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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Death Valley Notes

First, let me say that in all my travels I had never been to Death Valley before. I don't know why. Maybe the name scared me off. Or maybe it was the horrible stories of death by heat or thirst. This time it was high on my list of places to visit on this trip.

Second, let me say that it is big. More specifically, it is REALLY BIG!



Third, let me tell you how completely naive I was to think I was going to do more than scratch the surface in a one day transit.

I left Big Pine in the morning and took the Big Pine Road to The Crater. A nice twisty paved road through canyons that was lots of fun. There was even a bicyclist pedaling up the mountain. Coming down into The Crater was more of the same but as I descended I was beginning to get the concept of BIG.


My eyes had no frame of reference to gauge the distance. There was no familiar object to provide scale to what I was looking at. The terrain is totally flat and it is not hard to imagine that a million years ago it was all a giant lake.





Photos are hard to take because even with a 24mm wide angle only a small area is covered.



This is the same view from the other side with a photo stitched together from 8 individual shots.




Another movie coming down the Hanging Rock Canyon to the valley in the picture above. 

Now, if you're getting an idea of how big Death Valley is, think again. This is only about 1/20th of the park! I spent 2 hours getting from the crater to Scotty's Castle on what should be listed as a Class 1.5 road. The problem is that the hotter sand gets, the softer it gets.



Another big problem is the way the bike is loaded. I had to use my Giant Loop Coyote bags because I wasn't able to buy panniers for the AT in this country. 



Too much weight placed too high and to the rear makes the bike handle like a drunken donkey on roller skates. Several times I got into mini tank slappers when one soft ridge crossed another. 20 mph was all I wanted to risk. I only saw one other vehicle all morning until I hit pavement. Not a good place to take a dive. Remember DBAJ ?

So everything is big, and everything is hot, and it's all hard work. And yet, there I was marveling at how great it was to be there. The road leading in through the canyons reminded me of Morocco and the Atlas mountains.

There were little discoveries like this abandoned mine tunnel.




And these painted rocks.



There were so many side roads I wanted to explore that the thought occurred to me that I had all I wanted right here and didn't really need to venture into Mexico. Still, at the end of the day, I was ready to push on. It would be easy to come back but much harder to gather the resources to get to the Copper Canyons.

Temperature at 5 in the afternoon!
One last reminder that I was in Death Valley. Just not so scary now that I had actually experienced it.



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