Monday, November 30, 2015

Death Valley National Park - November 2015 - Part Two

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

Dawn arrived the next morning in grand style.

Soon my special delivery of Peets Coffee arrived. I believe this trip was featuring Giants Clubhouse Blend.

The sun peeked under the cloud deck to the east and moved down the mountain side toward our truck and breakfast.

Canyons across from us cutting into the Last Chance Range were our "Let's go there!" destinations for today. We would start with the highest, that deep gash, first and then work our way down to the next and then the next. It was around 2.5 miles to the first canyon and a steep climb up the gradient of the alluvial fan. The truck and camper were a small distant dot even before the halfway mark.

It grew ever smaller and we ever higher.

The high cut bank just outside the mouth of Deep Gash Canyon - as we came to call it - showed that even this small canyon can have major flood events.

It was a ninety degree turn to enter the canyon.

Immediately around the next corner was a major obstacle, a high polished pour over.

As I took this photo I saw movement beside and above me.

I followed up behind her. Before I reached the top, the Lady returned. "I went up one pour over just above here and then there's a bigger one right way. We should return to this canyon with our climbing gear." We took our time in safely descending. No harm in leaving this canyon, we had a lot more to see.

We headed down the main wash to pass the far point of rocks.

We then turned and moved along the mountain front.

At one point we found a patch of smooth ground with a great vista. We enjoyed a break here.

We love the desert flora.

We climbed the alluvial fan and then the wash that led up into our next canyon.

We were struck immediately with the examples of slickenside.

Around the corner the canyon was blocked with a huge wide pour over. We called this canyon Box Canyon.

We retreated back down out of Box Canyon.

Down around the corner in the photo above we saw a saddle in the ridge that, if we went up and over, could eliminate a lot of distance. We climbed up to the saddle.

It was steep down the other side.

We continued along the mountain front until intersecting the main wash from our next target canyon. We hiked up the wash and entered the canyon.

The gradient immediately steepened.

We soon came to a 10 foot high pour over crowned with a rock nettle plant. The face was smooth but there was a recessed wide crack along the left side. I could see the moves, first a low back step into a friction that gave height to be able to place the right toe onto a tiny flat ledge. Hand holds were hard to find so I relied on what little balance I have and stepped up with the right foot. The next left foot placement was high in the crack, almost at the base of the rock nettle. It was a high step to reach this. Although the foot holds were small, they were solid. Only problem was the lack of handholds. But, a mantle was possible that I executed without one shred of grace. The Lady followed. She could not reach that high left step. I don't know where she found foot holds but there was no doubt she was coming up, right through the rock nettle. 

Her shirt was decorated, left arm and back. Every piece of a rock nettle plant is covered with tiny barbs, a wonderful defense to keep from being eaten. These tiny barbs are a hundred times better than Velcro. They don't let loose. Best way to remove stuck leaves and branches is to put the garment in direct sunlight and let the plant parts completely dry. This can take days. When dry, take a knife and carefully scrape everything off. If you go at it immediately with your hands, you are going to learn volumes about those thousands and thousands of little barbs. We sacrificed one of the Lady's bandanas to remove the pieces on her back where her pack would hit.

I figure you are thinking we called this Rock Nettle Canyon, but we did not. We called it S Canyon for the nice S curve at its entrance. Above the nettle pour over, the canyon opened into a small open basin. Small side canyons dropped in around the circumference. 

I noticed a possible route over the ridge that could lead us over into the much larger canyon to the south.  The route worked and we climbed down into the wash of this new canyon. It was around a half mile up from here to reach the mouth of this canyon. 

We entered the canyon. The walls were high and spectacular.

Around the next corner was a huge pour over that earned this canyon the name - Big Fall Canyon.

It does not look high in the photo above because the Lady is still some distance away. The perspective changes when she stands at the base of the falls.

At this time of the afternoon it was now cold in the shadows.  We headed back down canyon to find the sun. We really enjoyed the power of these soaring canyon walls.

We descended the main wash into the valley, deciding that the ease of hiking was well worth the additional distance it added. The truck and camp were a longs ways away. The photo below is about two thirds into the return hike. We rounded the mountain front and can now see camp, to the far right up the valley.

Here's a 200 mm shot. (DX camera for you full frame shooters. You can do the conversion for me.)

We started a bit after eight in the morning. We returned to the camper around three thirty. There were still a few minutes before the sun dropped below the Saline Range. It had been such an enjoyable day of discovery. Once again, "Let's go there!" had led to amazing things.

The moon rose again as we had dinner. My track traps on the road revealed for the second day that no one had passed our camp. This was pretty darn close to heaven for us.

"What should we do tomorrow?" the Lady asked as we settled into bed.

"Whatever we want to do," I answered. She rolled over and I got the look. She was looking for a more definitive answer.

"How 'bout tomorrow we decide what we want to do?" I tried to recover.

"Sounds good," she said as she snuggled into my arms and instantly dropped into sleep.

Tomorrow, the next day, we would sin again - sacrilege!

Our adventure continues in the final Part Three - Please Click Here

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