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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hike 2016.008 -- Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch, Death Valley National Park, CA

Hiked Saturday, February 13. 5.3 miles. After driving up from Las Vegas, and through Beatty, I took NV-374 from Beatty into Death Valley. It's some slow speed limits through Beatty (25mph), and for much of the pass into Death Valley (35mph in some parts, 45mph in other parts, and 55mph for basically just the straightaway heading up. And there's no shoulder along much of the road near Daylight Pass, where you begin a long descent into Death Valley.
None-the-less, a moronic motorcycl-ist passenger was gesturing aggressive-ly for me to pull over so that they could exceed the speed limit down the hill. Normally, I'd have no problem letting them pass. But, as mentioned, there was no shoulder. Also, I made it clear on the whole drive up to the pass that I was going to maintain the speed limit (well, okay, 3-5 mph above the speed limit), and they had ample opportunities to pass me on the way up to the pass.

So obviously, on the downhill side, with no where to pull over, hey, if you want to pass me illegally, be my guest. But I'm not going to pull on to some non-existent shoulder for your convenience: Pass me illegally, or get comfortable there, bucko.
From the pass, my plan was to visit the Furnace Creek visitor center to get information on where the wildflowers might be viewing. Along the way, on that Beatty Cutoff from NV-374 to CA-190 east, there were some pretty thick pockets of wildflowers, mostly desert gold.

Upon arrival at the visitor center, I needed to orbit the lot once, and wound up on a deadend road for a bit. I turned around, returned to the lot, and found a spot the second time, around. Yeah, it was crowded, but not entirely unexpected--there had been several articles in the LA Times and other sources, plugging the bloom. Also, it was President's Day weekend.
After the stop, I sort of determined that I had already seen a pretty amazing bloom, and should probably find myself a trail to hike. Then, maybe tomorrow, I'd either explore the southern section of the park for additional blooms, or drive on out the western side of the park, and return to Los Angeles via U.S. 395.

I asked a ranger about one trail that was on my Trails Illustrated / National Geographic map of the Death Valley, but was not on the fold-out brochure or the park newspaper. It showed a connection from Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point.
Turns out the NPS had a flyer that zoomed in on this area, with a very detailed map, and distances indicated. So, thank you, very much!

So I decided to eat a turkey ham and cheese on bagel sandwich I assembled there, drank a soda, then drove down to Golden Canyon Parking area, just a few miles south on Badwater Road from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Cars lined both sides of the road for some distance, both north and south of the lot. Yet, although I usually just park rather than look for a closer spot, I had a feeling there'd be rapid turnover in the lot, and a chance to find something right there. And, if fact, I did find a spot, closest to the trailhead.

Walked on up the canyon, still not sure what my final destination would be.

This is largely a mud conglomerate canyon, probably formed by the clayish mud coming off the higher hills, settling on to the bottom of an ancient sea, then being compressed for thousands of years. The result is a very compact clay-- no top soil, no way for water to soak in. It just runs quickly off the badlands, and into the Death Valley sink.
Very barren. Very dramatic.

I continued one mile, up canyon, to the junction, where I would have to choose between continuing on the spur to Red Cathedral (an additional 1/2 mile each way), or turn towards possibly Zabriskie Point, or the big loop. Eventually wound up going to Red Cathedral. Dramatic evidence of past flash floods, with areas where short segments of pavement remained, and tangled ladders that were no longer needed, because the water had eroded walkways beneath large barriers.

At the end, there was a pretty nice view down and over the top of the badlands I had negotiated.
After enjoying that view and snapping some shots, I headed back the way I came. At the junction, I opted to turn left, towards possibly Zabriskie Point, or else making the basic loop through Gower Gulch.

It's listed as a mere .8 of a mile from that Golden Canyon junction to the Gower Gulch Junction. At that junction, I looked at the sign (which had the same information as on my map, but somehow seemed more persuasive!). It would be 1.8 miles to backtrack the way I came (including a pretty significant altitude gain I gave up after crossing the pass below Manly Beacon), 1.1 miles to the Zabriskie Point trailhead, or 2.5 miles to return to my car by completing the loop.
Well, at this point, I was feeling a little bit tired and a little bit dry. Didn't bring as much water with me as I should have. And, though it wasn't that warm, it was low in humidity. I was feeling the dry, and kicking myself for not being better prepared.
I decided I would be too tired to head up to Zabriskie, so I continued on down Gower Gulch. Lots of broad, muddy wash bottom, here, the ground formed into blocks of cell-like fragments.

Finally made my way out of Gower Gulch, and began the long, uphill incline back to my car. I finished the last of my water once I knew I was on the home stretch, and enjoyed the scattered wildflowers and the sight of cars on Badwater Road, with the Panamint Mountains in the distance.

5.3 miles total hiking distance. My Fitbit (set to 16,000 steps a day) buzzed, just before I got back to my car.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hike 2016.007 -- Trail 101, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

Hiked Friday, February 12. 4 miles. My initial plan was just to hike up the usual Trail 100, then, perhaps, divert to Trail 200, and head up to the volcanic plug that's near that saddle. But my plan was diverted by construction. Well, not directly, but indirectly: Large earth-moving equipment was operating not far from where I normally park (directions to this trailhead are discussed here, although, because of ongoing construction in Inspirada, I can not confidently recommend that this access will be possible if you go there any time soon). And when I walked to find Sloan Canyon Road, it was hard to find, because it had been bulldozed. There was a short but continuous, orange demarcation that cut off Sloan Canyon Road. I called this a "miniature Christo installation."
Apparently, major construction has begun along this road for the Inspirada project. The demarcation is presumably to keep earth moving equipment from damaging desert areas where they were not permitted to go. As a result, you could not (on February 12, 2016) drive on Sloan Canyon Road. That means, in the short term, I have no good alternative for getting there, other than walking through the construction zone. On the other hand, I think this means that, relatively soon, there will be paved access to the Sloan Canyon parking area. Of course, if it becomes paved, I would expect a significant uptick in visitation, so they'll need to enlarge the parking area, and/or bring a more visible presence to protect the petroglyphs.
When I got to the sign at the entrance to Sloan Canyon National Conserva-tion Area, I had to step over the little "curtain."

So now, I was curious if there was an alternate way to get here. Several months ago, I had noted that a Trail 101 headed to the east from the parking area. I was curious where it went, and if it could provide that alternate access to Sloan Canyon.
My initial expecta-tion was that this trail would simply head east, then swing north, and re-link with the dirt road that parallels the power lines. Instead, however, Trail 101 alternates between heading east and heading south for a bit. It goes WELL south of the detention basin. The turn to cut across that basin is sudden, however. The more obvious trail seems to continue south, when the "actual" trail turns due east. Signs are set at frequent enough intervals to make staying on the "actual" trail possible, but you do need to pay attention.
The trail cuts across some volcanic-looking rocks, and also some annual grassland. Then it drops into a wide wash.

At the bottom of that wash, the actual Trail 101 appears to bear to the southeast. However, a use trail goes along the bottom of that wash, heading north, towards some homes. Along the wildlands-suburban interface, there's a paved trail. On the other side of that paved trail are some gates, that appear to be locked, with keypads to unlock the doors (I didn't check to see if they were actually locked).
I eventually learned that these homes are part of the Anthem Highlands development. It appears to be private and gated on the other side, so this would not appear to be an alternate public access point to Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.
On the positive side, I was now under the power lines that are carried by the large brown towers. I knew my car was parked just south of these towers, and I was pretty sure a dirt road would run the length of the way back to my car.

Along the way, I had some pretty high viewpoints over the Las Vegas Valley, with Henderson, before me.
My dirt trail climbed somewhat steeply, then dropped back down. Once at the bottom, I was adjacent to pavement. I was pretty sure this was Democracy Road, again.

After just a short bit of time on the pavement, I was back on dirt, and my car was just ahead.

My estimated distance is based on Fitbit steps and the time I spent walking (a bit over 90 minutes, at a fairly good clip, and no long pauses for picture taking). It's a rough approximation. Several modest drops and gains, the largest being the drop into the flat wash (slowly, along a switch-backed trail), then the climb along the boundary to Anthem Highlands, then the drop back down to road-level. Nice hike, interesting lighting, and just about the right length for how much time I had that afternoon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wildflowers in Death Valley National Park

I had a very good weekend for hiking--three hikes, which is about as much as can normally be fit. Nothing particularly long, but all very nice, in their own way.
These aren't from any of those hikes. These are just from the side of the road--mostly on the Beatty Cutoff, just east of CA-190, in Death Valley National Park. I didn't make it to the southern part of the park, where thicker blooms are reported. Instead, I stayed mostly north of Furnace Creek, just making it down to Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch. I'll need to blog those hikes, still.

In the meantime, I just wanted to help get the word out, should you be trying to decide where to take your next weekend trip.
It was already in the 80s last weekend. It may cool on occasion, still, but it will likely continue to warm, so the pleasant season for Death Valley is going to be pretty short.

Regular wildflower reports can be found on the Desert USA website.

Right now, Death Valley is the main show, but in the next month or two, blooms should spread in our other desert parks, and the Antelope Valley. That's assuming we can avoid a too-sudden heat up, like last year.
Wildflowers were mostly immediately next to roads, probably because they get the runoff from those roads, and the soil was disturbed by construction. However, there were some nice filed of flowers, too. Hopefully, those will continue to spread, although, again, if it gets too hot, too fast,t hose plants may die before getting to a really good bloom.
I will continue to monitor, of course. I'm also planning trips to Death Valley (again), and the Mojave Preserve, and will probably make it Joshua Tree a few times, too. Partially, it depends on other obligations and chores, but that's the plan.

In the meantime, get on out there! I'll do my best to catch up on my blogging during the week. Maybe get my first post out on Thursday night, then maybe another on Saturday. Of course, by Saturday, I also hope to be hiking, again, so we'll see.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hike 2015.051 and Hike 2015.065 -- Lower Millard Canyon and Owen Brown Burial Site

Hiked Sunday, June 28 and Saturday, August 22. Two hikes in the lower reaches of Millard Canyon. In both cases, I began at the campground and hiked along the dirt fire road that heads west from the campground (2N65, Brown Mountain Truck Trail). Once you gain a little altitude, looking towards the urban-wilderness interface, you'll see a hill with a trail that appears to climb it, and some power line towers, near that hill. Eventually, that will be your destination.
In the meantime, simply follow your truck trail You may pass a rise with honey bee apiaries, on your right.
After just under a mile, Brown Mountain Truck Trail makes a very sharp turn to the right. It's easy to miss that turn, because there's a dirt berm that appears to be (but is not) the end of the road). If you were to continue over that berm, you'd still be Brown Mountain Truck Trail, and you'd eventually reach the Ken Burton Trail (as described in the hike linked, above). That's a pretty good hike, and a nice view to look into the Arroyo Seco, and across, at the Angeles Crest Highway.
On the other hand, the seemingly more obvious trail will have you miss the berm, entirely, and continue west rather than turning to the northeast. You'll pass a marker, advising that you are now on Fire Road 2N68. This fire road heads towards town, rather than away from town.

In fact, within 1/2 miles (roughly) of getting on this trail, you'll be walking on pavement, again. It's a private road, but with public foot traffic permitted upon the road. You'll pass by a couple of homes, some with interesting decorations. In particular, you'll see a car, pictured later.

Meanwhile, there's the car's hood, sitting along a side trail, which drops down, into the Arroyo Seco. It's got a quote, from St. Francis of Assisi painted on it. I explored that trail some on my 65th hike of the year. On my 51st, however, I just walked along the road.
As you proceed, you will soon pass directly in front of a couple of houses, as well as the rest of the car that the hood came from. It's a haunted car, by the way. You'll see when you get there.
Continue briefly along this paved road, Then, when the pavement turns left, you'll continue straight on to a well-defined trail. You'll pass among some electrical power towers. In well under 1/4 mile, you find yourself atop a small rise. And on that rise, and interesting marker, next to a pine tree.

The first time I saw this, I had no idea if this was an historically significant sign or not. So I went on-line, and discovered that, in fact, Brown Mountain had been named after Owen Brown, who was one of John Brown's sons. After John Brown's martyrdom, Owen moved out to California, and bought a ranch in Altadena. His ranch, so his mountain.
I also learned that he had been buried here. And, although the metal sign was not original, the wording on the sign was the epitaph on the original grave marker.
I also came across some pictures on line of the burial site. I was surrounded by wooden barriers. On a later visit to the burial site, I found the burned remains of some of those barriers. So, yes, he was buried here on this hill, although the original headstone is elsewhere.
On the walk back, I viewed the homes and the car from the other direction. I was amused by the flag, and the seemingly random collection of junk among the homes.
On a future trip, as noted above, I walked down the trail with the hood of the haunted car. It was a well-developed trail (several areas with numerous bricks, where erosion was a problem--and those bricks were heavy, so some serious work involved in building those trails).
There were many crossing trails, and I wasn't sure which one was which. One must presumably head on down to JPL. Yet, lacking the motivation to figure out which one, I just headed on back the way I came.

Lots of places to explore down here, and this doesn't even include the part above Millard Canyon Falls. I never blogged that hike, either. Will need to, eventually.

OK, so that was one "flashback," an unblogged hike from last year. I should try to get a few of those in each month, in addition to trying to keep semi-current on this year's hikes. That's it for now, though.