Thursday, April 1, 2021

Two Nights at the Hot Springs - March 2021


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We Almost Forgot


What a bummer that would have been. We made reservations for two nights at our favorite springs in the midst of the winter solstice holidays. During the dreary winter days of the pandemic - watching many of our neighbors throw Covid Parties, large holiday gatherings without any precautions and watching the resultant infection numbers skyrocket along with deaths - we took a mental break and dreamed of quiet time, just the two of us, soaking in restorative hot spring water. Two nights in mid March were booked.


Two questions. Would we remember and would the winter weather cooperate?


We managed to remember although finding it one day on the calendar was a wonderful surprise.


The weather was an issue. A storm rolled through Sunday night and dropped six inches of snow. We woke early, ran the tractor with the front mount snowblower to clear the road and driveways, and left mid morning. It was slow going at 25 mph for hours as chain controls were up until we approached Yerrington and Alternate 95 to continue our journey south. It continued to snow but with little sticking to the roadway. Snowstorms in rural Nevada are glorious. We broke over Montgomery Summit with patchy sun lighting up the valley below. Good times were ahead.


We took a couple hours the next day to drive into Bishop to visit a coin operated car wash. The truck and camper was covered in road grime and ice sickles still hung from the undercarriage. It was in the mid forties in Bishop.



Clouds cleared throughout the day. As sunset approached, we hoped for vibrant colors. The colors did not materialize, but the bare cottonwoods against the vibrant cold blue sky were wonderful.


















The springs are now fully booked months in advance so we were well aware all sites were filled. We were pleased that most our camping neighbors were very quiet and respectful. The only exception was Tub 10. A large group was gathered there. Alcohol (loudmouth) kicked in as the young children were put to bed. The size of the campfire grew in proportion to the amount of drinking, as did the loud jabber. We were far enough away it did not distract too much from the hot spring water and brilliant star filled sky above. We decided to try some night photography. Their bonfire is featured in this first photo.






Just as we were contemplating trying some foreground lighting, a neighbor turned on headlights.






The International Space Station showed up mid exposure after we turned the tripod and camera south.






The inn area is lit with flickering orange lighting that mimicked fireglow.






A final shot to the south.






Another small storm was due at home. In the morning, after two wonderful nights at the springs, we returned home so happy we had remembered the reservations we had made months before.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Death Valley Again! - March 2021 - Part Three


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Click here for - Part Two


Let Me Tell You a Story Continues



We found no evidence of a camp or of anyone having been in the area as we drove down Marble Canyon Road. We'll leave the strange fire light of the previous night as yet another Death Valley mystery.


I need to back up to Hanaupah Canyon. It is known as one of the most impossible hikes - the climb of Telescope Peak (11,049 feet) starting at Shorty's Well (-253 feet) in Death Valley. The route is up Hanaupah Canyon to the spring, gain the ridge between the middle and south forks of Hanaupah Canyon, up to the north summit ridge, and on to the summit. The usual descent is have a vehicle waiting at the standard hiking trailhead at Mahogany Flats, a seven mile hike from the summit. It is an astounding 11,300 vertical feet in elevation gain. The summit of Telescope is in many of my up canyon photos in Part One. Our friend, Ted - a mountain guide - has guided people on this climb as a day trip. Ted replied to the first message from our InReach device we sent on the trip that he was also in Death Valley, doing several road bike rides. We were in the backcountry, Ted was on pavement, what were chances we'd run into each other?








Ted is on the left. Our other friend Barry is on the right. We found them along North Death Valley Road riding from Ubehebe Crater to Furnace Creek. The next day they were riding from Furnace Creek to Dante's View and back, a 5000 vertical feet climb.


We moved to north Death Valley for the search for several archeology sites. One we had searched for 3 or 4 times previously, the others only once before. Patience and determination count in these efforts.


Our first hike was to maybe, just maybe, locate the site that had eluded us those 3 or 4 times. All those previous searches provided valuable information - where the site wasn't.



Our hike stretched across a vast barren bajada. The views were incredible.








We entered a small side canyon, a constriction in the system of braided washes, and found what we were seeking.













Below is the "classic" boulder associated with this site.













This site only has a few boulders with petroglyphs but is, indeed, a very special place.








Since we had time we moved over and searched other areas.








My favorite item at this site was this stone tool, possibly set in its place centuries ago and untouched. It should remain untouched.








We took the time to look for faint ancient trails that led away from this site. We found one.








We have found and followed many old indian trails on our explorations in Death Valley. Along this ancient pathway we were thrilled to find marked points along the route.








Is this one a map?








Excited about our success, we headed back to our parked truck.








Because of our destination the next morning we found it necessary to spend a night at Mesquite Springs Campground. Of the 40 sites at this campground, only about 14 were occupied. This was a good sign, but unfortunately it far from eliminated negative campground experiences.



We found a nice spot and set up camp. The hoped for colors at sunset did not happen but we did have the nicest evening light of this trip.








Let's quickly wrap up the negative with our one night campground experience. Choking wood smoke. Where does this gawd-awful smelling firewood come from? Is there a special "liquid stink" this wood is soaked in? How can you possibly ever wear those smoke fouled clothes again? We live in the mountains where many heat with wood. If you love your neighbors, you burn lodgepole or cedar. We do not have fires. They ensnare and trap you around them.


Bright lights. People must be just plain afraid of the dark. We work hard on developing our night vision. Headlamps are along on our walks but rarely needed and only on red to not affect night vision. When we were almost knocked to the ground by a blinding light set off by a motion sensor on the back of a cabover truck camper parked right along the road, I instinctively uttered several choice words in rapid succession and was not surprised in the least when no one opened the camper door.


If you are thinking security, bright lights are the opposite. Lights tell everybody where you are and they destroy your ability to see anything outside your ring of light pollution - like stars, critters, so many other wonderful things. Night is half the day. Learn to embrace it.


Thank you jesus, no one was playing "music".


On to the funny stuff. Our nearest neighbors, a couple, were in a huge cabover camper, offloaded from their F350 dually crew cab long bed pickup. Do you need a captain's license to drive one of these? Their camp setup looked like a holiday sales flyer from Camping World. Where do they fit all this glamorous stuff when traveling? Our absolute favorite were the tiki lights surrounding the perimeter of their compound. These were special tiki lights with flittering orange LED lights that mimicked real flames. These were special tiki lights they could leave on all night long, incredible battery life. Honestly we slept well with the flaps closed on the side toward suburbia.



We packed up the next morning and got an early start.



We parked off the dirt road, donned our boots and packs, and began our second search in this vast area.


Julie was ahead. She stopped and happily announced, "This is why they are called cottontops!"








We climbed steeply off of the bajada.













We were searching for an area of basalt boulders. No luck up here. All the dark rock was limestone. Up and over ridges, across very steep side hills, brought us into a small shallow basin. There were basalt rock but nothing obviously "special" about this location, but here we found the remains of an incredibly intact ancient habitation site.























There were several metates - grinding stones.








Stacked stone enclosures.








This metate decorated with a petroglyph and with the mano (hand stone) still present was the highlight.













Please remember, if you visit or come upon an archeological 

site, do not touch anything. Imagine how special it would be, say 200 years in the future, someone could visit this site and find it still untouched. What a gift that would be.



Our adventure and search was not over. There was another site we hoped to locate and photograph. After more up and down, we found a hidden hillside with basalt rocks, just what we were searching for. We spread out and looked at everything. It was perfect. We could feel the juju. Our excitement was up!








Nothing was here. Nothing. We took off our packs and took a break. We rethought every place we had searched. Water and food and thorough use of see mores continued as we rolled everything over in our minds. The day had already been a great success. We had done really well. Was it time to call it quits? Yes it was.


After deep breaths and another scan of the area, we plotted a route that would take us back to the truck. Part way back, while on a steep side hill, I calmly said to the Lady, "There they are."













Why were they here? This was a complete surprise. We've looked for and found many rock art sites. Once found, we can usually find some reason for the location - water, habitation, hunting. The reason for this location, in our minds, will be yet another Death Valley mystery. But, we were thrilled to have stumbled upon it.













Here are the "classic" twin boulders associated with this site.













And our favorite. Is it twin full moons raising over mountains or is it a praying mantis?








We dropped out of the mountains, returned to the bajada, and pointed our way toward the truck. Geology, once again, caught our eye with different colored limestones.








In all ways this had been an incredible trip. Now we needed to point the truck toward home. I had an appointment to keep for my second Pfizer vaccination. 



I'll add this, just in case the idea popped into your head I might make a few things up in these posts. Here is the photo of that young miner's forgotten grave - the young miner on the graveyard shift in the Coffin Mine..........................our friends, Barking and Mom Spider were along when we stopped to pay our respects.







No sidewinders or scorpions were harmed during the telling of this story.