Death Valley, February, 2005 -
(Links on the thumbnails take you to the photo album. There are links both ways.)
We figured this was the year to go see the wild flowers at Death Valley. Last year we were about a month too late, showing up at the end of March. In 2004 at the latter part of March temperatures were already soaring into the 90's.
This year we resolved to get there in time to see the flowers.
Feb. 20: We left home on Feb. 20, stopping over night in Bakersfield. The next morning, the 21st, we were up adn gone on the road by 9AM. We drove over Tehachipi, past Mojave on Rt. 58, past Barstow and on to Baker. We turned left at Baker, and went north on Rt. 127 to Shoshone. At Shoshone we turned off onto Rt. 178 which becomes Jubilee Pass Road.
This highway goes over Salsberry Pass (3375') and then Jubilee Pass at 1290'. The road is a good two lane road and while there is some other traffic, it is mostly light traffic. Jubilee Pass goes down into Death Valley, and near Ash Mills turns into Badwater Road. The road from here to Badwater is curvey, with coarse pavement and had some nice pot holes along the way.
We drove on north up Badwater Rd., past Furnace Creek village, turning left on Rt. 190 to arrive in mid afternoon at Stove Pipe Wells village. This is the only area in Death Valley which has full service hookups for RV's. Obtaining such is strictly first come first served. When we arrived there were about six sites empty out of the fifteen or so available sites. Obtaining a site is done at the Stove Pipe Resort office across the street from the store/gas station.
Feb 22: On the 22nd we went down and walked around in the sand dunes sandwiched between Stove Pipe Village and the Devils Corn Field. We could see a lot of evidence of little lizards, snakes and four footed animals by the way of tracks, but didn't see anything moving.
Every place we went there was standing water, even a little bit in the sand dunes. The only thing breaking the silence in the sand dunes was some young kid who's parents didn't mind that the kid's gleeful screams probably were carrying a mile or better over the sand dunes. The kid was probably trying to get an echo. Not.
After perusing the sand dunes, we headed up Highway 190 and took in the sights at Panamint Springs. This must be a summer season place, because this day it was pretty deserted looking. There were people there, but it was a full of inactivity.
We continued back, and south down the Panamint Valley to go to Ridgecrest, just to see what was there and get some diesel for the truck. Panamint Valley is due west of Death Valley, not quite as long and not as picturesque. It had water in the valley as did Death Valley.
We turned off and drove out to the ghost town of Ballarat - on a muddy, bumpy, slippery road. Not much left at Ballarat. There is a single gentleman that lives there. He allowed as how his lights were off because his solar cells don't make much electric when it's cloudy. He told us an old military truck there was rumored to belong to Charles Manson. Several of the buildings were still standing - more or less, and a few a lot less. The ground is deceptive - looks solid until you walk on it. You could sink up to your ankles in muck!
Up in the hills near here is Panamint City and Surprise. The fellow didn't recommend these as the roads had a lot of storm damage to them, so we didn't try to go there.
On the way to Ridgecrest we stopped in Trona, the site of two Mineral plants run by Searle's Minerals where Borax, Potash and related minerals are mined and processed. Trona is situated along the west side of the Searles Valley. The town looks about half closed. It looks like it has seen better days and is just hanging on because of the mineral plants. We talked to a few of the folks there, they were friendly but worry about the future there.
We made it into Ridgecrest, had lunch at a Mickey D's and got some diesel fuel. Saw a highway litter control sign sponsored by Top Gun at China Lake NAWS, which is one reason why Ridgecrest exists. On the way back over the hill to Trona we ran across a couple of flash floods. One was just starting to get a bit heavy as we crossed it. I put that one in the online photo album. Took some pictures of water reflecting the Panamint Butte from Highway 190 on the way back to Death Valley.
Also met a lady with a van stuck in the mud at this spot. She was buried in the mud up to the body of her van. We stopped to see if she needed help. She said, "No thanks, we are waiting for triple A."
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