:: Death Valley Trip (February 5th - 8th, 2011) ::

This was an awesome camping trip to Death Valley National Park.
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:: Saturday, February 5, 2011 @ 8:00 PM ::

It was a long drive from San Jose down to Death Valley, roughly 400 miles. We took the most direct route we could, which was taking 101 South to 152 East to 5 South to Bakersfield to 58 East to 395 North (stop in Ridgecrest for dinner) to 178 North through Trona, and into Death Valley. It was a fairly uneventful drive other than the fact that the new bike rack had some minor instability problems which caused us to stop at a Home Depot for some velcro straps. And true to Home Depot form we had to go in twice to get everything that we needed for the job.
:: Saturday, February 5, 2011 @ 11:30 PM::
I fell asleep toward the end of the drive and Timber and the GPS got us onto the Wildrose Road. It was not too bad other than the fact that it was windy and narrow, and in the dark we came upon two burros in the road that must have been totally freaked out by us. We got to the junction where we could turn left and head toward Stovepipe Wells (about 30 miles and our destination) or turn right and go 6 miles to the Wildrose Campground. We initially chose to go left and head for Stovepipe Wells, but after a short distance Timber suggested that we may want to just camp at Wildrose since we wanted to check out the Charcoal Kilns anyway. So we turned around, made it to the Wildrose Campground (FREE CAMPING), setup our tent in the dark, and called it a night.

:: Sunday, February 6, 2011 @ 11:45 AM::
We slept until the sun was fairly high up in the sky and it was starting to get warm in the tent. We made a simple breakfast, packed up camp, and headed for the famously well preserved charcoal kilns of Death Valley. I won't go into all of the history about them since you can easily look it up. But they are well preserved and are really cool looking. To me they could make great wood fired pizza ovens. After we were done looking at and photographing the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns we headed toward Stovepipe Wells. Here is a 360 degree panorama that I took of the kilns.

:: Sunday, February 6, 2011 @ 2:00 PM::
On our way to Stovepipe Wells we saw a sign for a turn off to visit Aguereberry Point, the Eureka Mine, and the Harrisburg Site. At first we didn't want to bother checking it out because we kind of wanted to get to Stovepipe Wells and set up our camp, but we figured that we would not be back by this area for a while so we might as well check it out. I think we are both glad that we did. It turned out to be an old mining camp owned by Pete Aguereberry. There were some old buildings, and the plaque told us a little bit about the history. This was the site of a gold mine that produced a good amount of gold. The really interesting thing to me was all the old cans, buckets, barrels, furniture, buildings, etc... that told a story of the day to day life of Pete Aguereberry. We were both very interested in what motivated him to do gold mining in the mountains of Death Valley along with how he got there and what it was like to live and mine there. We spent another hour looking around the gold mine and mill before continuing on to Stovepipe Wells.

:: Sunday, February 6, 2011 @ 6:30 PM::
We got to Stovepipe Wells and set up our tent at the campground. We decided to go for a bike ride before the sun went down at 6 PM. We got on the road and went east toward the Mesquite Dunes. We rode past the dunes and due to time turned around and went back to camp. The weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful.

:: Monday, February 7, 2011 @ 3:00 PM::
We got up fairly early but spent a lot of time at camp. Once we got moving we went to Furnace Creek and stopped in at the temporary visitor center (where we picked up a book about Pete Aguereberry) before going on to Badwater. Badwater was pretty cool, and after we checked it out we had a snack before doing our first hike of the day which was Natural Bridge Canyon. One of the really cool things about it, other than the natural bridge was the fact that you really didn't have to hike far to get to the natural bridge. You could probably go as far up the canyon as you want, but we didn't go much farther than the first real climb. There were also areas where waterfalls form when there is a lot of rain. Obviously a canyon is a bad place to be when it rains. After we were done at Natural Bridge Canyon we high tailed it down the road to Titus Canyon for a 4x4 drive.

:: Monday, February 7, 2011 @ 7:30 PM::
Titus Canyon was a fairly long 4x4 drive. We had to drive into Nevada and then turn down a one way dirt road and start going into a remote area. Overall it was a fun drive because we got to use some of the off road capabilities of Orange Crush, and I finally got to do some of the off road driving. But it got dark by the time we got to the nicest part of the drive, so we could only really see what got illuminated by our headlights at that time. But we got some nice scenery, got to see Leadville, nice canyon walls, and overall had a nice drive. By the time we got back to Stovepipe Wells we were fairly low on gas and needed to fill up.

:: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 @ 1:30 PM::
At night I had set up my camera with the tripod so that I could get some shots of the beautiful night sky. I was able take some pictures, but in the early morning a sand storm came in and blasted everything in our camp with sand. Anything that was not bolted down to the picnic table got blown away or knocked onto the ground. The wind was so strong that it blew my tripod (with my camera on it) over and I woke when I heard a big thud. I crawled out of the tent, grabbed my gear, brought it into the tent with me, put it beside me, and went back to sleep because I was tired and there was nothing I could do for it at the time. After we got up in the morning we made breakfast, packed up camp, and made our way to Mosaic Canyon which was not far outside of Stovepipe Wells. One really cool thing about Mosaic Canyon is that you don't have to hike far to see the best parts of it. It was not long before we were into the most narrow part of the canyon and admiring the geology. I highly recommend checking it out even if you are not much of a hiker and even if you are quickly passing through (maybe not in the heat of the summer though). It was a beautiful last hike in Death Valley before we started the long drive home.

:: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 @ 10:00 PM::
The drive home took a while, but we took our time and got home by 10 PM. On our way back we checked out Isabella Lake and a part of the southern sierras that we had not seen before. We also went over Walker Pass and saw a ton of Joshua Trees on our way down the west side. It was pretty cool. Other than that the drive home was fairly uneventful.

:: The Aftermath ::
Being able to take Timber to Death Valley in the winter for some camping, hiking, off-roading, and biking was a great pleasure to me. There is so much to do and see there, we will continue to go back for years to come. I think many people never go check it out, or only drive through in the summer because they think it is just boring desert and is really hot. It can get very hot there, but there is so much to see and explore. The canyons seem to go on forever, and the history with all the old mines and settlements keeps begging more and more questions. Why did miners brave the heat and extreme environment to try to eke out a living? How is it that the natives have lived there for thousands or years? I highly recommend checking out Death Valley National Park when it is not summer. You will be surprised by what you find.