Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hike 2016.009A, B, C and D -- Rhyolite, NV, Goldwell Open Air Museum, NV, Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, and Darwin Falls, Death Valley National Park, CA, and Father Crowley Point, Death Valley National Park, CA

Hiked Sunday, February 14. 3-4 miles, total.

Following my Golden Canyon / Gower Gulch hike, I returned to a motel in Beatty, NV. It's about a 50 minute drive from Furnace Creek Visitor Center to Beatty, NV (according to google maps). A bit of a drive, but far more affordable than what staying at Furnace Creek Ranch would have cost (and, of course, WAY more affordable than Furnace Creek Inn).
I ate dinner after getting back home at the Subway across the parking lot. Took the survey on the back of the receipt so I could exchange it for a cookie when I bought my breakfast sandwich from them, the next morning. This is what qualifies as "planning ahead," for me! ;D

Actually, breakfast was after my short visit to Rhyolite. That's a ghost town, not ten minutes from Beatty. Figured it would be fun to shoot some of the ruins and the art at the Goldwell Open Air Museum as the sun rose, with that soft, warm light and raking shadows. Then I'd drive back to the motel, eat breakfast, and head home.
The goal was going to be Darwin Falls, and possibly other things along the way. Hadn't really thought it through. But, first, the museum.

The last time I was here was before I owned a digital camera. So I was happy to return and see some old friends, and some newer additions. The ghostly Last Supper was there before, as was the ghost rider and the bike, and the miner and the penguin.
The ghost artist was new, as was the giant, naked, Lego-like woman. I'm pretty sure the colorful, non-sitting coach was new, but I could be mistaken.

I spent probably 20 minutes walking around the "museum," snapping lots of pictures and enjoying the solitude. Then I drove on up along the main road (paved), with ruins on either side of me. Stopped in front of several buildings and took some shots, but I only really liked some of my shots of the old bank. It's the most distinctive ruin in Rhyolite. Walked maybe 1/2 mile, total, around here.
The last time here, I spent a lot more time walking around. But this was just a return engagement, and the main goal was, of course Death Valley. So I returned to my motel, ran over to Subway for breakfast, then returned to the room to eat, and to contemplate what else to do.
Still leaning towards mostly just getting back home. So, after a slow start, I hopped in the car, and headed west, again.

Figured I'd definitely stop at the sand dunes at Mesquite Flat. Once there, I encountered another packed lot. So I was somewhat undermotivated for a long walk across the dunes. Instead, I just walked over to the first decent rise and snapped some medium telephoto shots of the dunes, with the Amargosa Mountains, in the background. Maybe 1/4 mile, counting the walk from the car to the trailhead, up the first dune, then back.
Once on the road and heading west, again, I was also amused by the sight of the Devil's Cornfield, but not enough to bother stopping for pictures. Yeah, sometimes, I get an idea in my mind, and get one-tracked about it. I knew I had a really long drive ahead of me.
In fact, despite the map in front of me, it was longer than I expected to get to Darwin Falls. Long drive up the Panamint Mountains, then back down, then across the sink, then back up, again. It's just funny that you can look at a map, see the miles written down in front of you, yet not really appreciate the distance until you're actually driving across the desert. I also imagined what a draw this would be if there were no road, and I were trying to drive my horse-drawn wagon across those passes. Yech!

The road to the Darwin Falls trailhead is unmarked. You just need to know that it's almost immediately after leaving the small town of Panamint Springs. As soon as you're past the town, be looking on your left (if you're driving east to west).
The dirt road runs up a canyon. It's covered in gravel, for the most part, yet other parts do have exposed rocks. No problem driving it in my Prius, however. I did have to pay a little bit of attention, and, sometimes, cars going the other way don't seem to understand that it takes cooperation for us to be able to pass each other. Yet, fortunately, there was little enough traffic that I only had to stop the car a few times coming and going to allow on-coming traffic to pass.

Two miles on the dirt road, then the parking area will be on your right. Room for maybe 20 cars, or so.

From there, a clear trail heads up canyon for one mile. The canyon starts out wide, but eventually narrows further up. Pipes run down the right side of the canyon, providing drinking water for someone down stream. For that reason, they discourage swimming in the water. It might even be illegal, I'm not sure.

Many crossings of the water, and some walking through mud. Wearing water-proof boots or shoes you don't care if they get wet would be a good idea.

At the end is a small alcove, and a small waterfall, much shorter than Eaton Canyon, and with the equivalent of an early summer flow at Eaton Canyon. It's pretty, but not very tall and not much water, at least not for me in mid-February. It's supposed to be perennial.

2 miles round trip for this bit of hiking.

Then, it was back in the car, and back heading west on CA-190, heading for U.S. 395. After only about 10 miles of driving, though, I saw what looked like a little rest area, on the right side of the road. Pit toilets, and a large parking area. Well, since I didn't know how far it would be to the next restroom, I figured, "Why chance it?" No restroom facilities at Darwin Falls, by the way.

Pulled in, and found one restroom apparently looked and the other occupied by a REALLY long occupation. So while I'm waiting, I chanted with someone else in line, and also looked around at where I was. I observed that, on one end of the parking lot was a dirt road, heading off to a point that overlooked the eastern part of Death Valley.

So after I finally got my turn in the restroom, I hopped in the car, with the idea of driving to the point. But after only a few hundred yards, I reached a point where I was uncertain if I had clearance. So I backed up, turned around, parked back in the paved lot, and walked down the road I just tried to drive.
Probably a better idea, even if I could have driven. Why not take advantage of a little bonus walk? it was about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. Fair descent to the point, but not too steep, and easy to walk (even if it was questionable to drive). Really nice view, looking across the Panamint Valley, to the Panamint Mountains, and snow-covered Telescope Peak. There was also a deep gorge just east of the parking area, and a nice view of mountains to my south, as well.

One mile roundtrip on this segment. Over three miles for all four segments, so it'll count as a full hike for the day. That was three for that weekend, which was the best for me, so far. No hikes the next week, however, and only one for this week. Haven't decided what I'm doing, tomorrow.

So I'm well behind my preferred pace for 100 hikes this year, but it's early, still. Once we get into daylight savings time, I'll be able to fit the occasional walk in after work, and hopefully pick up my hiking rate.

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