Owens Valley, Panamint Valley, and Death Valley Geocaching

Dan let me know that he and some friends were headed to Death Valley for some geocaching. I decided to join them, but spend some extra time in the area. I headed south and spent the first night with Mom in Shafter. The next morning I was off to Mojave where I made a brief stop at the Spaceport. As I looked at the sign I remembered many science fiction novels I read while in elementary school and how I dreamed of spaceflight.

I dreamed of spaceflight when I was that age too.

I could not find the two caches I was interested in (I did find another couple nearby), but the displays of aircraft and the replica Spaceship One were interesting.

Space Ship One replica

Heading north out of Mojave, I passed Red Rock Canyon and continued on to the Little Lake area for three volcanic related earth caches. Red Hill is the very visible cinder cone that sits right next to the 395 highway. Then I drove up on an older lava flow to the steep edge that overlooks Little Lake and the south end of the Owen’s Valley.

Little Lake and Red Hill

Next I stopped at Fossil Falls and hiked out to the upper edge of the falls. It’s hard to imagine a river running through here, but the lava has clearly been sculpted by water. It’s impressive as it is, but with water flowing it must have been spectacular. I also did a little route finding and hiked down to the bottom of the falls which gives a very different perspective.

Canyon below Fossil Falls

In the late afternoon I drove in to Manzanar to search for a couple of caches. I’ve been to Manzanar before, but this time I drove out to the remains of the water storage reservoir and checked out the interesting signatures and inscriptions the builders left in the wet cement. This location is also very close to where Ansel Adams took his famous photograph of Mt. Williamson.

Manzanar memorial at the cemetery

I spent the night in Lone Pine and in the morning headed east toward Death Valley. Got a few photos of the snow-capped Sierras on the way, and then checked out a couple of cache locations around Keeler, including the Keeler cemetery.

Sierra crest (including Mt. Whitney) from Lone Pine

I was heading to Darwin, but first I visited a cache located at the remains of the Joshua Tree that was on the cover of U2’s famous album. There is a small marker and a whole bunch of other stuff that is deteriorating into trash. I did not spend much time in Darwin itself, but checked out a few locations in the surrounding area. I went west from Darwin to a nice overlook on a seldom used track, and the east down into the canyon to get to China Springs. Wish I could have spotted a wild burro—their hoof prints and droppings were everywhere.

China Springs

I headed back south to Ridgecrest through the Panamint Valley, with a stop at Ballarat (ghost town). Since this is so close to the China Lake Naval Test Station, every now and then I was treated to a high-speed, high-g turn from an F-18. I spent the night in Ridgecrest. Dan and his friend were supposed to arrive that evening, but they got a late start and didn’t arrive until after midnight.

In the morning, we all headed north through the Panamint Valley and into Death Valley. We stopped at Stove Pipe Wells briefly and noticed how crowded it was. The super bloom had attracted lots of people. We made a stop at Mosaic Canyon and then headed north to Ubehebe Crater. That’s a big hole. Easy enough to get down but slogging back up and out on the loose cinders was tough.

Ubehebe Crater

After climbing out of the crater we went to the Racetrack over a road that is described as very rough with sharp rocks. That is not an understatement. I drove too fast and blew out a rear strut. Patience is a virtue I apparently don’t have. However, the Racetrack Playa was worth it—so very interesting to see the tracks of the sliding rocks.

Sliding rock tracks at the Racetrack in Death Valley

On the way back we made a brief stop at Teakettle Junction and just happened to be there when a couple arrived to hang a freshly decorated kettle on the sign.

I spent the night in Pahrump, where I thought I had a room reservation. I guess the on-line reservation form bamboozled me. I did not have a reservation, and all the motels were sold out. Dan was gracious to give me his bed while he slept (or attempted to sleep) on the floor using extra pillows as a mattress.

In the morning we headed back into Death Valley and started at the south end to check out Split Crater, a cinder cone bisected by a fault that has moved the crater apart. I also went to the nearby Ashford Mill Ruins, decked out in yellow flowers from the super bloom.

On the way back to Furnace Creek we stopped at Bad Water, Natural Bridge, Devil’s Golf Course, Artist’s Pallette, and a few other locations. There were lots of flowers, and lots of people admiring the flowers. At the end of the day I drove to Las Vegas (actually Boulder City) to spend the night. I ate dinner at P.F. Chang’s where I had the choice of waiting 40 minutes for a table or immediate seating at the bar. I chose the bar.

The next morning I drove south to Searchlight and then west on Joshua Tree Highway to Walking Box Ranch Road. I took this dirt road out toward the Hart Mine so I could find the California DeLorme Challenge (Southern & Central). I don’t qualify for this cache yet, but wanted to hunt it down while I was fairly close.

Near the So. Cal. DeLorme Challenge cache.

I also checked out the ruins at the mining town of Hart before driving back to Shafter for an overnight stay at Mom’s.

Photo gallery for Death Valley 2016

Carmel, Big Sur, Lucia

We spent a couple of days in the Carmel area, hiking in Pt. Lobos State Park and taking a long geocaching drive down south on highway 1 past Lucia.

We arrived around noon on Friday and ate our lunch on the sand at a beach near San Jose Creek just south of the Carmel River.

Beach scene just south of Carmel

Then we found a parking space along the highway and walked into Point Lobos State Park and hiked along the bluffs. This tree is always fascinating, but hard to get a get a good photo in the harsh afternoon light.

A very determined tree

There were a few flowers and lots of poison oak putting out its shiny leaves. Here’s an artsy, HDR photo of cones, spanish moss, and leaves.

Watch out for the poison oak

As we walked along the bluffs, I just happened to look on my iPhone for any geocaches and noticed an earth cache nearby that highlighted some fossilized tracks in the sandstone. I found this very interesting. They were probably made by some sort of ancient bivalve mollusk.


We stayed at the Sandpiper Inn in Carmel and had dinner at Passionfish in Pacific Grove.

Saturday morning we walked along the coastline in Carmel before heading south on highway 1 to find some caches on a couple of DeLorme map pages. Our first stop was at Garapata Ranch State Park. It was impossible to find a parking spot close the trailhead I wanted, so we parked farther down the road at a less popular trailhead and hiked. This turned out to be a pretty hike and I found two caches that were on page 30 of the Southern and Central California DeLorme map.

A little further south we stopped at the Bixby Bridge. It was also a zoo and the sun was in the wrong position for photos. We looked for a cache a quarter mile up The Old Coast Road (dirt) and didn’t find it.

Heading south again, our next stop was supposed to be at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, but again, I couldn’t find a convenient parking spot. I drove on south to Lucia, not realizing that I really did need the caches to complete a page in the California DeLorme map.

Our final stop was at Mill Creek Picnic area where I found two caches that were on page 43 of the Southern and Central California DeLorme map.

Interesting boat storage and launch beach

Heading back towards Monterey there were parking spots at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, but we were tired and I didn’t think it was necessary. I realized as I was logging the caches after getting home that those were the caches I needed on page 100 of the California DeLorme map. One of the caches was an earth cache about a landslide. Since I remember seeing the landslide area as I drove by and I could find all the answers from Google Earth satellite photos and web research I logged it without actually going to the specified coordinates. Interestingly, this was a monster of a debris flow during an El Niño year and it closed highway 1 for a year.

Back in Monterey at dinner time, we ate at PF Changs. I thought it was good and it was gluten free.

Total distance for the trip was 320 miles.

Photo gallery for Carmel/Big Sur 2016