Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Death Valley - Thanksgiving 2014 - Part Three

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version 

The trailhead for Cairn Canyon is Emigrant Wash below the old Emigrant Ranger Station. After our bumpy drive out Lemoigne Canyon Road. We were ready to hike as soon as the truck was parked.

The longest part of this hike is the approach up Emigrant Wash and then up the broad wash coming out of Cairn Canyon. The Lady was getting a little tired of it. She wanted to get there. As soon as she saw the mouth of a narrowing canyon, she went for it. It ended in a jumbled, chaotic box canyon. We were not in the right canyon.

We did harvest a couple of mylar balloons that we carried out. We returned down to the main Cairn Canyon wash, hiked up the wide canyon, and we continued to gain elevation.

Finally the canyon constricted and the walls grew high overhead. We wondered if all the hiking was worth it. We came around a corner and saw these possible shelters high above.

The canyon below was a series of slick water polished tubes.

Here is a view of the top of the last pour over of this canyon section. It was an enjoyable slick tube to climb. After topping out, we left our packs, and found a route to the shelter sites we had seen from below.  The shelter contained a packrat midden and the best view spot had two well used bighorn beds. We found no sign of human use.

It continued to be an interesting climb up Cairn Canyon.

At the top of one high pour over was a bighorn skull.

We continued up canyon and reentered the stretched pebble formation. In this area the formation is large and impressive and even tilted vertically. This gorge is all stretched pebble.

There is one section of water polished stretched pebble.

This is a good comparison with a rough, unpolished outcrop.

We had ventured a long ways up Cairn. It was time to turn around and return to the truck.

Where to next? This is where things get interesting. Remember that plan we had hatched a few days prior? I always keep in my notes information on a few extra sites we could visit. We didn't want to drive back up Lemoigne Canyon Road to spend another night. Reaching the truck mid afternoon, we figured we'd have just enough daylight to make it to a campsite in a new area. History was calling. There was, we hoped, something exciting to find.

We still had light as we drove up the extremely narrow, seldom used two track. Google Earth had revealed a small clearing that could maybe work out as a campsite. We found it and it worked well. We'd have yet another night far from anyone else.

Morning came with a layer of clouds. For only a moment at dawn sunlight streamed underneath, a nice start for Thanksgiving!

As I said, history was calling. A few years back, as per Digonnet's guide book, we had hiked the Ubehebe Trail up to Racetrack Playa. The Ubehebe Trail predates the Lippincott Road and was a route into Ubehebe mining district. Digonnet offers more information on the old trails in Hiking Western Death Valley. For the best look at Death Valley history, I enjoy Death Valley and the Amargosa.

We were heading cross country to find historic rock inscriptions associated with Ubehebe.

After a couple of miles, we turned up a small draw. Along the wash we started to find petroglyphs.

Sheep figures predominated.

Geometric designs were also represented.

It was exciting to see detail in some of the older, fainter petroglyphs.

Sheep were still ever present.

Even without the ancient art work, this was still a very special place.

At a constricted point in the gully was a large ancient hunting blind.

Here's the view the hunter's had.

There was another blind higher up on the wall.

This site reminded me of modern day duck hunters hiding in their blinds with decoys out on the water. It made me ask the question, "Were all the sheep glyphs meant to make the prey comfortable and draw them in for the ambush?"

We were so excited about the ancient art work that we forgot about the more modern stuff we had come for. Around a corner and there it was, the large boulder.

Higher up on a wall we found this.

Bill Keys was a well known rancher in the Joshua Tree area. Prior to moving to Joshua Tree he spent time in Death Valley. He is thought to be one of Death Valley Scotty's buddies in the "Battle of Wingate Pass" where Scotty had set up a staged attack by desperados to scare away investors he was swindling. Scotty's brother took a bullet and Scotty yelled to the "bandits" to stop. His cover was blown. Later in life, Bill shot and killed a neighbor and spent time in San Quentin.

The lichen in this area was very nice.

We returned to the truck early afternoon and decided to slowly move toward home. We'd take our time and maybe check out a couple, new to us, places. We drove in Saline Valley Road and stopped in at the Boxcar Cabin. No one was home. There was no turkey going on a grill.

There was a place to sign in and record the brand of beer you were drinking. It looked like a shrine.

I enjoyed this window from the outside.

Back on highway 395, we contemplated camping in the Alabama Hills. The Lady suggested moving further north and looking for a campsite in the Volcanic Tablelands north of Bishop. The spots close to Bishop were filled with the tents of climbers. It was a busy holiday here. We headed further out and looked for a tiny two track we had seen on past trips. It worked out well and we found our kind of highpoint. Dinner preparations ceased as evening color appeared.

As darkness came, so did the glow of light from Bishop to our south.

Friday was the last morning of our trip.

We returned home this day. We were concerned about the shock of returning to civilization. Maybe we should ease into it? The Lady suggested a store bought sit down breakfast in Mammoth. I had reservations about that qualifying as "easing" and feared it could be more like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. We did not eat at the establishment that billed itself as a "savory boutique." That was way over the top, I thought, after the Lady explained it to me.

We ate at a nice little spot and enjoyed a good breakfast. I didn't overload on civilization, drown in the deep end, but I was a bit concerned. I'm a Geezer, you know.


  1. Another terrific adventure! I am looking forward to seeing some shots of those blue boots in action. And those stretched pebbles were amazing -- first, the stream deposits the cobbles, which are then cemented into conglomerate, only to be literally stretched by faulting, and finally exposed by erosion. A great time lapse movie!

  2. I very much enjoyed all three parts of your DV story and especially the photos of all the cool places and things.