrasts. If you have the time, interest,  it is worth the visit. We were the only ones here. We wandered, we circled the ponds, we sat and ate a long lunch just listening to the birds and the wind through the reeds. An amazing place.

The Ibex Dunes are near the Springs and our plan was to find a suitable dispersed campsite and then enjoy the afternoon light exploring the dunes. There are two or three pull off sites along the road large enough to serve as campsites which put you within about a mile and a half hike to reach the dunes.

Late afternoon is a great time to explore dunes.

On the opposite side of the dunes are the remains of a talc mine.

The light, the solitude, and beauty were astounding as we wandered back to camp at sunset.

Dinner was prepared after dark but the weather was warm enough to allow us to sit outside and eat and watch the day change to night.

And of course, a great cup of coffee and sunrise over the dunes the next morning.

Well it was Tuesday morning, that turkey needed to be cooked, and the storm had lingered at home. Our friends never travel without Digonnet's hiking guide and suggested a couple of hour’s exploration up Desolation Canyon before heading toward home. This was a fun canyon to stretch your legs in.

Exploring one of the many side canyons.

You can actually top out in Desolation Canyon on a divide between it and the Artist's Drive area. Really nice vistas. Here's a view back down the canyon into Death Valley.

We made one last stop in the valley.

We reached one of our favorite camping spots in the Alabama Hills just after sunset on Tuesday night. The wind blew, it was cold, the clouds lifted off of the Sierra escarpment as the moon rose. We put on all our clothes and took a long walk. It was incredible.

We arrived home Wednesday late afternoon and had to dig out from snow before taking care of last minute shopping.

Thanksgiving was great, we picked the bird down to bones, and the Lady dug off all our neighbor's decks.

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