Death Valley Days 1/4-Mar-2011

Death Valley National Park California

Once again we slipped the damp caresses of an Oregon winter to wallow in the harsh, but sunny, landscape of Death Valley National Park. Even with soaring gas prices ($5.18 at Furnace Creek!), the trip was, once gain, worth it. Plus this year we were joined at times by our friends Wayne & Diane and Alan & Janet, so this one was an extra special get-away. We allowed ourselves plenty of time each day to enjoy the sunsets while sipping appropriate adult beverages on the patio of the Furnace Creek Inn (liquid intake being an important part of desert hiking). Overall, another great trip – cloud-free sun most days, daytime air temperatures between 65º and 75ºF, plus fun hikes. Definitely a winter refuge for these water-logged, sun-starved Oregonians.

Tourists (again)

As were previous trips to Death Valley, this one was a combined sightseeing/hiking trip, so we once again visited the ghost town of Rhyolite to see the statue of the unknown bicyclist,

Death Valley National Park California

Goldwell Open Air Museum

the Harmony Borax Works,

Death Valley National Park California

Harmony Borax Works on the floor of Death Valley

and the Inyo Mine site at the head of Echo Canyon,

Death Valley National Park California

Old miner’s shack, Inyo Mine, Death Valley

where the Eye of the Needle stands guard over the approach road (Telescope Peak is the snowy high point on the horizon to the far left).

Death Valley National Park California

Eye of the Needle in Echo Canyon

We also drove up past the Eureka Mine site to Aguereberry Point in the Panamint Range,

Death Valley National Park California

Harrisburg Valley

which, at 6,433 feet in elevation,

Death Valley National Park California

Aguereberry Point, with Telescope Peak on the horizon

gave us a panoramic view of Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park California

Death Valley from Aguereberry Point

We warmed-up for hiking by circumnavigating Ubehebe Crater at the north end of the valley – it’s only 1 mile around.

Death Valley National Park California

Marching around Ubehebe Crater in a stiff wind

Death Valley National Park California

Ubehebe Crater, with snowy Grapevine Peak on the far horizon

Slit Canyon

For an actual dayhike, we went with Alan and Janet up Slit Canyon, starting from “Hole in the Wall” about 3 miles south of Furnace Creek on Highway 190 and 3.5 miles up a passable dirt road (as described in Digonnet’s Hiking Death Valley).

Death Valley National Park California

On the road to Hole in the Wall

We parked at the Hole, then headed cross-country to the mouth of the canyon.

Death Valley National Park California

Entering the mouth of Slit Canyon

Shortly after entering the canyon, we encountered 3 (dry) waterfalls, the lower two of which could be climbed,

Death Valley National Park California

Fooling around in lower Slit Canyon

to reach a grotto below a third 20-foot high (and not climbable by us) waterfall. Fortunately, there was a use trail to the right around these three falls,

Death Valley National Park California

Circumventing the falls in lower Slit Canyon

which took us to a shoulder-width narrows called “The Slit”,

Death Valley National Park California

Hiking The Slit in Slit Canyon

parts of which required some fun scrambling to get over dry falls up to 10 feet high.

Death Valley National Park California

A short scramble deep in The Slit

About 2 miles into the canyon, we came to a spectacular 50-foot waterfall.

Death Valley National Park California

The 50-foot falls in Slit Canyon

Death Valley National Park California

Polish on the 50-foot falls

There was a use trail to the left around these falls, which allowed us to explore more narrows further up the canyon.

Death Valley National Park California

Looking down the 50-foot falls

Several miles further hiking up this canyon and over into the next would have brought us to the Inyo Mine in Echo Canyon which we’d visited earlier. This would have been an option had we been able to arrange a 4×4 shuttle.

Death Valley National Park California

Sunset over the Panamints from the Furnace Creek Inn

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