Monday, March 21, 2011

Death Valley Excursion - 3/ 18 thru 20 /11

Death Valley Manly Lake Bed as Viewed from Base of Manly Peak
Wing of Dead Bird
Death Valley. What's in a name? Well, the only death we saw was the remains of this large bird found in Fall Canyon. Other than that, Death Valley was anything but dead this weekend. Up to thirty- six members of the Around the Bend Friends found this national park alive with sun, wind, and rain; flowers, fun, and free time; colors, wildlife and big cows!
Borax Works
  Cindy W. graciously added her beautiful photos to this entry and she began the weekend early by staying overnight at the Racetrack to photograph the sliding rocks in the morning light. Previous to this she visited one of the old borax mining sites and the Ubehebe Crater.Watch for her name on the photos she has offered. She does great work.
Tea Kettle Junction
Cindy says that the twenty- eight mile dirt road that leads to the Racetrack is in good condition but it took her 2.5 hours to make the trip. The road wash- boards heavily. On her way, she passed Tea Kettle Junction.
Signs in Death Valley
Fall Canyon
On Friday, we met at the temporary Furnace Creek Visitor Center where thirty hikers set off for the southwestern terminus of Titus Canyon Road. Twenty hikers hiked up Titus Canyon for about two miles for an out and back hike of four miles. They enjoyed their hike and only had to dodge a few of the cars making the trip on the one way road through the narrow canyon. The other ten hikers made their way up through the neighboring Fall Canyon. This was a canyon which narrowed more and more as you reached the dry waterfall at the three mile mark. The only drawback to this hike was that the floor of the canyon is layered deeply with large gravel.
Fall Canyon Dry Fall
The hike up the canyon was laborious but the hikers persevered. At the waterfall, photos were taken. The hike back down the canyon was much easier. At the end of the day, these hikers were definitely the most tired. It was a hard hike.
After the hikes, some members explored other parts of the park such as the crater. However, the wind had picked up mightily and standing on the edge of the crater was a dangerous challenge. Most of us headed out of the park to our little hotel in Amargossa Valley, Nevada.
Ubehebe Crater
Zabriskie Point Sunrise
Starting Up Golden Canyon
Cindy left the hotel before sunrise to capture this hauntingly beautiful photo of Manly Peak at Zabriskie Point where several other photogs were set up for the sun's appearance. The rest of the group were either taking a leisurely breakfast at the hotel or making the drive up from Las Vegas for this morning's hike at the Golden Canyon / Gower Gulch Loop.
Golden Canyon
Most of us waited for our Weekend's Grand Coordinator, Guy, at the trailhead on Badwater Road while he gathered a few hikers from the visitor's center. Thirty- six hikers started the hike at around 9:30am heading into a canyon which soon opened out into golden colored hardened sand dunes called the Badlands of Death Valley. The trail headed into the badlands toward Manly Peak and Zabriskie Point. The scenery all around was gorgeous with many colors of beige, yellow, brown and white.
Trail Junction Below the Red Cathedral
The large group re-gathered at the trail junction sign seen in the sign collage above where the hike transitioned from the Golden Canyon to the Gower Gulch Loop. Taking the right turn into the hardened sand dunes, we headed up to the base of Manly Peak which rose to a height of around 500 feet above sea level. We had begun the hike at around 150 feet below sea level.
Panorama from High Point of Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Base of Manly Peak
We circled around the base of Manly Peak on a narrow trail with steep terrain on either side of us. (One side up and one side down.) After we reached the saddle of frozen sand, the trail began its downward trek through more sand dunes and into the canyon of Gower Gulch. From one point here, we could see Zabriskie Point in the distance. There was also a trail which turned off to the left which would take you there.
Dropping into Gower Gulch
Heading into Narrows of Gower Gulch
In Gower Gulch, the wind picked up again and, here, a few words must be said about the weather during our weekend outing. The wind was definitely a factor throughout the weekend. It brought in very cold air beginning Friday afternoon. It blew hard all night Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. We found relief when hiking inside the enclosed canyons and actually got quite warm in Golden Canyon. However, when we hiked into the more wide open Gower Gulch, the wind returned and the jackets were donned once again.
Exiting Gower Gulch
The colors in Gower Gulch changed into golds, greens, browns and oranges. The canyon had a beauty quite different from Golden Canyon with jagged edges to the darker colored rock. It was clear that a lot of water travelled through the canyon on a regular basis when it rained. There were several small dry waterfalls which had to be scrambled down but they were not difficult and all thirty-one hikers negotiated them well. (Five hikers had decided to return to the cars back through Golden Canyon.)
Traversing Back to Cars
After passing a couple of old mines, the canyon soon opened out into the floor of Death Valley by way of a forty foot dry waterfall. We gingerly climbed up to the side of the canyon at the top of this waterfall and began our hike back across the foot of the mountains to our cars which were located about 3/4 of a mile away.
Panorama from Zabriskie Point
After this hike, members of the club dispersed again. Guy and Rosie went to Dante's View where they were barely able to climb out of their car for the strong wind! A photo was taken then they returned to the hotel where all of the remaining hikers partied in room 107 where there was wine and cheese for everyone. Later that night, several club members took part in karaoke night at the casino bar. One of the weekend participants had quite a wonderful voice and much fun was had by all.
Full Moon Night
Longstreet Hotel and Casino
Statue of Herman the Cow at Longstreet Hotel and Casino
Loraine Feeds the Burros
The Longstreet Hotel and Casino is a wonderful place to visit even if you aren't staying overnight ... but it is a bit out of the way for us folks from Las Vegas. Located north of the Amargossa Opera House about ten miles, the hotel is announced by an extremely large fake cow to the left of the road. To the right of the front of the hotel, an extremely large real cow sits chewing his cud. Both cows are the same color and the real cow's name is Herman. Herman has three friends to spend his time with; two charming burros and a really quirky goat. Feeding these domesticated pets is welcomed ... especially by the pets.
Duck in Hotel Pond
Hotel Pond on a Windy Day
Between the hotel and its RV Park, sits a large duck pond ... gazebo included. While we were there, the ducks were swimming for their little lives against the strong wind which pushed large waves up on the normally quiet water.
The hotel and casino has many antiques inside. A few of these are in the photo collages below. They have quite a wonderful collection and the hotel and casino employees are very friendly.
Antiques in Hotel
Antiques in Hotel
Badwater on a Cloudy Day
Hikers on Salt of Badwater
On Sunday, there were around twenty club members still at the park and we met at the visitor's center for a pow wow. The weather had not improved and there was actual rain in parts of the park. Our plan was to hike in a narrow slot canyon called Sidewinder Canyon located around 31 miles south from the Badwater Road junction. There was some discussion as to whether an attempt should be made to hike a slot canyon with the weather being what it was and several hikers decided to go ahead and make the drive back home by way of the southern route.
Death Valley Flowers near Southern End of Park
A few hikers did decide to explore the canyon with watchful eyes and ears. The report was that it was interesting and warranted a return for more exploration. On the route back home, we passed through the Badwater area which displayed more salt than water. Also, at the southern end of the valley, there were many yellow flowers already popping up. As you can see by the photos, the weather presented a different sort of view with clouds covering the horizon. But, nevertheless, a weekend at Death Valley trumps a weekend at home any time. Thanks Guy, our Weekend's Grand Coordinator, for putting together this great weekend of hiking, socializing and relaxation.
Death Valley Flowers
Titus Canyon Road at Southwestern Terminus (Exit)
Fall Canyon
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Sidewinder Canyon

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