The Family and Friends Death Valley Trip
April 2021: NO FLOWERS


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2020 sucked for many reasons, including no traveling and camping. And April rolled around again in 2021, and of course my heart turned to thoughts of Death Valley. By the end of February the decision was made that the SJSU trip would be cancelled again, but we had planned the f&f trip to piggyback onto it and didn't see any reason to change our dates, so a bunch of us planned to arrive in Beatty on Friday, April 2 and to leave on Wednesday, April 7.

Many people were interested in this trip...and then as we got closer, most of them either decided that they just weren't comfortable with traveling yet, or couldn't find the time or money to go camping. This was especially hard for me, because I COULD NOT find a roommate. And believe me, I tried; I twisted arms from California to Chicago...but nobody could do it.

So I called the other three people who were left when the dust cleared (my sister Diana, her buddy Mike, and our friend Jim) and said, I really want to go but I really really really don't want to stay in a room by myself; not only is that kind of expensive (even in our favorite inexpensive motel) but I want to be around people after all this sheltering at home and I have this vision of everyone disappearing into their rooms after dinner and there I am with nothing to do all evening and no-one to talk to.

They all assured me that this would not happen, and indeed it did not, as you will see. And we all had a great time!

So here's what we all planned to do: the trip was from Friday, April 2 to Wednesday, April 7. I was going to drive in from Stockton on Friday the 2. Diana and Mike were going to meet in Lake Isabella Thursday night, stay there overnight, do their grocery shopping the next morning, and I would meet up with them around noon for the final leg of the drive. Jim was actually in Death Valley all week; when the SJSU trip got cancelled, several of the Old Guard decided to go anyway, have fun, and do maintenance on the Cow Creek DVNHA digs. Jim got a ride to DV with one of the people who was going there, and I said I'd pick him up at Cow Creek around 4 pm on Friday. Since her way went right past his house, Diana was going to give Jim a ride home, and I'd drive to Riverside on Wednesday the 7th when we split up, and visit my old friend Jo Nell. And Mike would just drive home to LA from Beatty.

Friday, April 2
I stopped in Delano on the 99 for lunch (Del Taco, natch!) and turned off there to take the 155 to the back side of Lake Isabella, since I'd never gone that way before...and did Waze hate me for that! The first 15 miles were a constant barrage of 'turn here!' 'make a u turn' 'no! stop' don't do that!' But once I was committed she shut up, and it was a very pretty drive. The left picture is the hills outside Delano, and the right pic is the back side of Lake Isabella.
I'm following Diana and Mike; he's towing his Baja Bug, which we had big plans for this weekend! After we got to Trona, I went on ahead because I needed to go a little out of my way to pick up Jim, but they could go straight to Beatty.
Three pics going up to Towne Pass, oldies but goodies. Boudika was having real trouble getting over Towne Pass...she really started showing her age on this trip (260,000 miles)
We all showed up in Beatty, and Miss Cindy was behind the front desk in the office...and we found out that they had hired new people and changed their booking system, which was not a good combination. In order to even give us rooms, they had to move people to trailers and change rooms around. Evidently there was a big construction project outside of town and the workers were staying in all the motels, and things got a little complicated. But she got us our rooms, although they were not together, and I got to stay in a room up front with the board verandah outside the door! Lovely til I was trying to sleep and the bright light outside WOULD NOT TURN OFF...!
Here's Boudika outside my room, and after dinner the three of them came to my room and we all hung out...here's Jim helping Diana roll yarn into a ball. And Mike was moving his Baja Bug in the parking lot.
We discussed our four days in Death Valley and what we wanted to do. Jim and I wanted a day of hiking, we all wanted to do Titus Canyon with the truck and the Baja Bug, we wanted to rent a 4 wheel drive Farrabees jeep and do Ibex Springs with the jeep and the bug, I wanted to hike Telephone Canyon and...that's when we found out that Mike had taken Friday off for travel, which meant that he had to leave Tuesday morning and go back to work Wednesday. Which meant that one of those things would not happen.

So after much discussion (which included the fact that it was Easter weekend, the beginning or end of everyone's Spring Break, which meant that DV was hella crowded} we decided that we'd go to Farabee's first thing Saturday morning and see if we could reserve a jeep for Monday. Then from there, Jim and I would go hiking, and Diana and Mike would visit a bunch of places in Pahrump and Shoshone and have fun tooling around. Then Saturday night we'd figure out the next three days and decide what to do.

Saturday, April 3
Here's the road toward Death Valley from Beatty

And we got to Farrabees...and all the jeeps were booked. They had a waiting list for Monday, it was ten people long. But we put our names on it and took off to have fun for the day.

The price of gas at Furnace Creek...!

These are phacelias, and they were in the parking lot at Farrabee's...because literally THE ONLY WILDFLOWERS I saw all weekend were a couple growing in parking lots, and stream orchids at the year-round stream in Titus Canyon...in all the years I've been coming here in the spring I've never seen NO flowers. Rangers said they didn't get rain in October, which is what sparks the spring growing season...
Jim and I took our first hike in Room Canyon, which neither of us had ever done; I found it in one of my hiking books. It's one of those where you park by a mile marker and hike up the alluvial fan to a canyon. This one was 10 miles or so south of Badwater.

At least the creosote was blooming!

Baking pan in what I assume is a fire circle, I just liked the look of it. A plant (don't know what) but no flowers. Two shots of Jim, who uses fancy software on his Ipad to do gps tagging on photos, which is what he's doing in the second one.
Jim saw a chuckwalla! It was getting close to noon, so the sun is beating straight down...but it was a cool little canyon. There were big hoodoos everywhere, and you can see me by one of them in the fourth picture.
Here are my pics of the entrance to the canyon, and Jim doing his GPS thing. And there's Boudika, waiting on the road!
We went in, and it was pretty easy...lots of loose rocks but not steep. Then we came to this line of hoodoos; Jim went left, I went right (behind them). Turned out the right hand way was the way around them, and Jim joined me at the far end.
Two views of the row of hoodoos and looking back down the canyon...
And here is the 'room' at the end of the canyon.
Rocks, Desert Holly, and a cool tree
Driving by the beautiful hills, on our way to Desolation Canyon, our next hike. And as always, Boudika waits patiently for us in the parking lot...
Desolation Canyon is about a mile long mud canyon near Artists Palette, and if you get to the end and scramble up the very steep slope there, you can actually look down on the Palette.
But there's a place where you have to scramble straight up an eight foot rock and mud wall. I've done it in the past, and didn't think it was particularly hard either going up or coming down, but Jim was dubious, and had a knee thing, so we turned around there and went back.
The last picture is of some Phacelia that was growing in the parking lot at Furnace Creek. Nice to see but not WILDFLOWERS.
Sunday, April 4
Easter Sunday. The Easter Bunny came to the Atomic Inn!
Diana had wanted to spend a day driving around to the little towns near Death Valley and look for Native American jewelry, so that was today; she did that, and Jim, Mike and I piled into Boudika and went to explore Telephone Canyon. But first...BURROS!
Adorable burros just outside of town! which go nicely with the Desert Tortoise crossing sign a bit farther on...and...
the BIGHORN SHEEP running along a bit off the side of the road! A very good wildlife morning! and also three beautiful Straw Chollas, just for fun.

Then we went to Telephone Canyon, which is a place none of us had ever been. I read about it last time I was in Death Valley, and went to look at it, but didn't go in. This time I had asked the rangers about it; they said no problem getting to the canyon entrance. After that it's marked for four wheel drive, so (in my two wheel high clearance truck) we could just go as far as we could and then hike some. So we thought that's what we'd do.

The road up to the canyon (about three miles across the alluvial fan) A dead truck chassis The road into the canyon (and most of the road was like this, Boudika had no problem with it) A nice Harem Cactus
This was the only slightly hard part; an upward slope with rocks sticking out. You can see The Men looking at it and discussing it, they moved some rocks around, and Mike got behind the wheel and got Boudika across it just fine.
We drove along the road for a total of ten miles from the main road, and had a great time...and what was at the end?
The Tucki Mine, which was started in the late 1920s and reopened in the mid '70s. This site is just a few miles (as the crow flies) from Skidoo, and in fact the canyon is named after the phone line that connected Skidoo with Rhyolite. So we wandered around and looked at the buildings, one of which had a display of old tools inside...
And explored some of the mine openings...
We were hoping the road would actually continue to Skidoo or Aguereberry Point, but the motorcyclists tried to go that way and said it just ended in a big loop before the canyon dropped off. Ah well, time to go back!
And back we went, and the scenery was just as pretty the other direction. Harem Cactus, Straw Cholla, and Boudika posing by her deceased cousin.
At the Stovepipe Wells store, there was a small Myotis (Little Brown Bat) on the outside wall in the middle of the day! very cute.
Then we went to the sand dunes to look for Desert Iguanas, aka Elizardbeth Taylor. Jackpot!!!
Then we went to Hell's Gate and hiked up a little trail there to the ridge, just for fun...
And the view was pretty!

Back to the Atomic Inn.

I feel like a beer! says Mike...

Our buffet dinner.

Monday, April 5
Boudika had been running kind of hot the day before...little did we know that she would blow her head gasket in the Utah desert a month later! But she was fine for the rest of this trip.

This was the day we had hoped to get a Farrabee's jeep to go off to Ibex Spring, but we didn't hear back from them in time...so our default plan was to take Boudika and Mike's Baja Bug through Titus Canyon. But first...the Goldwell Open Art Museum, all the wonderful statues and sculptures out in the desert.

Then we turned our wheels to the Titus Canyon road, which is a 26 mile one-way wild ride full of beautiful stuff like canyons, a ghost town, flowers (except not so much this trip), rocks, and sometimes animals.
And this is where we were when we got the call from Farrabee's...at ELEVEN AM!...to let us know we could have a jeep! We politely turned them down, it was too late to start for Ibex Spring, plus we were on a one-way road...
Jim and I were in Boudika, and we came across Mike and Diana pulled over. Mike had lost a screw that held his fender in place, and didn't have a replacement. Well, I said after walking around Boudika and looking at her various parts, I only have one mudflap left, if you want to take it off you're welcome to the screw, if it'll fit. And it did! And there are Mike and Diana, ready to start again.
And there they go! into the beautiful hills.
I swapped into the Bug to have a ride, and it was loud bouncy fun! here's the dash, and here's Boudika catching up to us.

Then we watched it go up Red Pass...

Mike and his Bug at the top of Red Pass, the road we came in on, and two pics of a tiny baby horned toad!
Cool rocks, and lunch in Leadfield.
We went on down the canyon. Nice cacti, and we saw stream orchids when we stopped by the stream!
And we went into the narrows, enjoying the beautiful day and the canyon.
The sign is from the end of the canyon, and we drove back to the motel.
Our beloved motel, the Atomic Inn! And Jim and Mike hanging out in the space by Diana and Mike's room. It was too early for me to call it a day, so I decided to drive outside of town and look for a nature walk that was supposed to go to the headwaters of the Amargosa River. Jim and Mike decided to come with me.
We way overshot the closed gated road we were looking for, had to turn around, and found it on the way back. This is a trail/boardwalk to and across the beginnings of the Amargosa River, which flows under and above ground through most of this area, across Ash Meadows, and into parts of Death Valley.
On the way back, we stopped to look at this old brothel sign with a derelict, graffiti-covered airplane parked next to it. What's not to like?
My camera reset itself for Mars, but I still got pics of the Atomic Inn, Miss Kitty, and a big ol' black bee on the flowers.
Dinner at the Happy Burro, where you can choose between Chili, Vegetarian Chili, or Chilidogs. We got the last of the chili, and it was EXCELLENT. And they had decent beer. Yay!
Tuesday, April 6
Mike had to leave Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday, so that he could get back to work on Wednesday. So I said to Diana, let's go to Goldfield and see this wierd car art installation, and shop, and have lunch, and then I'll get back to Beatty early enough to go for one last hike with Jim. And we both thought that was an excellent idea.

We got there (in Diana's Honda Fit), and the wind was blowing and it was COLD. About 60 degrees instead of the 90-95 it had been. Brrrr.
And then things happened. We didn't get back to Beatty til about 6 pm.
But here is our welcoming committee of burros! And two of the pictures from my room, which are pretty awesome.
Wednesday, April 7
The next morning, I left for Riverside. Here is a measure of how high the water is at any given time in the wash where I parked to take this photo...yes, that's five feet! The road goes up into the mountains...and off I go! see you next year in Death Valley!