Two Weeks in Death Valley!
Week 2: Family and Friends


Click on any picture to see it full-size.

2018 is the year that the family-and-friends trip is in the spring, as is the yearly SJSU Spring Break in Death Valley week. So like last time, I planned to do them back-to-back. I checked with my peeps, and nobody from the F&F trip was planning to come to the SJSU week...but Diana, Mike, Jerry and Sandie all wanted to come and stay in the motel in Beatty the next week, as did Jim, who is my camping and hiking buddy from the SJSU group.

And, I thought, I'll have all my camping stuff with me...so I asked if anyone wanted to stay for a couple of extra days and camp some more, and Mike said HELLZ YEAH!

So the plan was: Jim and I would leave Saturday, March 24 for the SJSU trip. On Friday, March 30, we would leave that group, go to Pahrump (the closest town with real grocery stores) for more supplies, then go to Beatty, where Diana and Mike from the Bay Area, and Jerry and Sandie from Southern California, would join us. We'd all stay at the Atomic in in Beatty til Wednesday morning April 4, when Diana and Jim would drive home, and Mike and I would camp the next two nights, driving home on Friday April 6.

I had a list of things I wanted to do over these two weeks: hike the newly-reopened Keane Wonder Mine, hike some of Surprise Canyon, rent a jeep and go up into the canyons off West Side Road, and go to Darwin Falls again.

So here's how the second week, with my sister and our friends, went. And here's the first week.
And here's a note about the pictures.

Friday, March 30
On Friday, Jim and I left the SJSU group, sad to leave, but excited by fun looming ahead. We went to Pahrump and got groceries (and I had Sonic for lunch again, yum!) but on the way I texted the other people who were coming, Diana and Mike from the Bay Area and Sandie and Jerry from Southern California...and Diana answered that she and Mike were coming, but Jerry and Sandie were not, as their dog needed an emergency vet visit on Saturday (which went fine, Jock the Wonder Dog is doing great.) So it would just be the four of us.
I love the big "Thank you for visiting!" sign in the middle of nowhere. Jim and I got to Beatty early (the motel takes a siesta from 12:30 to 3:30) so we went to the one laundromat in town and did a load of laundry, which was much needed. Then we checked into our rooms. Mike and Diana were running late, so we had some dinner and waited.

Around 9 pm we got a text that Diana and Mike were in their room next to us...and this is what I found! I had asked them to bring my favorite sundress, which I had forgotten to pack, and Mike was having a bit of fun with me...he looks pretty damn good in it, though...

Saturday, March 31
Scotty's Castle has been closed since a disastrous flood and mudslide in 2015, and it looks like it won't be reopening for yet another couple of years. I am on the mailing list for the Death Valley Natural History Association and in January or so they sent a flyer to me saying that they were doing some tours of the Scotty's Castle restoration, two of which were on Saturday March 31. I immediately went to the website to get tickets...and there were only two left, which I snapped up. Then I emailed the group of six of us and said, we'll have to argue it out on the Friday night.

Well, it turned out to be no argument: Diana didn't want to go, Jerry and Sandie weren't there, and Jim had just been on a much more comprehensive tour than we would be getting. So Mike and I were out the door at 8 am to get to the Grapevine Ranger's Station by 9:30 (we made it by 9:20, perfect!) and take the tour. They took us (slowly, the road is still terrible) up the Scotty's Castle road; we walked around the property, seeing where the mud and flooding had been, what has been done and what remains to be done. The only room we went into was the entry hall, and the furniture was all in storage; looked wierd to see it so empty. An excellent tour by Ranger Matthew!

Phacelia

Gravel Ghost

One of the goals for restoring this place is to put it back the way it was in 1929, which means taking some later stuff (like this fountain in the middle of the courtyard) out.
The swimming pool was full to the top with mud...most of it has been cleaned out now.
The line is how deep the mud was here...
Two views on the way back to Beatty, and the front of our excellent motel, the Atomic Inn.
We joined up with Diana and Jim, had some lunch, and decided to go to a couple of antique/junk stores Jim and I had seen on Friday. They drove, I walked.
Two views of a small desert town park, and a deserted motel.
A bunch of interesting stuff that was outside one of the stores.
Signs on the way back to the motel: Roll dice for your room! made me laugh. Nice train mural, and I have no idea what "Janda Ribbons" is...oh, they do horse show trophies and ribbons.
We went back and hung out for a bit, then Mike, Jim and I went to Salt Creek to go hiking. When I had gone there with the SJSU group, I noticed that the trail that goes off from the end of the boardwalk into the distance now has steps down to it, and there was a ranger there who had just finished giving a tour to a group of interested people. I hung around til he was done then asked him about the trail, where it led and if it was a real trail people could hike. Yes, he said, and he had no idea where it went; he had planned to hike it after the Salt Creek tour, but no longer had time. So I mentally added it to my To Do list. Before we hiked it, we looked at the map; it seemed to go across country toward the 190, hitting the Devil's Cornfield before reaching the highway about 6 miles from the Salt Creek boardwalk.
Lizards and pupfish!
Then Mike went on a side trail that looped around by the WETLANDS and rejoined the main trail. Yes, folks, wetlands. This is what Salt Creek runs into; the creek dries out in the summer, but parts of these ponds stay wet, and that's where the pupfish retreat to when it gets hot.
Then the trail started going up and down these mud hills beside the wetlands; Mike got a pic of me looking out over the view.

Then we saw this, and are still arguing over whether it is one dragonfly or two stuck together mating, which is Mike's contention. Cool either way. We went a couple of miles, it started to get dark, and we turned back.

Pickleweed

We got back to the boardwalk right near where the ancient camel print is supposed to be in a mud hill nearby, and were looking for it when the couple TWENTY FEET AWAY came over to show us the pictures of the BABY RATTLESNAKE they had just seen and that had just gone under the boardwalk. Doggone it!
As we drove home, the sunset was beautiful.
Sunday, April 1
Sunday dawned bright and clear, and this was an exciting day- Jim and I planned to hike the Keane Wonder Mine trail! This is a bunch of mines (including the eponymous Keane Wonder Mine) where they sent the ore from the mines down the mountain by funicular to the stamp mill at the bottom. The stamp mill is still at the base of the cliff, right near the parking lot. There is a steep trail up the ridges in and out of the funicular towers, and I had only gotten about half a mile up the trail last time when a thunderstorm started sweeping down the valley toward me and I thought it would be a good idea not to be on a steep exposed ridge during a storm, not to mention that the drive back to the main road is all washes! That was in 2001; in 2007 or so, they closed the whole complex up, and started cleaning up the cyanide and lead (!) left over from the mining...it reopened in November 2017, two weeks after Mike and I camped in Death Valley, and this was my first chance to see it again.
The road in, which one reaches from the Beatty cutoff between Furnace Creek and the Beatty road. The third picture is from the parking lot, this is the short hike to the stamp mill.
I had ridden with my sister, and Jim followed in Boudika. Jim showed up, I went over and we got our hiking boots and stuff on...and I looked back and MY SISTER WAS GONE! I went to look up toward the stamp mill...and there she was! This was the first real hiking she had done in YEARS. I was so proud of her!

You can see the first funicular tower in the background!

One last bit of cool old machinery...and I bid farewell to my sister and follow Jim up the trail. Diana took one last pic of me waving from the first bend...and this is the view, which was amazing. And kept getting better as we went up.
Up the VERY STEEP TRAIL...wow...good thing I had a camera, it's a great excuse to stop for a few seconds! Yes, the trail was indeed as steep as the first picture, but the rocks and views and funicular towers were amazing.
Here's where the trail actually winds through the towers. THIS IS SO COOL! and now I'm above them, looking back...still climbing. Jim is still ahead of me...
I asked Robbie the Geologist about this beautiful rock; here's what she said:

Gold was probably brought into the Crystal Springs Formation by intruding sills of diabase. (Diabase looks like dark granite, but has almost no quartz. When it intrudes between flat layers of rocks it is called a sill.)

The heat causes the rocks it contacts to metamorphose and the liquids with it can carry gold and gold can move into the surrounding rocks...This rock looks a little like rhyolite, or it could be the purple mudstone that was cooked by the intrusion of the sill of hot diabase.

And there's Jim, ahead of me...waaaay ahead. The trail was VERY STEEP. A view across the valley, and Trailblazer Jim again. And...me. Going slow but steady. And stopping for pictures, you betcha!!
There was a pipeline (water?) running down beside a lot of the trail...and Jim has kindly stopped to let me catch up (puff puff pant). A view of the valley and the parking lot, getting smaller...Hi, Boudika!...and there goes Jim!
More beautiful rocks...Trailblazer Jim...and more amazing views.
And then we came around a corner...and found a DOOR! Not just an old mine (which was behind the door) but an actual door in the hill! Which we not only took pictures of, and the (closed off) mine behind it, but also us, mugging with the door. Because A DOOR IN THE HILL. What fun!
There were more towers across the valley, and one set had an old bucket hanging from the line. I don't know what Jim is taking pictures of here, maybe just checking to see if any critters are in the hole.
Jim looking all rugged and outdoorsy, the beautiful creosote bush by the trail, some more of the pink rocks.
Then we came around a corner and saw it...the end of the trail! Not really, the trail keeps winding in and out and up to Chloride Cliffs several miles above us. But this was where we had been aiming for, so we were there. Yay!
The first picture is the funicular itself- the wheels, gears and some of the lines are still there, and the diesel engines are up the hill a bit. And one of the mines is here as well!
The trail swung by the mine with its ore cart tracks, then went just above the funicular machinery, which was WAY cool. Jim is still checking out the mine.
Another of the beautiful shiny rocks, with a piece of clear glass (that I put) on it; a mine across the valley; and Jim has climbed up to the old diesel engines that ran the funicular...and he is waving and calling to me...he found some CHUCKWALLAS on the short trail up to the diesel engines! Woo hoo!
The first picture is Jim's, they were out and about when he went by; as I came up to them, the adult (the dark one) was starting to look for cover; the juvenile just stayed out on the rock and did pushups. So adorable!
These are the diesel engines that ran the pulleys up the funiculars; I'm not sure if downwards was just gravity, or if it was counterbalanced.
And of course the cuties were still there on my way back down from the engines! Awww.

We wandered around and took more pictures, then left. What a great place to hike to!

You can see where the cable goes to the first tower...

And we're back; Jim has opened Boudika's doors to let some heat out...it was pretty damn hot that day!
And off we went to Stovepipe Wells! The sand dunes were beautiful as always...and here's Stovepipe Wells village. We stopped at the ranger station to ask a question (which the NOT A RANGER lady behind the desk couldn't answer) and Jim got this pic of me with the thermometer, a titch over 100 degrees. And we had done that hard hike with no shade. We do indeed have big brass ones, folks. Just sayin'.

Cold drinks on the porch at the general store, a bird was being photogenic, and there were some brown-eye evening primroses near the fence in front.

While we were chillin' (so to speak), we talked about what else we wanted to do. Jim needed to do some computer work, for which he required not only a computer but an internet connection. The motel was 50 miles away and I wanted to stay in the Park and do more cool stuff...but Stovepipe Wells has a room for people to do exactly what Jim needed, so he decided to stay there and do his thing, and I would go off into the hinterlands and come back and get him at 4:30.
I wanted to go out the Aguereberry Point Road; not only did I want to get rid of the bad juju from the last time I was on that road and the car I was in (not mine) blew a tire, but also I had never seen all the mines and miners' shacks that were nearby. So that's what I did!

I'm parked on the road to Aguereberry Point, and there is a side road here that leads to Aguereberry Camp and the Eureka Mine, about a half-mile walk each way.

This is where Jim Aguereberry and his buddies lived while they were working the Eureka mine, among others. I love the pink paint...it doesn't look like it faded from red, I think it really was pink...
I poked around the camp, then walked on...and what do I see ahead? A cool old car! A tip of the hat to brother Bill, who identified this as a 1947 Buick Roadmaster.

You can see Boudika, way off on the right...

The sign says Cashier Mill. Then I walked back by Aguereberry Camp to Boudika, and we drove to Aguereberry Point. The panorama in the last picture is the whole valley; at one point this valley was full of shacks, and was called Harrisburg, after Shorty Harris.
Aguereberry Point was lovely, and some nice people took my picture. Then I looked at my watch, and dashed back to the truck and back to the road; I was 30 minutes late getting back to Jim, but luckily his work had taken longer than he thought it would and we came out about even. We stopped for gas and ran into Diana and Mike, who had been having fun on their own and had stopped for ice cream at Stovepipe Wells.

Here are Mike's pics of the Keane Wonder Mine, Artist's Palette and the Harmony Borax Works.

After we all ran into each other in Stovepipe Wells, we went back to Beatty for dinner. Mike and I played some Dragon Farkle, and I took a pic of the art in the room Jim and I were staying in because it's cool.
Monday, April 2
We had exciting plans for Monday! Jim, Mike and I had reserved a Farrabees Jeep and were going down West Side Road. We had heard that this road (which parallels the Badwater road on the other side of the valley) was in pretty bad shape, so we were prepared for anything. We planned to drive down Hanaupah, Johnson and Warm Spring canyons, if there was time for all three.
Three views of West Side Road and the snow on Telescope Peak. Notice how clear and sunny and beautiful the day is...this will change later on...
We pulled off at the site of Shorty's Well, named for Shorty Harris who did a lot of mining all over Death Valley and was one of the well-known colorful characters. You can also see our excellent Farrabee's Jeep, which performed admirably on some pretty tough roads.
We started up Hanaupah Canyon, but the road was very rough and the guys didn't really see anything that attracted them, so we went back after a couple of miles and turned into Johnson Canyon.
But first a quick stop for a local landmark, Shorty Harris' grave. I think the flower is some kind of brittlebush, but they're old, it's hard to tell. Driving the Jeep, I'm in the back.
Johnson Canyon! I had driven and hiked this canyon back in 2015, and loved it. The road up from the valley isn't too bad, but then it drops down into a wash and is TERRIBLE for two or three miles. Then you park and there's a two mile trail to Hungry Bill's Ranch.

Notice the clouds coming in?

Scented Cryptanthas. And more clouds...
There was an old car near the road, and of course The Guys were all over it. Couldn't figure out what it was, though.
One more car detail... Maybe more cryptanthas? not real clear, sorry. The light was getting dim as the clouds came in. Devil's Lettuce Pygmy Poppy
Wallace's Wooly Daisy Purple Chia Bigelow's Monkeyflower Yellow Cups
More Scented Cryptantha. I love this stuff, it's so pretty!

Looking back the way we came, and now the cloud cover is coming right for us...in fifteen minutes, there was no sun at all, just solid clouds above us.

We were coming up to the most beautiful Prickly Poppies! I let the guys go on ahead and got out and walked a bit, taking pictures of them. Lovely!
We found the end of the road, and stopped to have lunch before hiking. The sun was gone, and the whole time we were there, a myotis, aka Little Brown Bat, was flying and diving around us. We were amazed, but the rangers said they'll come out in the day if it gets overcast enough.
Our little myotis friend, a lovely lizard, and some other kind of wildlife that was hanging around eating lunch...
A couple of shots of our Faithful Jeep, the rocks near the trailhead, and some Yellow Throats.
There were tent caterpillars popping out of their tents everywhere along the trail. Mike found an old mill, almost buried in the grass. And a bunch of Rattlesnake Weed.
Another lovely lizard and more caterpillars, and Mike and Jim start up the trail.

Paintbrush

More Paintbrush

The purple flowers are Woolly Pod Milkvetch. And we made it to Hungry Bill's ranch! you can see the stone walls behind Mike. And Scarlet Milkvetch, so pretty!
Who's a pretty beetle then? Yes, you are! This is a Bordered Plant Bug, which eats fruit and flowers. Fruit...like what grows in the orchard we just passed? I guess so! The reedy-looking things are Ephedra, also known as Mormon Tea.
The rocks here really are amazing, even with no sun...and we're on our way back. The yellow flower is Shining Blazingstar. Sounds like the hero of a very bad genre series...
The old orchard from Hungry Bill's Ranch. The guy who built the ranch, William Johnson, grew fruit and vegetables and sold them over the pass in Panamint City. Hungry Bill was a Shoshone who moved into the ranch after Johnson left. Jim and Mike at the orchard, the old fireplace, and a lovely side-blotched lizard posing on the oil drum.
Broadsheath Desertparsley, us, and driving back to the valley.
Still overcast and dark as we head up into Warm Spring canyon...but look who is there by the road? A couple of adorable burros!
So we were thrilled to see the burros, and continued up the road. I said to the guys (I was sitting in the passenger seat, and I think Jim was driving) keep an eye out for a flash of pink, I'd love to see a blooming cactus. And literally within three minutes I was yelling "PINK! PINK! PINK!" and made them pull over.
A very nice blooming beavertail cactus, with some poppies near it...and then I looked about fifteen feet away and started making big 'come here' arm gestures to the guys.
This beautiful geode was sitting right near the cactus. It's about 3 feet across, and WOW. Just WOW.
Another interesting rock nearby, and several pretty flowers-Mojave Desertstar, Popcornflower, and a phacelia, I think Lacy Phacelia.
On the way to Warm Spring Camp. This whole canyon was full of talc mines, which is what all the white stuff is. Notice how overcast the sky still is...
Here we are, and it's beautiful. There were a lot of old buildings, yards, picnic areas, and a swimming pool. Here's a map of the complex, from Steve Hall's Death Valley Adventures, an excellent site for photos and information.

Maybe a young creosotebush?

We all started up the trail to the source of the stream, but I was wearing sandals so I turned back; Jim got a pic of the spring. I saw a cabbage moth and an interesting orange rock!
This is what the canyon looked like around the camp...and notice something else? The sun has come out again, and it's a lovely evening. It stayed sunny for the rest of the day. Death Valley, if you don't like the weather wait ten minutes for something different...
Jones' Linanthus; London Rockets; and a hummingbird!

Then there was a stamp and mill complex, and of course we were all over that!
Here's another map from Steve Hall:

One more plant, a bolt on a rock, one last shot of Warm Spring Camp in the sunlight, and we turned back down the canyon.
This was the Grantham mine, the biggest talc mine in the canyon, which was in operation for about 30 years, and by 1972 had produced more talc than any other mine in California.
And Jim finds a lovely lizard enjoying the late afternoon sunshine! We're on our way back down the canyon...
...to stop at JUST ONE MORE MINE on the way out. Because they're so cool!
We said goodbye to our burro friends, who were on their way home for the evening...what a commute...!
And the road was lovely all the way home, although we were all pretty tired from a long day in the Jeep!
We didn't get back til about 9 pm. Diana had had dinner and was waiting for us; she had had a good day of wandering around the desert getting into mischief. I went over to their room, and as I left, I saw a burro at the stairs of the room across from the one I shared with Jim! I went in and told Diana and Mike, but couldn't tell Jim, or Cindy, the woman whose room the burro was in front of, without chasing it away. And of course my camera was also in my room, so no pics. But adorable!
Tuesday, April 3
We had decided to make today a lazy day, so we all (somewhat) slept in. Then around 9 am, Mike, Diana and I went off to get breakfast at a local restaurant...which was not as easy as it sounds. Gemma's is a good place, and Diana had eaten there before. We walked in, waited for several minutes for the waitress to seat us, took a table, waited ten or so minutes more, then she came by and said there were so many dirty dishes from the earlier breakfast rush that it'd be at least a half hour before she got to us. We thanked her for being honest (!) and went to Mel's...which was closed, even though their sign said they were open 7-3. So you know where we ended up...the Denny's at the end of town, which was open and had waitresses that could actually waitress. Breakfast was delicious!

Then we went back and picked up Jim and went to the little museum we had passed coming into town, which was interesting and fun.

The museum front and two of the things inside that caught my eye.
There was a lot of old mining equipment outside, some of which was fun to photograph!.
Jim took some pics of historical photos- these are all of Rhyolite in its heyday.
We went back to the motel and chilled a bit (literally- it was actually cool in Beatty, I had to sit in the sun while wearing a sundress, the shade was too cold!). Reading and talking. Diana and Mike showed me a praying mantis cocoon on their lintel. And who can resist the resident aliens at the Atomic Inn?
Later, we all went off to Furnace Creek; the long road from Beatty past Rhyolite to Daylight Pass. Tadpoles in a pond at Furnace Creek. Ice Cream!! and the drive-through for golf carts, which made us laugh.
More reading and hangin' out. Then we went to KC's Outpost for their amazing pizza that has french bread crust. Yum! After dinner, Jim, Mike and I went looking for bats (a friend had said there were lots in the evening when he was here) but didn't see any to speak of. We did see some amusing sculptures!
And music rounds off another excellent evening; Cindy from the room across from ours came and joined in on Diana's ukelele. Lovely!
Wednesday, April 4
And now it's Wednesday. Diana and Jim left around 9 am. Mike and I packed up, planning to camp at Mesquite Springs for the next two nights and drive home Friday.
The day was overcast but warm. We drove out of Beatty towards Daylight Pass and stopped at Rhyolite to see if there was anything new at the Goldwell Open Air Art Museum. The picture on the left is a gold mine where they're just removing a section of the hill at a time. Looks pretty cool.

And here is the museum, among the ghost town buildings of Rhyolite.

There is now a big barn that is the artists' workshop, located where the town of Bullfrog used to be, right by Rhyolite. The metal sculpture was moved from the Goldwell museum to here. They also had a lot of glass bottles in the fence, which looked really cool.
There were also some ruined buildings nearby...
And tiny purple flowers everywhere. Thanks to my friend Liz for figuring out that they are Redstem Storksbill!

Then we went to Rhyolite proper to see what was new!

The metal origami crane is new! And of course we love the couch...
Mike loves the 'ghosts', both the new one serving drinks and the Last Supper, which has been there for a long time.
This is the year's new sculpture...a bunch of gourd people waiting at the bus station, inviting visitors to join them. Lovely!
So of course it was a photo op!
Then we went to the main building...and for the first time, found it open and staffed with one of the artists! This is the outside, the inside and pictures of other installations of the ghosties, from cities in Europe.
As we drove toward Death Valley proper, Mike said, Whoa! Look at that! and pulled over...a buzzard was having a wonderful feast off a roadkilled rabbit. Very cool!
We drove under amazing clouds, through Daylight Pass to Grapevine Road, then to Mesquite Springs campground.
Mesquite Springs is the campground Jim had stayed in last week, and said it was a nice place...and he was not wrong! Except for the usual lack of shade (note Mike hiding from the sun by my truck) it was lovely, and mostly full of nice people.
I wanted to try a new hike, to Redwall Canyon. Note the guidebook discription. It lied. Easy 45 minute hike, my rosy pink butt cheeks. So we parked where they said, and started up the alluvial fan toward the red part of the canyon around 2 pm. It was hot and there was no shade.
And because it was a wash, there were FLOWERS. Something I had hardly seen all week. So I was stopping every few feet to take pictures of them. Here are Phacelias, Desert Pincushion, a cholla, and blooming Mormon Trumpet. The Mormon Trumpet flowers are tiny but beautiful.
So here's where we're going, and it's not easy. There are channels and rocks... and more flowers, Desert Chicory and a Mojave Desertstar. And a beautiful pink rock.
A gorgeous blooming cholla with a green flower, wow!
So it got to about 2:45 and Mike said, we are not getting any closer to that canyon and there is no shade and I'm done. Okay, I said, I should be back to the truck by about 4:30, if you want to go off and do something else or get cool, do it, just be back where I can find you around then. And there's my pic of him waving good bye as he walks off, and his of me continuing toward the impossible-to-reach canyon. And his of the valley floor below. Notice that at this point, we have already been hiking the 'easy 45 minutes' that the guidebook said would get us to the canyon...
More Mormon Trumpet, something I can't identify, maybe some kind of phacelia? and a beautiful blooming beavertail cactus.
And...it's getting closer...the logs are a trail marker letting me know that I am on the right path... Valley Ringstem, which is a verbena This is the flower that I have always known as Lesser Mohavea but have just now found out that it is also called Golden Desert-Snapdragon. I love these names so much!!! Desert Chicory
Hedgehog Cactus Hedgehog Cactus Yellow Cups No idea, since it's not blooming, but it's VERY cool looking.
Aaaand...this was as close as I got. At 4 pm. Which makes TWO HOURS it took me to get right near the entrance. 45 minute hike BULLPUCKEY! Now, I did take a lot of flower pictures, but still, it was probably a hike that would have taken me at least an hour and a quarter if I didn't stop for anything but water breaks. So that's a lesson learned. And I promised Mike I'd be back at 4:30! I had to turn back...but NEXT TIME! Next time I will go into Redwall Canyon!
A brief cactus break, a view waaay down the valley where the truck supposedly is, and more Yellow Cups.
And I hike a while, and I realize that the dirt road that was my marker for finding the truck is no longer visible because the sun is not shining straight on it... and I have no idea where the truck is. And I keep walking down the wash, a bit south of the way I came up...and eventually I can see cars go on the road, and following them with my eyes, I see Boudika! Yay!
I got back to the truck at 5:05, apologizing profusely for being late...and startled the heck out of Mike, who was looking for me north of the direction I actually came from. He said I popped up out of nowhere. Amazed me, because I had stopped and waved my hat a couple of times, hoping he'd get a pic of me returning. He had just hung out in the truck, enjoying the a/c and reading. We went back to the campground for dinner and a lovely evening.
To get to the last blooming cactus, I stepped up onto a dirt ledge that was a little high to just step up onto and fell over on my hand and elbow...here are the cactus spines in my hand, the scratches I got later on my leg, and the (bigger than it looks) bruise all over my elbow. Poor Jo!
Mike chillin' while dinner cooks, Mike fulfilling the Prime Directive ("those who do not cook shall cheerfully do dishes"), and the late evening over the wash by our campsite.
Thursday, April 5
Mike had been wanting to see Darwin Falls, which is about 5 miles from Panamint Springs, down a dirt road that is accessible by normal vehicles up to the Falls parking lot; it's a year-round stream that is full of flowers and wildlife and is an amazing oasis in the desert. The morning was overcast and muggy, but we bravely made our way there...
The Darwin Falls trailhead. From the parking lot, it looks like any other DV dry wash. Mule Fat. I'm not making this up, you know. Sunflowers. With a bee! And the bee has a lump of pollen!
Jo the Brave Hiker Common Monkeyflower Watercress Mike is contemplating...something?
Lizard! Whee! down the steep rocks. This is where I ripped the whole back pocket out of my new shorts...sigh. And here is Darwin Falls. Actual cat-tails. This place is amazing.
The pool, Mike, and a western toad...it's a little blurry because it was actually mostly under moving water.
Mike's pics of the falls, and of course we had to be silly...
The trail back, another lovely lizard, and a baby Western Toad hiding under a rock.
Wandering Glider dragonfly, trail, Mike and baby toad, and a closeup of the same baby toad.
Water bugs, some kind of tansymustard- maybe Narrow Tansymustard- Mike, and a Familiar Bluet dragonfly
And on the way out, we saw someone pulled over, checked and saw that they had found some more blooming beavertail cactus!
We stopped in Panamint Springs for me to change out of my ripped shorts, which you can see here. My elbow had blossomed into a huge bruise, which does not show well here but hurt like hell, and the store had an amusing little cat machine that took coins.
Then it was on to Ballarat, where I had been a week before; I knew Mike would love the tininess of this town, and the cemetery and the Manson stuff. Not to mention the general store full of wierd-ass stuff for sale...
So here's the creepy Manson stuff: supposedly the signature inside the lintel of the front door of this building is his, and so was the pickup truck; the stars on the inside of the roof are the kind of thing the Manson family did to all their houses and vehicles. Whether or not it's true, it's creepy that it's a tourist thing.
More gorgeous blooming beavertail cactus.
The Ballarat Cemetery, a run-down but interesting little place. The coins are on the grave of the local famous prospector and general town character, Seldom Seen Slim.
Mike and I made our way back to Boudika and had a tailgate lunch, during which an Air Force jet made a run down Panamint Valley.
Then we went out to Aguereberry Point, which Mike had never seen.
Back to the campground, dinner and games in the evening.

Mike's beer cap has a great description of my sister, but we lost it instead of taking it to her.

And a toast to a very successful and fun day!

Friday, April 6
And it's Friday, and time to go home. We woke up early so we could do stuff on the way home; Mike was already up, having been rudely awakened by a bunch of old foofs in two RVs who got up at dawn and shouted to each other...the family next to us with the children were amazingly good neighbors and I told them so before we left.

We had an 8 hour drive ahead of us, but I wanted to stop for two things on the way home: the wierd sculptures outside Olancha, and Fossil Falls on the 395 about 20 miles south of Olancha.

The day was dark and overcast as we left. We stopped at the Father Crowley viewpoint on the way out to change drivers, and as I started the truck to leave, a woman who was standing by the canyon started waving and pointing...as we sat in the truck, we saw a jet shooting Star Wars Canyon (the pic on the right is the canyon, we didn't get a picture of the jet.) It was amazing! We waited 20 minutes or so to see if he'd come around again, but he didn't. I had heard about this but never thought I'd see it!
Off to Olancha! Mike told me about these sculptures, he said they were right outside Olancha; we went north first, but didn't see them. When we drove through Olancha proper, these were outside a small motel...and when we stopped for gas, the guy behind the counter gave us directions (something like, go four miles outside of town and look for the statues on the right). These were SO COOL! The artist is Jael Hoffman, and here is her web site.

There were also a few flowers blooming around there, as you will see.

Yellow Pepperweed

Some kind of Milkvetch

Another Milkvetch

Then we went south on the 395 to Fossil Falls, which was VERY cool. The falls were about half an easy mile from the parking lot, and there were flowers EVERYWHERE.
Phacelias Many-flowered Monkeyflower Desert Dandelion Lichen
Desert Chicory Alkali Phacelia? Bristly Fiddleneck Fremont's Pincushion

Desert Chicory

Globemallow

I like the flowers and rocks in the first pic, but it's not clear enough to identify the flowers. The second one is Bearded Cryptantha. The third pic shows what the trail is like, and the fourth is more cryptantha.
You can see the rocks coming up behind Mike. More Yellow Pepperweed Whitestem Paperflower, I think Rattlesnake Weed
One more flower- Whitestem Blazing Star- and here it is! Fossil Falls is an ancient river that shaped these amazing rocks; it went dry when the Owens River was diverted in the 20s, which actually makes it much easier to see the rocks and shapes. It was unexpectedly beautiful.
Time to go back to the truck! We've gotta get home at some point...
Interesting wood and plants, and another of what I think is Alkali Phacelia
More Bristly Fiddleneck and Globemallows...and it's time to go.
And on the way home, we saw these AMAZING clouds, heading south on the 395. Apologies for the dirty windshield.

And here are the Walker Pass Joshua Trees...and we got home around dinner time.

I'm ready to go again! Who wants to come along?

This page is not only my pictures, but Mike, Diana and Jim were kind enough to share theirs with me too. Sometimes I said whose pictures are which, sometimes I didn't because I was writing a lot...but you can tell by scrolling over them; Mike's pics have a m at the end after the number, Jim's have a j and Diana's have a d. Thanks, guys! your photos are awesome. Mike and Diana both used their smartphones; Jim used his phone, his video recorder and his fancy ipad that had gps and stuff. I used my poor old beat up Panasonic Lumix ZS-50, which goes through hell and still takes good pictures...as you will see in the above narrative.