Death Valley Days 20/24-Feb-2010

Death Valley National Park

I spent a lot of time hiking and climbing in Death Valley National Park back when I lived in Califoria and the today’s Park was just a Monument. Then we moved to northern Oregon and talk of a “winter get-away” suddenly gained a lot of traction.  Despite time-off from work being at a premium, we finally managed to spend a few days touristing and hiking in Death Valley – where there was a great deal of sunshine and only a tiny bit of rain (despite it’s being a wet year in California).

Tourists

We spent one day just warming up (literally and figuratively) by doing some classic tourist stuff: Scotty’s Castle, the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Rhyolite itself, the bar at the Furnace Creek Inn, etc.

Death Valley National Park

Scotty’s Castle

Death Valley National Park

The Glass Bottle House in Rhyolite

Death Valley National Park

The Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite

Darwin Falls

Then we overcame inertia for a hike at Darwin Falls, which is west of Death Valley near Panamint Springs (and one of my favorite hikes in this area). The hike starts on an old road in a dry wash which looks as though it hasn’t seen water in ages. The old road is actually an old toll road to the mines at Darwin, California.

Death Valley National Park

The mouth of Darwin Wash

However, after less than a mile, the old road goes uphill to the left while a use trail continues on up the now narrowing sandy wash. Soon we came to open water,

Death Valley National Park

Water in Darwin Wash

Death Valley National Park

Water in Darwin Wash

and then the first waterfall, which is about 30 feet high.

Death Valley National Park

A small waterfall in Darwin Wash

A lot of people stop here because the canyon has narrowed and there’s no obvious trail on which to continue. But there is a moderate (a few 3rd class moves) scrambling route on the left wall (facing up canyon) that got us up to the level use trail to the upper falls.

Death Valley National Park

Climbing the canyon wall in Darwin Wash

Death Valley National Park

The LovedOne makes some moves to get up the wall

After a short walk, we reached the base of the upper falls, which is actually a series of pools and drops totaling at least 100 feet. These are the lowest falls and pool in the upper fall complex,

Death Valley National Park

The lower part of the upper falls

and this is looking down from the top of the falls. We reached this point by hiking up a scree chute on the right canyon wall – no climbing, just loose rock.

Death Valley National Park

Looking down the upper part of the upper falls

The water runs here year-round but the intensity of the falls (and they can be spectacularly intense) varies considerably in response to rain events upstream.

Mosaic Canyon

This is a readily accessible canyon near Stovepipe Wells, which includes both ridge walks and slots.

Death Valley National Park

Along the ridge above Mosaic Canyon

Death Valley National Park

The narrow defile in Mosaic Canyon

Fall Canyon

This is another very accessible narrow canyon in the Grapevine Mountains north of Furnace Creek.

Death Valley National Park

Twisted geology in Fall Canyon

The water (when there is any) polishes the rock on the canyon walls into an amazing array of abstract images.

Death Valley National Park

Water polished rock in Fall Canyon

Here the “falls” are typically dry and only about 20 feet high, but are steep and slick. There’s a use trail around them if you want to go further up-canyon, but we didn’t.

Death Valley National Park

The falls in Fall Canyon

Badwater & Dante’s View

I convinced the LovedOne to get up real early so I could attempt to photograph the reflection of Telescope Peak (11,050’) in the waters at Badwater (-282’) – one of the iconic photographs in Death Valley. However, just as the sun started rising, a photography tour group parked on the road, marched out to the edge of the water, and set up their tripods and themselves in a line across the view. After a Zen moment searching for inner peace, I restored by karma by taking a picture of the photographers taking the iconic shot.

Death Valley National Park

Photographers become the iconic shot

Later we drove up to Dante’s View for a more unobstructed view of Telescope Peak.

Death Valley National Park

Telescope Peak over Badwater Basin from Dante’s View

The body of water here is ephemeral “Lake Manly” – a water feature that exists only in those years when there is unusually high rainfall in the Valley – they’ve had several inches so far this year. These wet years are also when you can expect a “super bloom” of wildflowers in and around the Valley.

Death Valley National Park

Lake Manly in Badwater Basin

Sky Gazing

The rest of the time we just spent wallowing in the huge expanses of sky and land that constitute Death Valley and the Mojave Desert.

Death Valley National Park

Near Rhyolite, Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley from Fall Canyon

Death Valley National Park

Clouds

Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin, Death Valley

Death Valley National Park

Sunset from the Furnace Creek Inn

This was also a trip in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary (hence the Furance Creek Inn), which Nature decided to help us celebrate in a unique way.

Death Valley National Park

I heart your spines…

HOME