This was our third foray into Death Valley. The popular legend for the name is that one of the few seeking a short cut to the gold fields that made it across the wasteland looked back and said “Goodbye, Death Valley. We crossed it from Nevada our first time and from Lone Pine the next time. I thought we would enter from the south this time to be different.
While there are valleys here, there are more mountains. It takes two mountains to make one valley the way I see it. And you cross three ranges in the park. That ignores the majestic Sierra Nevada to the west and the several ranges in Nevada. All of which can be seen from the park.
By 7:30 we were on the road and shortly we passed through the almost defunct Boron mining town of Trona. Next we stopped at the junction to the ghost town of Ballarat and debated on unhooking and taking the Jeep in. There was a lot of traffic on the dusty road so we decided to continue on to the campground not far ahead and come back later. Then the wheels of my plan came off. First, the highway went to washboard gravel which slowed us to 15mph. Then when we regained the blacktop, the road leading to our campground was closed. This provided the explanation for a discrepancy we had noted. Three new paper maps said the campground was 9 miles ahead. The GPS said it was 90 minutes away. Hmmmm, Grumble.
We followed the approved route which took us to the road I wanted to avoid, 190, the one that climbs the Panamint range to 5,000 feet and promptly descends into Death Valley. Then we turned back south completing a loop to the campground. 55 miles vs 9 miles. Who do I see about this?
Anywho, the campground is pleasant enough. Very quiet. I selected it because it’s at 4,100 and so much cooler than in the valleys. After nap, we took the road to the end. There is a great campground with access to the trailhead to Telescope Peak. That CG is at 8,100 feet and was a delightful 66 degrees. Regrettably, only small vehicles can access the CG. There is a fantastic view of Death Valley to the east from there. I am sure there is an even better view from the top of the peak at 11,100. No one was hiking it as we had to drive through snow and ice to get to the CG. Still winter.
These two signs are side-by-side and both places can be seen from them, even though Panamint City is 12 miles away and up 5,000 feet.
Ten kilns designed by Swedes and built by Chinese to make charcoal to smelt silver. The charcoal was hauled 30 miles to the mine.
Yet more trivia – somewhere in the past I heard the phrase 23 Skidoo. Well, there is a mine site here named Skidoo and the water was piped in from 23 miles away.
Tuesday – February 17 – I asked the park employee who came by to pick the trash if the closed road was really closed. (These guys are always excellent sources of information. They know all of the park and have no agenda to steer you away from sensitive places) He said not at all, tho the road is washed away to one lane in two places, it was legal to use. We wanted to see what Ballarat was all about without driving the 55 mile loop. Ballarat is nothing – two old buildings. While we were there we took the Pleasant Valley Canyon Road about five miles to the first canyon. An interesting drive, but nothing special. Only needed 4WD High to turn around over some deep loose rocks. There were several marked mining claims, but no indication of recent activity.
After our nap, we did the Aguereberry Point Road. More than a decent view, don’t you agree?
Along the way