SJSU FSNH Spring Break in Death Valley 2016

Click on any picture to see it full-size.

San Jose State University has had a Spring Break in Death Valley week for the last 75 years or so...students can come to get a much-needed science credit and have fun, plus anyone else who wants to can join the group. It's semi-primitive camping, although the addition of actual showers and flush toilets this year lowered the primitive factor quite a lot. Everyone sleeps in tents (or in my case, truck) and does camp cooking on tables, in cook groups. This year Jim invited Linh Nguyen to join our cook group. I had met Linh last year, and liked her. We all had a pre-DV meeting about food, and agreed on who would do/bring/buy what, and we were ready to go.

But first...THE SOLAR OVEN!

I got the idea somewhere that it would be fun to make a solar oven and try it out at DV...the last time I went in March, it was hot and sunny and clear all week.
<foreshadowing>And of course it would be the same this year, right?</foreshadowing>

So I went online and found this set of instructions, which were perfect. I didn't want to make the kind that has shiny bat wings to focus the sun rays, because it's often windy in DV, and also there are critters that might be a bit too interested in what's cooking. This is more a solar crock pot, which looked perfect.

So here's how I did it.

Here are most of my materials; the boxes were in the garage, I bought some glue and paintbrushes to spread it (I went through two huge bottles of white glue!), some flat black spray paint, and a box of clear turkey-size oven bags. I got two cheap styrofoam coolers to use for insulation, and the only 'expensive' part was a nonstick broiler pan with a rack that fit inside the smaller box; that was all of 14 bucks on Amazon.

I cut the top off the bigger box and glued the lid of one cooler in it to set the smaller box on, and made a lid for the larger box (using milk crates to hold the edges in place while they dried.)

I spraypainted all the pieces flat black, then lined both boxes and the lid with aluminum foil (that took a lot of glue) and glued the small box in. I cut a door in the lid so that it could open to let the sun in, and glued a clear turkey bag over it from the inside, so it would make a 'window' to let the sunshine in and keep it in. And it was ready to go! That all took about two hours, not bad.
Driving down the 178 from Bakersfield to the desert was gorgeous. There were flowers on the hills and the sunshine was lovely. Everyone had been talking about the 'Superbloom' in Death Valley, and I was hoping it was still happening.
Walker Pass and Joshua trees.
These are six pictures Jim took on our way in. He took some great ones, and I'll try to mention which ones are his...but if I forget one, his pics are named dvj and numbers starting with 432.
One more of Jim's and three more of mine, and we're there! We stay in Cow Creek, three miles north of Furnace Creek, which is an infrastructure sort of area; there is the camping area for SJSU FSNH, and a permanent trailer there; there is an RV camping site for staff and FSNH people; there is some maintenance stuff up the hill, and the Death Valley Elementary School is also right there, although there were no students this year; I'm not sure if that's one year or if it's closed for good. There are other buildings up the road, as I discovered later in the week...
On the left, you can see that we're setting up camp and one of the communal picnic tables is being brought in. Everyone got set up and dinner was made and eaten. Grant and Jim are having a good time, the tree looks lovely in the yellow light, and Jazzie's dog Jack shows me his good side. He seriously jumped into that chair and posed. He's a companion/therapy dog, and we all loved him, and his owner, Jazzie. They were great!
One of the students brought lights on chains, which are traditionally candles, but much safer to have LEDs! I think this is called Poi, and is a Maori art form/dance style.
Sunday morning at Cow Creek! This is the first picture of the BATHROOMS WITH SHOWERS that got installed in February. The solar heating panels are going in today.They were AWESOME.

Everyone is getting breakfast, and getting ready for their various plans. Half the group arrives Saturday and half Sunday. Most of those who arrive Saturday go shopping on Sunday in Pahrump, an hour and a half away; Jim and I were planning on doing that very thing after breakfast.

And it's early morning over the valley. Very pretty!

These four pictures were taken on the road to Pahrump. Jim was driving, and the hills were colorful. Notice the cloud cover...

Speaking of bathrooms, here are Dan, Dan and Stan putting the solar heating coils on the roof of the new bathrooms. The DVNH group got donations (and many of us that go in March happily contributed) and had just built them...there's a sink, corner shower and toilet in each, and oh man! what a joy they were. We were all very good about only showering for a few minutes every other day...but a big clean shower with hot water? oh yes!!!
After Jim and I got back and dealt with the supplies, we went hiking with Dick and his wife Judy. I knew Dick from last year's trip, he and I hit it off...he's great, does all kinds of outdoorsy stuff. But I hadn't met his wife, this might have been her first time on the DV least, she wasn't there last year. She seemed nice but not very outgoing...but sure, I'm glad to hike with anyone, and I figured we'd talk some while hiking. We were going to do the Zabriskie to Golden Canyon hike, so we took two cars, left theirs in the parking lot at Golden Canyon, then all piled into my truck and drove up to Zabriskie Point on the other side of the hills. Then we hiked the 2 1/2 miles down to their car, and they drove us back up to ours. A great hike through the mud 'badlands', not hard but fun.
So there we were, hiking down the first part of the trail, which is basically a mud road between mud hills until you get to the wash, where it gets more interesting...and we were surrounded by mud...and I started singing, "Mud, mud, glorious mud..." AND JUDY JOINED IN WITH ME! And after that we were buddies. How can you not be buddies with someone who knows and appreciates Flanders and Swann?

The white flower is Gravel Ghost (it was EVERYWHERE, nice!) and the yellow flower is Desert Gold.

A lot of this hike is through the 'badlands', multicolored mud hills where not much grows. But the shapes and colors are nice.
Usually when we take this hike, I'm in the back, not only because I like to be sure all the hikers are finding the way, but also because I take pics of everyone else crossing Manly Beacon, the big pointy thing you're aiming toward on the first half of the hike. But partway down the canyons, we ran into two women who had gotten totally lost and were hiking in circles, and I showed them the trail and stayed up front to keep an eye on them until they got to a place where the trail doesn't split; coming down from Zabriskie, the trail goes two ways, to Golden Canyon or Gower Gulch, and they had gotten turned around.

So the next eight pics are Jim's, and I have a (rare) photo of me crossing the face of Manly Beacon. Thanks, Jim!

Hideous deadly bug. Seriously, Jim took this but it's hard to tell...maybe a tarantula hawk?

We got to the Golden Canyon parking lot, and Dick and Judy gave us a ride back to Zabriskie Point to get Boudika.
Of course I had to go up to Zabriskie Point for the iconic view of Death Valley, with the multicolored hills and Manly Beacon (which we had just walked across) in the distance. Some nice German tourists took my picture. And you can see Boudika in the parking lot.

Speaking of parking lots, oh MAN were there a lot of people. The SJSU trip is during Spring Break, but SJSU takes theirs at the end of March every year instead of tying it to Easter. This year, however, we were there Easter weekend, and in fact this is Easter Sunday...which means most of the students on the planet had either the week before or the week after off of school. Add that to the fact that it was a Superbloom year in DV (and we missed it by about three weeks, btw) and there were more people than I had ever seen, even during 49ers days when we used to come the first weekend of November. When we did this hike, the parking lot at Golden Canyon was so full people were parking down the sides of the roads, and everything we did, other people did too. It was kind of...odd.

But there is my truck, patiently waiting in the parking lot, so let's go back to Cow Creek and hang out and make dinner!

Sunset was pretty.

After dark, a bunch of us walked up (dry) Cow Creek to look for insects. A volunteer ranger named Brigitte, who has known the group for years, saw the black light and said, you know you're not allowed to have those here...but I know you guys, so I don't see it. And I found out why: scorpions light up like Christmas trees under black light! So that was fun.

And further up the wash, we all set up a sheet and a light to attract insects so we could do an insect viewing in a couple of nights...

And Debra has a moth on her glasses.

Monday morning. Our first day of actual classes.But before everyone left at 8's time to try out the solar oven! I had bought beef short ribs in Pahrump the day before; I coated them with the spice rub I had brought (recipe) and put a clear oven turkey roasting bag around the pan with the ribs, then put it in the oven. I wrapped a bungee cord around the box to keep critters out, and set it where I thought the sun would get it, although it was kind of overcast that morning.
And the morning is beautiful, although a bit cold. Dick is rarin' to go!

And we're off! This year, Rod the Biologist and Robbie the Geologist decided that instead of trying to talk over the wind to thirty or forty people, they'd split the group and do the same day twice, swapping the halves. So that was going to be Monday and Wednesday. Today, Monday, Jim and I went with Rod and his group to Dante's View.

Oh, and by the way, although Rod told us all about these plants, I was looking and listening and wandering, not writing down, so I'm looking up plant names while I make this web page. Any mistakes in identification are mine, and I freely admit to them.

And it is lovely up here, although cold, windy and hazy. Mmmm, clouds over Telescope Peak...

Aaaaand...not only are there almost no flowers at Dante's View (as opposed to last year, when there were TONS) it's FRICKIN' COLD AND WINDY. We hardly spend any time there before getting in the cars and vans and making our way back down the hill, stopping every few miles to see how the plants and animals change as the elevation changes.

Checker Fiddleneck, Death Valley Phacelia, Chester Fiddleneck again and Desert Dandelion. Chester Fiddleneck is such an awesome name...but this flower is also known as...The Devil's Lettuce. Wow. It sounds like a cheesy movie promo: CHESTER FIDDLENECK IS...THE DEVIL'S LETTUCE. I love these plant names!
Cholla Rod telling us about plants at Dante's View, notice how we're all bundled up? Desert Chicory Scale Bud
So even though we missed the Superbloom, there were still flowers, just not as many. Not even as many as last year, when we hit the growing season perfectly. But as you can see, there are still flowers, and they're still pretty! Tickseed Another plant stop Purple chia. We saw a lot of this around DV this week!
Yellow throats These pictures are of a plant that Rod identified as a brown-eyed evening primroose; white flowers with brown in the throat, when they're blooming.
More Death Valley Phacelias Pulling off to the side of the road and everyone is getting out of the cars to look at plants Another Desert Chicory We were looking under rocks for pseudoscorpions, which look like ant-sized lobsters; I saw one but didn't get a pic of it. But I did turn over this rock and hand it to Jack...
There's a tiny brown spider under it, and you can see its cast-off skin beside it. Another brown-eyed evening primrose, but the blooms are closed. No idea what this is. It was small, about three inches high, as I remember...I want it to be a gilia, but I can't find any that are exactly like this... More Phacelias
Purple Mat Desert Evening Primrose Here's a big anthill... with big ants! I think Merav said they're harvester ants, but I could be wrong.
Desert Dandelions Beavertail cactus getting ready to bloom. We're getting down towards the end of the Dante's View road...the group will stop in Furnace Creek for lunch, then go on to the salt flats. The wind is getting fierce by this point... Found it! This is Spiny-herb.
I like the monochrome filter on my camera! Desert Five-Spot Blooming Beavertail cactus Spiny-herb on the left, and on the right Lilac Sunbonnets.
We got down to the main road, and this is the dust storm we could see going up the whole valley. We had lunch at Furnace Creek, then the group went on and Jim and I went back to camp...there was a big ol' pile o' chaos there.
We found out later that the winds were hitting 60 mph that day...the camp wasn't in a shambles, because the Triplets (three guys who always hung around together) had battened it down before they left...including folding and stacking all the lightweight chairs! But a couple of the tents had torn free of their stakes, and Jim's and a couple more were collapsed. So Jim started staking tents down, and I ran (literally) after rain flies and sleeping bags that the wind took, and we got it all under control in about an hour...the third pic is Jim about to stake the blue tent down. The stuff in the tents was all that was keeping them in camp. Everyones cooking gear was full of dust.
But what, you are probably wondering, happened to my solar oven? When we came back to the campground, I was prepared for the worst...but Grant had also put a big rock under the bungee cord on the oven, and turned it to face the sun more, and that saved it. Here is is, cooking away!

And here's Jack trying not to breathe all the dust.

Later on, I wanted to hike Gower Gulch; Jim dropped me off and picked me up an hour later. That's my truck, leaving me behind...

Gower Gulch meets the Zabriskie to Golden trail about halfway up; you can hike down to the Golden Canyon parking lot, or just park off road near the mouth of the canyon...or get dropped off, as I did. As you can see, there is dust blowing everywhere outside Gower Gulch...inside, there wasn't any dust, but the wind was still blowing little bits of grit everywhere, some of which got in my camera and messed it up. Sigh. But it was a fun hike.
And there's Jim and Boudika, waiting for me! The dust was so bad, he came back early in case the road was closed...
As I said earlier, dust got into EVERYTHING. A TON of dust.

Jim is standing by his tent, which has been guy-wired to everything in sight to keep it from collapsing again.

And the sunset is pretty.

But wait! you say. What happened to the ribs in the solar oven?

They did fine. They were pretty damn good, although a little underdone, having missed about two hours of sunlight when the clouds/dust came in around 4...but here I am happily chowing down on them. Experiment pretty successful!

Jack Owicki, Scorpion Whisperer. This was pretty cool, actually; everyone got to see it up close and personal before he set it free.

Sunset, clouds, and...RAIN? Yes, cold windy and rainy. Thank goodness I brought my sweats. I bailed and got in my truck around 8:30. I was actually sick as a dog by this point, I started coming down with an awful cold the day we left and was honking and coughing the whole time. Not fun, especially in the dusty/cold/rainy. </whining>

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny! The first picture is Jim's, everyone is getting ready to load up and go to Ash Meadows. The second is the camp after they've all gone. Quiet. Peaceful.

Jim and I were taking it easy this day, driving to Ballarat, which is one of those little desert towns that hangs on by its fingernails.

You can see how beautiful the drive is; we went back through Panamint Valley almost to Panamint Springs, then turned left on the Trona Road and looked for the turn to Ballarat, which was marked by the yellow sign.

Planes from Edwards AFB routinely fly this valley, and there was a radar station on the dirt road that led to Ballarat.

In the fourth picture, at the end of the road on the left, you can just see two buildings...that's it!

So this is the 'general store' and 'visitor's center' of Ballarat, with what Diana calls a 'Crufty* old guy' as general factotum and greeter. He was kinda inbred and scary looking, although nice enough. A garrulous old coot to the max. Obviously loved pontificating to the visitors about the good old days in Ballarat. They had just had 'Ballarat Days', which sounded like people just come and do whatever...he said, A hundred people came! Soon it'll be as big as Burning Man! We politely nodded.

Then I asked to use the bathroom...the above pictures do not do it justice. He pointed the way. I came back and said that the toilet was in at least two pieces and didn't look useable. He put the seat back together and checked to be sure there was water in the tank and pronounced it to be fine. well, it worked, but I really can't remember ever using scarier looking facilities...

The fourth picture is part of the inside of the 'store', which had about a dozen things like candy bars for sale in no particular order.


*I didn't know either. Urban dictionary says: Generic derogatory term for something that is hacked together, badly designed, shabby or otherwise substandard. Often used in the description of software user interfaces.

A closeup of the photos of olden days in Ballarat. The planter out front. Supposedly this is Charles' Manson's pickup truck. I doubt it, but either way, ew. Cool old machinery
More cool old machinery Good thing this is here, I was afraid I'd get lost...
I love taking pictures through windows. Really cool old car skeleton And...blank sign. I really liked this, seemed to sum the whole place up...
Jim and I both liked the falling-apart buildings and the...wait a minute, is that a STILL? sure looks like it...
These are the signs that are around. That last one...all at once? hm. If it's a free zone, why are you charging for camping?
More of Jim's excellent pics, including a really disillusioned lizard. More tourists? meh.
The next dozen pics are of the Ballarat graveyard, which happens to be right by the empty lot where campers and RVs park for 'Ballarat Days', so it's not in very good shape, too many stupid people have had their way with it...but as derelict desert cemeteries go, it wasn't bad. These are both Jim's and mine.
Two more pics of amusing Ballarat stuff, and the biggest horsefly in the world on my dash, and we're leaving Ballarat.
It was a beautiful day, although colder than it looks. We stopped in Panamint Springs to have lunch at the tables outside their general store, and it was so cold we ate fast and got back in the are pics of the drive to Panamint Springs then back to Cow Creek.
And it's evening. Jim got out a bottle of his home-made peach wine and found that the air pressure below sea level had pushed the cork into the neck!

It didn't rain Tuesday night, but it got really cold...

Wednesday morning dawned. Jim, Dick and I had planned to hike Wildrose Peak...but it SNOWED there Tuesday night. You could see it, and we checked with the rangers, and they said, yup, snow. We said NOPE and went with Plan B, which was to hike Fall Canyon.

This is the second time I've hiked Fall Canyon...there is a place where you have to climb about 15 feet up a wall, to get to the upper canyon...I didn't get up last time, being unprepared, and this time...well, I didn't make it this time either. Maybe next time.

But it's still a very nice hike.

Sunrise. This group gets on the road at 8, so to have time for breakfast and packing a lunch and all, Jim wakes me up at 6:30. Every damn morning. Sigh. The Scotty's Castle road to Titus Canyon. For Fall Canyon, you park in the Titus Canyon parking lot and walk half a mile along the alluvial fan to the next canyon north. This is what it looks like...Mordor.
Thistle Sage

The entrance to Fall Canyon, and a pic of me and Dick hiking in.

A bush (Goldenhead or Rayless Goldenhead) full of what we later found out were blister beetles. Good thing you didn't try picking one up, said Jack. As if! I got the extreme closeup, but Jim saw the two connected ones doin' the deed. Very cool!
So here are my pics of the Fall Canyon hike...

Desert Heliotrope was everywhere.

Right up to here, which is where I turned around and went back. Remember how I was sick as a dog all week? I COULD NOT hike. I just waited at the truck and read a graphic novel or two...the next few pics are on the way back.

Desert Heliotrope. I love the curls.

And again, Desert Heliotrope.

Hiking out was even prettier than hiking in (see the blue sky? I love that.) And here's a desert pincushion...with TINY SPIDERS all over it!!

Gravel Ghost and friend

Desert Five-Spot

More Thistle Sage.

And I waited by the car...and there they come, about an hour later!
The next four are Jim's pics of the last bit of canyon, including the inside of a cactus (and I don't want to know what happened to it, but pretty cool seeing inside it) and a wonderful chuckwalla.

Bielow's Monkeyflower! One of my favs.

The wind was so strong that a bunch of people (and yes, I did help, not just take pictures) put a tarp up to screen the camp stoves so that we could all cook dinner.

The sunset was gorgeous, and Dana told us all about the 49ers and the settlers who came in to Death Valley. Of course, the Timbisha Shoshone were already here, doing just fine, thank you...

Thursday dawned bright and clear, thank goodness. The next three days were perfect DV weather, hot and sunny and clear. A lovely change, and my cold was much better.

There was a huge flood in the north of Death Valley in October 2015, about five months before this trip; you can see footage here. Someone told me that people down by Furnace Creek were under clear skies, and there was a black cloud over Scotty's Castle; they got 20 inches of rain in 5 hours, which did a huge amount of damage. The lower levels of everything, the visitor's center and a lot of the outbuildings were flooded, and the fences and parking lots were submerged in mud. The roads were washed out. It was a real mess, and will take years to clean up.

Which is why when we went out Thursday morning...

Thursday and Friday the whole group went out together. We started at the Mesquite Dunes.

Fruiting Creosote bush with a brown gall.

Creosote bush

Creosote bush

I found out from Robbie the Geologist why the sand dunes seem to have dark shadows even when the sun is beating straight down on them. The sand includes grains of black magnetite, which is heavier than the other sand grains, so when the wind blows the sand up the tiny ripples and off the other side, the magnetite is left behind. Way cool!

Then we went to Mosaic Canyon, and I went up some of the side canyons to see what was there. Not much, but it was fun doing it.

Jack and Sherry taking a shade break.

Then it was lunch time and we all went to Stovepipe Wells.

On the right is the campground kiosk with the 4 inch posts that were BROKEN OFF by the high winds we had Monday. Snapped clean in two. Wow.

The third pic is the Devil's Cornfield, which we passed on the way to Salt Creek. That was out the window of a moving car...I love my new camera!

And the pupfish are in fine form on this beautiful day!
This was the girl pupfish dorm...a whole bunch of them were hanging out here, nice and quiet, away from the crazy guys. Lizard! Jack is pointing out an orb weaver spider on her web, and there she is!
Gravel ghost. Don't see it? Here's a closer look. That's why it's called Gravel Ghost. Grows in gravel, really hard to see unless you're on top of it. HUGE horsefly. Not chewing on me, for once. Cat posing on top of the Pupfish Cam, just below the boardwalk.
On the way back from Salt Creek, Jim was driving. Let's go up the road to the back of Cow Creek, he said, I hear they just build housing for rangers and workers, I want to see what it looks like. I'm game for anything, I said.
And on the way up, I really looked at this sign. Hey, I said, there's a library branch of some kind up there and it's open! So we drove up, and saw this housing hidden behind the hills...then a little further up, there's an older set of a couple of dozen houses. Jim turned the truck back. But the library! I said, I want to see the library branch. But he didn't want to, he just wanted to see the new housing. So as soon as we got back (two minutes later) I brought the truck back and drove through the little suburb to the far side, where the library branch was. And here it is! And according to the sign it opens in ten minutes...oh, YESTERDAY. This is THURSDAY, they must have forgotten to flip the sign at the bottom of the hill to CLOSED. AND it's got apostrophes in the wrong places. Sigh.
So one flower (Desert Gold, I think) with a cool beetle... one more shot of the CLOSED library... and a picture of a very cool old building (most of them were pretty recent.) And I'm back in camp, and here's a dove in the tree.
And the sunset is beautiful.
Friday morning we all piled into the vans to go to Rhyolite and drive Titus Canyon. I have only done this in a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but by golly, if those two big vans full of people can do it, Boudika can do it!

First is the ghost town of Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open-Air Art Museum.

Desert dandelion

Desert Gold

Desert Pincushion


And here are three of Jim's pics from Rhyolite- the group listening to Robbie the Geologist

Neil showing off a horned toad (and I'm sorry I missed that one!)

and a gilia called Evening Snow

Then we started on the 26 mile one-way drive from Rhyolite to Titus Canyon. Two vans with about 10 people in each, and three pickup trucks with two or three that's about 26 of us. We drove and stopped anytime there was something to see- flowers, rocks, animals, whatever.

More Yellow Throats

And our old friend Checker Fiddleneck, aka Devil's Lettuce.

This is pretty much the only Apricot Mallow I saw all week. Another Desert Dandelion The five-petaled flower on the left is a Golden Gilia, all the stuff in the middle with four petals are poppies, and on the right are Golden Evening Primroses.
Desert Pincushion Blazing Stars, I think...? Everyone is out looking for flowers Popcorn Flower
More Checker Fiddleneck, aka Devil's Lettuce.

The line of cars on the Titus Canyon road, approaching Red Pass.

Boudika in Red Pass

Views back down the road we just drove, and I think this yellow flower is Scale Bud.
Four of Jim's from Red Pass. That's Linh walking down the road, we caught up with her about half a mile along; she and Dick and Judy wanted to stretch their legs.
I gamma corrected the heck out of the one on the left, but it looks pretty good.

Then we stopped in the defunct mining town of Leadfield, which lasted for about a year and a half, til everyone who came there found out that the guys selling claims there had salted them with lead to attract investors...

Desert Paintbrush

Lunch in the shade

Lizard and two cacti, one beavertail, one hedgehog.

The bottom three are Jim's, including one of me hiking around.

And we all piled back in the vehicles again.

Then the procession of cars pulled over...LIZARD!! Neil the grad student had brought a lizard-catching stick- a stick with a string running down it and a loop at the end; you carefully drop the loop over the lizard's head and pull the noose snug, then pick up the lizard. Neil tried about 5 times with this fella, and the lizard got out of it every time. He went up the black rocks and looked back...look at that expression! He's saying Neener neener neener...
Then we came across a chuckwalla...everyone waited for Neil to come and catch it. The chuckwalla got away...Neil and Dan went over the edge after him...and... SUCCESS! Here's Dan showing the chuckwalla to everyone. Neal poses with it...and they let it go, hopefully untraumatized.
Yes, that is exactly what it looks like, an orchid in Death Valley. There's a spring in Titus Canyon, and orchids grow there. Tiny little ones, but still. Stream orchids.
And another big old chuckwalla!
Bigelow's Monkeyflower Lesser Mojavea Jim got a great pic of this Heliotrope Phacelia
And what's Merav taking a picture of? Ants? No, a beautiful blooming Beavertail Cactus.
One more shot of the lovely cactus a very large Lesser Mojavea, about 2 feet high another Popcorn Plant A HUGE Desert Trumpet
All the vehicles are parked in the beautiful canyon, and everyone is out and about looking for rocks, plants and animals.
Prickly Poppy Two Sphinx Moth caterpillars that most of us missed in taking pics of the poppies...they were right near them, and one of the entomologists saw them. Desert Pincushion
Jazzie (who was a geology student, by the way) has climbed up the rock face to point out the ripples in the rock that Robbie wanted us to see...old streambed. Harvestman spider Everyone is milling around and looking at stuff. The Narrows!
We were starting to gather for a group picture... More beautiful light in the Narrows Tiny Desert Stars And we're gathering...
Here we are, in all our glory. It's been a long hot day full of driving and looking, and we're all pretty thrashed, but glad to be there. I love these people!
Robbie is telling us about rocks. Speaking of rocks... The ice chest tipped over and dumped water on my shoes and stuff...luckily, it was just water, and it dries fast here. I love Jack the Wonder Dog!
Evening. Another beautiful sunset. The last night, everyone is supposed to do a skit.
And it's evening, and we're all getting ready for fun.

This time, most of the skits were people taking parts in Robbie's dramatic reading of a purple prose description of the perils of Death Valley... Jim and a couple of other people are dessicated corpses, and the vicious coyote (Jack the dog) ate them. Then Neil and Dan were lizards, and reenacted Neil catching the chuckwalla, after Neil does pushups to scare Dan away. The last pic is the other Dan singing a song with Kelly.

And what, you may ask, did I do? Why, this! Kelly wrote it, and she and Dillon played ukes and sang. I was playing chords as quietly as I could so they could be, I was not singing along, remember I had a roaring head cold, I didn't want to go into a coughing fit. But it was fun.

Time to put everything away and break up camp. And the grackles are hanging in the top of the tree, waiting for us to leave, hoping we leave food behind...
The drive home was beautiful, and there was new snow on the Sierras.
And this is a really gross way to end this web page, but I could not pass these by without taking a picture. I found these for sale in the gas station in Olancha. First listed ingredient: LARVA. ew ew EW EW EW.