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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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