Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death Valley National Park - December 2015 - Part Two

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"Do you think it looks low. I think it looks low." the Lady was looking at our left front tire Tuesday morning as we walked with our morning coffee. Looking at the tire had become a ritual since finding the tire flat on the truck in our garage at home late afternoon christmas eve - too late to get it fixed and no hope getting it fixed on christmas day. Besides, we had dinner and festivities to prepare for the houseful of people we were shuttling up to our home for a white christmas. This meant getting the tire fixed Saturday morning and a late start to our trip.

Saturday morning we found our preferred tire shop closed, they were all taking a long holiday weekend. Good for them! That left us with choice number two.

"The bead was leaking. That's the only leak I could find," the young woman said as she rolled the repaired tire out of the shop.

"I'd think the bead seal was broken because of the tire sitting completely flat with all the weight of the truck on it. Did you check it after the repair?" I asked.

"No leak, it's holding air," she answered.

We were both leery of that explanation but the tire was holding air. Thus began the ritual of watching the tire. It and the other tires had gotten a good workout reaching our camping spot.

"If you think it's low, let's check the pressure," I replied.

"No. If it's low we'll know something's wrong. I don't want something wrong!" The Lady's logic made sense in a kind of roundabout way.

"We have a spare tire and an air compressor. This is easy. If there's a problem we'll take care of it and our chore for the day will be getting the tire repaired," I added.

"I'll get the tire gauge," the Lady said as she turned to retrieve it.

"Sixteen pounds, it's low. It must have a slow leak. Let's pump it up and see how it does."

The tire held air with no visible leak. But there obviously was a problem. We were heading for town.

We got the tire repaired in Pahrump. There was a hole. A couple of items from the grocery store and we were back on the road and wanted to get into position for adventure number two.

Mid afternoon we turned up into Hole in the Wall wash. We would relax. The earlier hour allowed us to pour warm water over each other with the sun still shining, a decadent treat for sure. We snacked on chips and homemade salsa and made a fresh salad with chunks of chicken for dinner.

One vehicle drove out just after dark. We walked up through and beyond the gap in the night. We were the only people in the area, a surprise.

Our objective for Wednesday's hike was the top of Corkscrew Peak, a prominent Grapevine Mountains summit north of the Daylight Pass Road. We parked at a pull out along the highway and started up a broad wash that led to a use trail I had spotted on Google Earth.

We turned and hiked up a narrow side canyon.

This gave access to the trail and a series of ridgelines climbing to the summit.

This use trail is very straightforward in getting about its work in gaining elevation. It is steep. To reach the summit you must thread the eye of the needle.

I believe the Lady is happiest on the top of a mountain.

The vistas were outstanding.

The view west across Death Valley and the Cottonwood Mountains and the Inyo Mountains with the snowy crest of the Sierra Nevada beyond.

Here's a telephoto shot over the Cottonwoods and Inyos with the Sierra crest from Langley (left) to Mount Whitney. As the crow flies, Whitney's summit is 72 miles away.

It was the colors and ruggedness of the Grapevine Mountains to the north that drew my attention.

We both were happy.

We took our time on the descent and enjoyed the view south down the length of Death Valley.

We met a young man on his way up just as we started down. Scott made the top and then caught up with us and joined us on the hike down. This was his 25th trip to Death Valley. He, like us, is definitely addicted to the wonders of this place. We keep getting drawn back again and again. Our visit with Scott was an unexpected pleasure and added to such an enjoyable day.

Upon reaching the truck we headed east and up Daylight Pass and then quickly turned onto Monarch Canyon/ Chloride Cliff Road to find a camp spot our new friends, Team Shadyapex had recently told us about. Although windy and cold this evening, this spot was outstanding.

From this high vista point the night sky seemed almost endless. The night was perfect.

Although the Daylight Pass Road was out of our line of sight, the headlights of passing cars spilled light over the landscape.

We took a long walk in the morning with our coffee mugs. The wind was brisk and the temperature cold, down in the twenties. We walked until sunlight washed over the whole area.

That is Corkscrew Peak on the left.

Today, New Years Eve, we were heading back to a favorite area for more exploration. But first we stopped to investigate a shelter that Scott had spotted and shown us on our hike down Corkscrew. We climbed up into an interesting swallow canyon.

Most of the artifacts in the area were old milled lumber, rusted corrugated metal, and old cans. 

This seemed to indicate this was probably an old stopover spot for prospectors on the route over Daylight Pass to Rhyolite.

These days it is an often used shelter for bighorn sheep based on the sign.

The wind was brisk and the temperature 12° colder than the previous day. By chance, we had picked the nicest day to summit Corkscrew Peak.

By early afternoon we were back at one of our all time favorite camping spots in the Park, near the end of LeMoigne Canyon Road. The views are expansive and the legendary roughness of the road keeps use very light. Why were we back? We wanted to continue our exploration of old trails in the area.

It makes sense that the Death Valley 49ers followed indian trails in finding their way across this demanding landscape. Later, the prospectors and miners probably did the same and expanded the network of routes. Then came the roads, the area's inclusion in the NPS system, and now use is mainly recreation. But sections of  old trails exist and their origins could trace back to prehistoric times. For us, it is a special thrill to find and walk these old routes and enjoy the pleasure of letting our minds drift far far back in time.

An alternate route to use to access LeMoigne Canyon by foot is the old indian trail from Emigrant Campground to our camp spot on LeMoigne Canyon Road. It is three miles across. Our explorations have shown that the trail actually runs from the mouth of LeMoigne Canyon to the mouth of Emigrant Canyon. It is a spur off of this trail that leads to Emigrant Campground.

This afternoon we headed south, toward highway 190 on the old trail.

As you can see, there is a well defined path. There are occasional cairns along the route and I've been told they are considered historical and travelers are asked not to disturb or add to them.

Across this rough country, it is nice to have an easy path to travel.

This view is toward Tucki Mountain. Emigrant Campground area is on the far left in the distance.

The trail drops down and crosses several deep washes. From a distance this terrain appears like a broad, flat plain. Walking across it, you find, on the contrary, it is it rough terrain.

Far past the spur to Emigrant Campground is this interesting, lonely artifact.

The hand is pointing the way we came and most likely is indicating the distance to the famous springs up in Cottonwood Canyon. Getting from here to those springs would make a very interesting route. This is what we would explore tomorrow, New Years Day. And far up in the upper reaches of Cottonwood Canyon above the springs is a similar lonely sign post that points the way to Keeler on the shores of long gone Owens Lake. The story gets more interesting.

Past this point the trail is still well defined and continues on toward Emigrant Canyon.

We continued on to within a half mile of highway 190 and turned around to return to our comfortable camper. The late afternoon was a beautiful time to walk this ancient trail.

What will we find tomorrow?

Our story continues in Part Three - please Click Here

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