Death Valley and other fun stuff
July 2016


Click on any picture to see it full-size.

In July, I was going to go to Combatcon again, meeting Carol and Eric there. Doug was also coming for the first time, and it was being held at the Westgate Casino and Hotel. I noticed how close Death Valley is to Vegas, and I also know from experience that it's handy to have a car in Vegas, so I decided to drive there, and stop in my favorite place on earth on the way back. In JULY, which is something I've been wanting to do for a while...

Red Rock Canyon State Park, near Mojave, is about halfway between where I live and Vegas, and is a small beautiful desert park. They turn off the water and close the visitor's center on the first of June, but there are bathrooms and decent camping spaces, and I know from experience to camp on the east side of the bluffs, so my site gets shade as soon as the sun goes behind the hills. Also, this year, it wasn't 105 at 4 pm, more like 90-95. Much more comfortable for camping and hiking.

I hiked to Nightmare Gulch and back, a couple of miles each way; pretty easy, with some up and down in the hills at the beginning.
A very nice hike! And on the right is my campsite, looking out over the campground; there were more people than last year, there were eight or ten spaces occupied. But the campground is large enough that nobody had to be anywhere near another camper.
And speaking of getting near another camper, who's this cutie-pie? He was VERY interested in my dinner, and I have to say I broke my usual 'don't feed the wild animals' rule and tossed him a couple of pieces of chip. In the second picture he is hiding behind that tiny twig...!
Twilight and a beautiful Desert Ironclad Beetle, aka Blue Death-Feigning Beetle. The fourth picture is the Red Cliffs early the next morning, and I'm off to Vegas!
Carol had the official Book Release party for her newest book, Savage Island (You can buy it here!) After some scheduling kerfuffles, she held it in the demo/sales room, and the cake was made by the casino. But because it had been rescheduled, the people with the plates, forks and the knife to cut the cake were waiting somewhere else...so Carol, resourceful as always, borrowed a SWORD from the Badger Blades booth next to her, and cut it with that! it was a fun party and a heck of a good cake. Yay Carol!
Carol and Doug took a class on Viking weapons, very cool!
Doug flew home Monday morning, and after taking the backstage tour of Cirque du Soleil's KA, I left Vegas about 2:30 in the afternoon for my FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH. I stopped for fresh groceries in Pahrump, and got to the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center about 4:45, just in time to talk to a ranger about camping. She said Wildrose campground was open, as well as Emigrant campground. And some nice fellow travelers took the picture on the right. Yes, folks, it was 116 DEGREES at 5 pm that day. It really didn't feel that bad...pretty hot, but not horrible...

I drove across the valley, stopping for some photos. Wildrose is about an hour from Furnace Creek, so I got there around 6 pm.

The Mesquite sand dunes. This is the side road that goes to Wildrose; it used to connect with another road to Trona, but that's been washed out for years. Emigrant Pass looking down through Nemo Canyon. You can see the road I'll be on in a few minutes. The road into Wildrose is like this for a couple of miles, way fun.
On the left are two pics of the campground...talk about bare bones! but there was shade behind my truck, and it was only about 95 at 6 pm. I just sat and drank cold drinks and read til 7 or so, when the shade reached the picnic table; then I made dinner, stayed up til darkish and went to bed.

On the right is the canyon I drove down to get here, and the moon hanging above it.

The light woke me up early the next morning. Another pic of the beautiful canyon behind me, and I turn my truck to drive farther up the Wildrose road.

Quail drinking water from a spring that is running down the road, and the jackrabbits were zipping across the road like crazy.

A picture out the window of my truck; that's where I'm going.

Bunny under a bush!

And the Skidoo sign. I'm almost there!

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns were built in 1877, and only used for two years; the charcoal was sent down to Skidoo to smelt the ore they mined there. When the mine stopped producing, the Modoc Mines Company walked away from these kilns and just left them there. They are awesome-you can walk inside them (easily- they're 20 feet high). You can see them from Google Satellite. And they are also at the trailhead for a couple of the best Death Valley hikes...Wildrose Peak and Telescope Peak.

Today my goal was to hike Wildrose Peak, the second highest peak in the Panamint Range at just over 9000 feet. The trail is 4 miles each way, and trail guides say it's 'strenuous', which sometimes means just that, and sometimes is said just to keep non-hikers from trying something difficult...but four miles? I can do that, easy peasy. Or so I thought...

Since the hike started at 7200 feet, the temp was cool and lovely. And as the day got hotter, I went higher, so it never got too hot; I never took off my hawaiian shirt, even hiking up the hardest part, because it was so (relatively) cool. So let's see how it went!

The traditional picture of the happy hiker at the trailhead...needless to say, I wasn't this perky going past this sign the other way... There were lots of trees with bare branches...most of them dead, I'm sorry to say, but they sure looked dramatic. And I bid farewell to Wildrose and my truck, and strike out into the unknown! The first mile or so was like this...steadily upward but not hard, really pretty rolling hills. I'm aiming for the ridge up ahead, I found out.
There was lots of prickly pear along the trail. This is a Sulphur Flower Buckwheat, which was in NONE of my Death Valley Flower guides...! And then the trail went steeply up for a mile or so, up rocks and streambeds... I use the monochrome filter on my camera a lot, I love the pictures in black and white!
A lot of stuff is blooming, even in July, because this range is so high up. The middle two pictures are some kind of penstemon.
Another tree... And the trail levels out as I cross the ridge, and follows the top of it long enough for me to catch my breath... ...and catch the view! Yup, that's Badwater, about 8000 feet down from where I'm standing...and I'm still climbing...
Another beautiful prickly pear cactus. Shale. That is what this part of the trail is mostly made of. Well, it seems that I'm outside my usual range of plants...this is the second flower that just wasn't in any of my many desert flower guides...it's California Jointfir, and I am eternally grateful to Google Images...
Shale and trees. This really was an amazing trail, beautiful and varied. Right now, going up and down along the ridge, is one of the best parts. It's going to start going uphill again soon...
Another nice tree. That hill, the far one on the left, is where I thought the trail was going. Not so hard, I thought, the hiking guide must have been wrong. Hah. The view down to the valley is spectacular. This is an old pine cone, I love the symmetry.
More beautiful vistas, and more monochrome trees. Whee! And at this point, I'm passing the hill that I THOUGHT was the final peak...
And another pretty tree, and...wait a minute, what's that ahead on the left? that HUGE FREAKING MOUNTAIN? OMG.

Yup, that's Wildrose Peak. And the worst part? the trail went DOWN into a valley before going back up. And the trail guide was right, it was DAMN HARD. Steep switchbacks all the way up, ending up at just over 9000 feet, which made it even harder. It took me an hour to go up that last mile of trail, I am not kidding. It was a total ass-kicker.

Okay, enough whining. Two views from the ridge before I start uphill...

Pine cones, more beautiful view, more penstemons, and I think this is another sulphur flowered buckwheat.
Tree. Grasshopper. View. Lupines. I'm stopping to rest pretty often now...

I think this is a purple larkspur, maybe Parish's?

More buckwheat, I think.

See the lizard hiding from the big scary hiker?

And I am on the last bit of trail...except it's NOT. There's a saddle, and another quarter of a mile. I clawed my way up this last bit of uphill... and I DID IT. This is the USGS marker for the summit of Wildrose Peak. Woo hoo!!! Of course I took a selfie!!! And (I noticed later) you can see the marker in the forefront. Just to prove I didn't fake it or anything...
More panos and stuff. The view was really amazing, even on a hazy day. And it was not hot at all, even after a hard hike...probably about 75 degrees on the summit.
Another tree. And the BIGGEST DAMN HORSEFLY IN THE WORLD, which (luckily) was not hungry, or it might have bitten my head off. It was seriously an inch long. You can see it beyond my hiking stick, getting ready to pounce. Oh, and one sepia photo, just for fun.
Wow, that trail is so much more appealing going downhill! More post-bloom cacti, getting ready to set fruit where the blooms are, and a lovely spiraly pinecone. And more downhill, yay!
Another cactus flower left from spring bloom... More prickly pear. I love this stuff! I think this is Cushion Wild Buckwheat...and a beetle. And a lizard that has gone into the shade, thinking he can hide from me...but my awesome camera can see him!
I like cactus, okay? Antelope bush Something from the Sunflower family, obviously, but too far gone for me to tell what kind. Another beautiful tree.
This was a great hike, even as hard as it was; the weather and landscape were beautiful, and aside from two guys who passed me going downhill at 9:30 am, as I was starting out, I didn't see another person all day. It took me a hair over five hours, including stopping for half an hour or so at the top, which is about how long the hiking guides said it would take. And it was totally worth the effort.
A pano of the kilns, a nice shot of sunset in the campground, and the next morning, the early sunrise on the mountains as I drive away, headed for Los Angeles and my sister's (then) house.
On the way out, I visited one of my favorite petroglyph sites.
And I'm on my way out, through the beautiful Death Valley day. The Sierras are gorgeous, and I had a lovely drive to Los Angeles. I loved Death Valley in July! I'm hoping to come back next summer. Anyone else want to join me?
And I have to add this creepy gnome from the mobile home park where my sister used to live...just because.