Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death Valley - Thanksgiving 2014 - Part Two

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Monday morning we devoted more time and resumed our search of the morning before. Still no luck, but as the Lady pointed out, "We now have a lot of good information on where it is not." We did discover this in a shallow draw.

Is this ancient or more modern? Is it a sleeping circle? It is not up in a area where you can see others approach. This is a place you would use to try to get low, out of the wind and weather.

We had two other nearby canyons to explore. The question was where to camp. After our exquisite solitude, we just could not stay in a campground. Lemoigne Canyon Road was the closest but it is required to be 2 miles from pavement before dispersed camping is allowed. To drive a mile on this road takes 10 to 15 minutes and is not a lot of fun; tolerable, but not a lot of fun. We did not want to do this every morning and evening. We came up with a plan and headed for civilization.

We topped off the camper's propane tank at Furnace Creek and then we headed to the Visitors Center. We had unfinished business. I parked the truck. We both got out. I took a deep breath, stood tall, and walked into the Center and up to the front desk. The young girl looked up and smiled, "Welcome to Death Valley, can I help you?"
"I am sixty two years old and would like to get my interagency senior pass, please," I answered. I had been practicing the speech. I wanted everything to go right. I didn't even want to refer to it as the geezer card. I wasn't going to take any chances.
"I'm sorry sir, I can't do that for you," she replied. I started to tremble. She continued, "You'll have to see Bert. He runs the register here and does all the transactions. I help with answering questions. Now, where did Bert go?" Her eyes moved around the room. She found Bert, he was busy answering questions also. She took over and Bert returned to the register. I had run it through my head a few more times. I was ready. "I am sixty two years old and would like to get my interagency senior pass, please."
"Do you have a photo ID?" Bert asked.
"Sure do!" I produced my wallet.
"Please take it out of your wallet, sir." Bert had been practicing too.
The rest of the transaction is a euphoric blur. We walked outside.

When you are growing older and in need, Death Valley never lets you down. I was giddy. So was the Lady. She held both of my shoulders and looked straight into my eyes. "You are Geezer!" she said. "You are Geezer!"
"I am Geezer!" I said and started to laugh. The Lady looked at me.
I explained, "It makes me remember the old Helen Reddy hit, paraphrasing it. 'I am Geezer hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.' This could be the battle song for that AARP bunch."
The Lady laughed and something, that little something, told me it was not at my humor. I looked at her.
She explained, "For you it should go like this, 'I am Geezer hear me snore, a thunder too loud too ignore!'"
We both laughed. People looked at us. We didn't care. This was exactly why I wanted my Geezer Card; to be an honest to god card carrying Geezer. We didn't need the pass to get into Parks. We both earn and receive annual volunteer passes every year. We don't often stay in campgrounds so the half price camping fee is not that important. I was looking forward to everything I can now get away with, all those off the wall comments, quirky behavior, flirting with the waitress, toilet paper stuck to my shoe, because it can now be easily dismissed with the remark, "Oh, he's just a Geezer." Now I have a ID card in my pocket that proves it.

The plan we hatched had us up Hole in the Wall Road to find a campsite. About 2.5 miles up was a great spot. We popped the top and were quickly set up. This was to be a relaxing, do nothing kind of afternoon. We sat in our chairs and ate clips and salsa, a rarity for us. We waved to the occasional vehicle that went by. We were figuring out another aspect of what Digonnet may have meant by " .....................backcountry roads look like freeways "

Well, we had sat around more than long enough. We needed a walk. We climbed to the top of the bajada to the south. It gave a wondrous high view of the surroundings. Manly Beacon was recognizable and Zabriskie Point also. We walked to the east and got an unexpected and exceptional view of the Hole in the Wall.

We continued climbing to the south as a large gully cut back into the bajada and blocked our path. We thought we may find an entry into the upper part of the gully and that could be our exit back into the main wash and back to camp. Without too many details, let's just say we made it and found ourselves in a fun little slot canyon.

We exited into the main wash and turned toward home. We still had enough daylight that we heated extra water for our showers and the Lady got that special treat of a hair wash.

We ate dinner while watching our shadows grow further and further away.

The late afternoon light gave another exceptional view of the Hole in the Wall

The sliver of the waxing moon followed the sun as darkness came.

The moon's light gently illuminated the terrain around us.

We tend to do a lot during the day, but night is half the trip and just as delightful.

Sitting out, listening to the night and marveling at the stars above is great, but after awhile the cold of the night started to get into our bones. It is time to turn in. We turned off the heat in the camper and crawled up into bed. The Lady stretched and said, "I just melt into this bed as soon as I lay down. It is comfy cozy! I just love our camper!" She was sound asleep before we got through looking at the day's photos on the camera's lcd screen. Her deep regular breathing was addictive and I soon followed her into deep sleep.

The predawn light was gentle the next morning.

The sun soon followed.

The two canyons we planned to explore were Black Point Canyon and Cairn Canyon. Both cut into Tucki Mountain. We had heard of both canyons but really got interested when Jim Boone recently added them to his birdandhike.com website.

Today we explored Black Point Canyon.

I'll just say it, hell I have permission now, I'm a Geezer - if you like exploring Death Valley Canyons, go to Black Point Canyon. It is not as spectacular as some but it has its own personality. If you are into geology, it out mosaics Mosaic Canyon and it out stretched pebbles Stretched Pebble Canyon.

It does not start out well, though. The first attraction we came upon was the old Stove Pipe Wells dump. Cans and bottles became more and more plentiful as we climbed. We discovered the grave of industrial grade oven, stainless steel of course. This was probably state of the art back in the day.

Burying our refuse in an out of the way place and forgetting about it was common practice. I hope that continues to change, but it looks like that's our plan for all our nuclear waste.

The canyon began to narrow and we entered an area of breccias. This is the rock that looks like a natural mosaic.

It is especially striking where it has been cut, smoothed, and polished by water.

All this rock is breccia.

There was a wide expanse of water smoothed rock along with a fossilized ancient alien spacecraft in the background.

Different outcroppings gave views into the earth's distant past.

The Lady was enjoying the geology also.

As the canyon further narrowed, the mosaic patterns got better and better.

On top of it all, we were the only kids in the candy store. The fun factor kept raising.

Then we came to the major obstacle.

We called this "The Guardian." If you want to continue up canyon, you have to go up and over. Although very doable, it is not as easy as it looks. The bottom section is water polished and slicker than calf slobber on a pump handle. The Lady took a look and climbed right up. "Big buckets up here!" I heard as she neared the top.

Here's a look down the pour over from the top.

We began to encounter outcropping of the stretched pebble formation.

It is thought that this began as a deposit of glacial till (yes, in Death Valley). It was then buried deep in the earth where it was heated and cooked under great pressure. The ingredients melted and flowed and stretched.

We entered what I believe Jim Boone calls "the zone of pour overs." This was a juggle gym for big kids.

All in interesting rock.

A significant gradient rise is in one bend of the canyon. After working our way over the pour overs, we climbed up to a high point for a view and snack break.

This stretched pebble formation was really getting me excited! Forgive me, I'm a Geezer you know.

Although out of the "zone," there was still plenty of fun ahead for us.

We also enjoyed the grandeur of this canyon on the way back down.

Sorry, no photos of the down climbs. I prudently stashed the camera in my pack.

The entrance to Lemoigne Canyon Road was right up highway 190. We'd do it one more time because we knew the opportunity for solitude and tremendous views. We found a nice "flatter" spot about 2.25 miles in. Showers, dinner, our night walk, and stars overhead properly polished off another wonderful day in Death Valley National Park.

Continued in the next installment. Click here for - Part Three

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