Salt Creek (Death Valley National Park) 13-Nov-2021

After five days of ceaseless adventuring, we faced the long drive home on the morrow. So, for Adventure #6, we decided to visit close-by attractions – Salt Creek and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – that we’d previously by-passed in favor of more remote, less crowded destinations. We beat the crowds at Salt Creek but were engulfed by them at the dunes – but we still got to see some interesting stuff.

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Saratoga & Ibex Springs (Death Valley National Park) 12-Nov-2021

We had one more day of 4×4 available to us, so we decided to make Adventure #5 a visit to Saratoga Spring and Ibex Spring at the south end of Death Valley National Park. This proved to be a day of minimal hiking and much off-road driving. We could have gotten to Saratoga with a 2WD car but a high-clearance 4×4 was a definite plus for the short, but lumpy, ride out to Ibex.

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Rogers Peak (Death Valley National Park) 11-Nov-2021

We’d spent yesterday bouncing around in a 4×4, so today we needed to hike. A long, long time ago (i.e., 1974), Wayne, Diane, and I climbed Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley National Park. That proved to be a truly memorable trip but one we weren’t interested in repeating. But, inspired by nostalgia enhanced by memory loss, we decided it would be fun (loosely defined) to hike to a closer, lower peak within sight of Telescope. Rogers Peak (9,993 ft / 3,045 m) is only 5 miles round-trip (8 km) from and 1,800 feet (549 m) above Mahogany Flat. And you can see Telescope from its summit. Plus it’s slightly taller than nearby Bennett Peak. So summiting Rogers became Adventure #4 of our adventures in Death Valley.

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Saline Valley (Death Valley National Park) 10-Nov-2021

When we were tossing around possible adventures for our time in Death Valley National Park, Wayne and Diane mentioned that they’d always wanted to see Saline Valley, which is about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Furnace Creek. I had been there once before in the mid-1980s; The LovedOne had never been there. Saline Valley is one of the most remote and hard to reach places in the park. While you can make it there and back in a 2WD vehicle (bring extra tires!), a high-clearance 4×4 increases your chances of not spending many unplanned hours stuck in the desert. Since we had access to a 4×4, why not go for a visit?

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Sidewinder Canyon (Death Valley National Park) 09-Nov-2021

Sidewinder and Willow Canyons run next to each other on the west side of the Black Mountains about 30 miles (48 km) south of Furnace Creek. The hike to either starts from a minimally signed gravel pit just off of the Bad Water Road. We hiked to the waterfall (which was running!) in Willow Canyon in 2017 and had planned to hike the slot side canyons in Sidewinder that same day. On that occasion, our car was the only one in the parking lot when we left for Willow. When we got back not too much later, the lot was near to full and lines of people were heading for Sidewinder. We decided to hike it later. We didn’t appreciate at that moment just how much “later” later would prove to be. So Sidewinder became (finally) Adventure #2 for this year’s trip to Death Valley.

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Marble Canyon (Death Valley National Park) 08-Nov-2021

This last week, we went with our long-time friends, Wayne and Diane, on what might best be described as several “multi-modal” adventures in Death Valley National Park. We combined stand-alone hikes with those facilitated by a 4×4 vehicle and threw in some touristy stuff too. This was our first chance to spend time with them since our San Juan raft trip last June (a planned mule-packing trip in September succumbed to a critical medical issue and way too much wildfire smoke 😥). In all, we did six different adventures over six sun-drenched 😎 days, then drove home just in time to meet the next batch of rain and snow aimed at Southern Oregon. 🥶

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Willow Prairie: North Loop (Southwest Oregon) 03-Nov-2021

Last year’s (and, sadly, part of this year’s) virus-driven theme was staying local. But as last year surged to a close, we became increasingly challenged to find local hikes that were new to us. Meeting this challenge was why I found myself (The LovedOne being busy with the library) late last year exploring some of the 19 miles (30 km) of equestrian trails emanating from the Willow Prairie Horse Campground located about 25 miles (40 km) east of Medford.

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A Brush With Vulture (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 31-Oct-2021

Three peaks straddle the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) due east of Oregon’s Howard Prairie Lake: Brush Mountain (with north and south summits), Old Baldy, and rocky Point 6054 (known locally as “Vulture Rock“). Point 6054 was never the site of a Forest Service fire lookout, while Old Baldy hosted one between 1924 and 1961, and two sat atop Brush Mountain between 1915 and 1930. The lookout on Brush Mountain’s northern summit was probably one of the most unusual ever allowed by the U.S. Forest Service:

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After the Deluge: Blue Grotto 27-Oct-2021

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

Well, the biblical-scale deluge seems to have targeted mainly California. We got what amounted to a passing glance. But still a very welcome glance given our drought and all. Enough wetness to maybe bring some of our smaller intermittent streams to life? Like the unnamed one that feeds the Blue Grotto on the shores of Lost Creek Lake? We try to visit the Grotto in the Spring when winter rains create the waterfall that is at its greenish-blue heart. Although we were there just this February, we thought: “Why not go see what the recent rains have done for it?” Even if it was still dry, the out-and-back hike to it on the North Shore Trail from the Lost Creek Trailhead is a very pleasant one and, at this time of year, one through Fall colors. 😊

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Before the Deluge: Prescott Park 21-Oct-2021

After the hottest and perhaps one of the driest summers in Oregon’s history, we are apparently going to be swamped for days by a veritable river of moisture. A Class 5 atmospheric event! Buckets of magical sky water! This will certainly take the edge off the drought 🙂 even if it might trigger floods in the burn scars left by this summer’s wildfires.😟 The color scheme in the GOES 17 water vapor image above seems to capture the intensity of what’s coming our way.

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Mystic Lake (Mountain Lakes Wilderness) 19-Oct-2021

Last September, Lee Juillerat wrote a piece for our local paper, the Mail Tribune, reminiscing about a trip he’d made to Mystic Lake, which sits at 7,200 feet (2,195 m) in the nearby Mountain Lakes Wilderness. I had passed near this little lake when I did the Mountain Lakes Loop in 2015 but didn’t have time to divert then for a visit. So I put Mystic on the seemingly bottomless hikes to do list, intending it for a late summer hike. Then heat, smoke, other hikes, other adventures, and personal business intervened and voilà it was mid-October. And La Niña was back – bringing with it rain and the first snows of winter. Was it now too late to reach Mystic without snowshoes?

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