DEATH VALLEY TRIP
Kay, Chris, Henry, Peppe, and Kenny taking a break
The Grandstand looks other-worldly as it protrudes from the playa.
Peppe sitting by his tent enjoying the sunset
Kenny at Teakettle Junction
Peppe and Kenny on the playa at Racetrack
I was looking forward to a family trip to Death Valley camping in the middle of nowhere, getting to see Racetrack again, and to explore. Kristi instead decided she needed time to herself for the weekend and to train for the Las Vegas half marathon in December so the trip instead became my first father/son (4.5 years old) camping trip.
I had decided it would be best if everyone taking part in this trip meet in Death Valley. Peppe met Kenny and I at our house to carpool while Henry and Kay met us in the parking lot for Ubehebe Crater. Harlan went a day earlier to hike Tin Mountain which is along the dirt road to Racetrack before Teakettle Junction.
After meeting Kay at the parking lot, we hiked down into Ubehebe Crater. Kenny really liked running down the steep loose slope. We then went to the other side of the crater along the crater floor to check out one of the small rain-weathered canyons. We decided to ascend a short distance up the canyon with a combination of solid and loose conglomerate. Kenny really enjoyed climbing and was insistent he didn't need help even though he occasionally did. He was also insistent on leading the way. There was even a point when he was offering advice to Kay as to where to place her feet and hands. Peppe was behind Kay and he told me Kenny's face was very serious like an adult offering assistance extending his hand as if to help pull her up. It was really cute!
Chris, Kenny, Peppe, and Kay at the top of Ubehebe Crater
At the bottom of the crater
We then hiked out of the crater. Kenny had plenty of energy going down and across the floor, but no energy going up the steep 35% slope for 1/4 mile. It was also close to nap time so I unfortunately had to carry him on my shoulders for most of the way up. It was very tough with a 50 pound unstable boy on your shoulders on loose gravel. I made him walk up the last quarter or so up while constantly giving him a push with lots of breaks. He made it though! Kay and Peppe finished well before we did so Kay and Henry, who was waiting for us, walked around the rim. We then started our journey along the dirt road to meet with Harlan.
Harlan had told me where he was parked and camped. We reached that point not seeing him. We then figured he continued on to meet us at the Homestake Campground two miles south of the southern end of Racetrack. All of us decided to stop at the southern end of Racetrack to hike out .75 miles to see the rocks at Racetrack. Since Kenny slept almost the entire dirt road, he had plenty of energy. The rocks are very neat and amazing. Kenny really liked Kay and walked with her hand in hand for a while out to the rocks, which was odd, considering he just met her a few hours earlier. Kay even gave Kenny her SLR to take pictures of her. Believe it or not, but that 4.5 year old can take some good pictures. He even bent down like a pro to take some shots. The views of the rocks were really neat as we neared sunset. I recommend seeing the rocks at that time because the light and shadows were spectacular.
Father and son at Racetrack
"Sailing stones" on the playa
We then drove to the campground to find Harlan waiting for us. He was worried we weren't going to make it since it was almost sunset. I had fully expected we would be the only ones there, but surprisingly the campground was full with our arrival. It was no frills camping with one very weathered portable toilet. It was the worst portable toilet I have ever seen. I was very glad to have brought a roll of toilet paper as there was none. The temperature was in the upper 60s when the sun set and it cooled quickly. Kenny played with his toys and truck while I set up the tent. My wife had prepared some turkey chili so all I had to do was heat it up. Unfortunately, Kenny didn't want to eat it. He happened to see Kay had spaghetti and meatballs so he asked her for some. Kay was very nice to oblige my son's request. He was very happy. The night was chilly with no clouds and very clear. We were able to see the Milky Way perfectly. My son was amazed with all the stars he saw.
All of us were very surprised how cold it got that night. We didn't expect it to be freezing atsunrise at 3,700 feet elevation. Some of us (like me) should have brought the colder weather sleeping bags. We ate breakfast and then packed up for the next part of our adventure. Before leaving though, Kay was very nice and brought Halloween gifts and toys for Kenny. We basically used our tents for trick-or-treating. It was kind of her to think of something like that as it was completely unexpected. Kenny really liked the toys he received.
Our next activity was to hike Ubehebe Peak which starts at the parking area for the Grandstand at the northern portion of Racetrack. Everyone started the hike, but Kenny pooped out again requiring me to carry him. After a half hour I realized this wasn't going to work so we aborted and went back down. Everyone else enjoyed the hike that offered great views. I'll have to try that peak and Tin Mountain some other day in the future. Instead, Kenny and I hiked around the Grandstand. He really liked climbing on the rocks. I then wanted to look around the Racetrack some more so we walked another mile into the middle of nowhere. I then had to carry Kenny back that mile to the car. Upon arriving everyone was waiting for us except Henry who was still hiking.
Harlan decided to drive home since his gas gauge was acting up and he had other things to do so he left first. The rest of us were going to travel the dirt road which went south of Teakettle Junction to South Pass and then to Hwy 190. Since Kay was not able to drive as fast as Henry and I, she left early following the dirt road we intended. I then didn't want to leave Henry so we waited a couple hours or so for him to finally arrive figuring we'd catch up to Kay. While waiting I got to experience something amazing. I was sitting in the driver's seat of my 4Runner with the door open and my foot on the step while a little bird landed on my shoes several times. It even landed on my seat next to me. We were all completely amazed with the experience. There was absolutely nothing living in sight of us other than this one little bird. After getting home telling my wife the story she said maybe it was my reincarnated Quaker parakeet that died soon after moving to Las Vegas in 2004 simply dropping by to say she's okay. It was a touching thought.
A Friendly bird on Chris's shoe
When Henry finally arrived (we were getting impatient) we took off heading towards South Pass. Kenny thankfully slept for most of the road since he really needed the nap and driving was the only way to finally get him to settle down. There was a point on the road where it forked with noticeable tracks going in either direction. The maps were unclear as to which was to go. We opted to go right since it went uphill while the other road seemed to remain level. The backcountry maps for Death Valley from the park service indicates South Pass is at about 6,000 feet so we felt good going this way. Although, we kept climbing to about 7,000 feet and wondered 'Where the hell are we?". At one point Henry stopped me to say that we are now only less than 5 miles from last night's campground. "Are we looping back around?" I didn't think that was the case, so we continued. It was very pretty lush forested terrain in that area with interesting rock formations. The road got rougher than we expected really making us wonder. Peppe was worried, but he didn't tell me until we reached pavement. We then reached South Pass seeing the Panamint Valley below and a main road. We then felt relieved, but soon the road got worse again. We then traveled through a lush and healthy Joshua Tree forest. Later we reached pavement which was wonderful until we realized it was not maintained and greatly weathered, preventing us from going very fast.
Eventually we reached Hwy 190 and continued east to Panamint Springs campground. Kay was waiting for us with two campsites and was very surprised it took us so long. We were also relieved she was waiting for us after that dirt road. It turns out she took the left fork which eventually looped back around to the fork we took. Henry didn't drive as fast as me on the pavement so he managed to pass by us. No way to communicate with him so we waited a while for him to finally turn around to find us. Kenny again was not interested in the turkey chili, but Kay was gracious to offer some Japanese rice balls that Kenny really enjoyed. She was great with Kenny and he really enjoyed her. The campground offered free showers so we all enjoyed an unexpected cleaning. We slept very well that night with much warmer temperatures. At one point I found Kenny out of his sleeping bag, off the air mattress, and sleeping on the ground between the tent and the air mattress. I had to wake him up to put him back in his sleeping bag.
The next morning we went on a hike to Darwin Falls. There is a 2.5 mile dirt road to the parking lot to hike what looks like the middle of nowhere in a normal desert canyon. About .75 miles in we started to see lush wetland vegetation leading to an environment completely unexpected for Death Valley. There was lots of water to cross with very lush vegetation. Kenny had a tough time balancing on the rocks and branches while holding onto me so he didn't fall into the water. The waterfall was neat with a significant pool. Kay and I walked into the pool to get unobstructed pictures of the waterfall. One the way out Kenny happened to notice the cattails and stated "Look Daddy, corn dogs!!!" It was the first time he had seen cattails. So from then on they were the "cattail corn dogs!" The 2 mile round trip hike was easy and very pretty. It was a highlight of the trip.
Chris wading at Darwin Falls
We then drove to Mosaic Canyon for a nice hike as far as we could go.... or should I say as far as Kenny could make it. Just as we entered the wash leading to the canyon, Kenny tells me he needs to poop. Ugh! Kenny and I went back to the vehicle while the others continued hiking. Since there was no bathroom at the parking area, he did his business in the middle of nowhere and I picked it up. Joy!!! What a wonderful father/son bonding experience! After that he didn't want to hike. Therefore, we waited until Peppe returned to start our trip back home. Beforehand, we had to stop at the Stovepipe Ranger Station to have Kenny sworn in as a Junior Ranger since we worked on the program throughout the trip. Kenny has earned over a dozen Junior Ranger badges in the past few months with the intention of earning many more in the future.
We then drove home completing a really good trip with great sights that I would highly recommend!
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Peak Trail Construction
Friday, December 2, 2011
LVMC CHRISTMAS PARTY
NO MONTHLY MEETING