Day 31 – February 12 – Stovepipe Wells (Death Valley National Park)
We had a lot to see today so we rose early and we on the road by 9 am.
The first item was Mosaic Canyon which was accessed via a 2 mile gravel road and a one mile hike. You can walk 4 miles if you want to go to the far end of the Canyon but we didn’t do that. (There are so many things we would like to see and do on all of our road trips, but we are pretty good at picking the must-see items and adding others if time permits. We always say, “It gives us a reason to come back.” I have already begun compiling my list of things we will do the next time we come to Death Valley.)
You can just make out the settlement of Stovepipe Wells on the Valley floor.
Once again, some rock climbing was required. After we left the Mosaic Canyon we headed east and discovered the Mesquite Flat Dunes right beside the road! We wandered around on the fine sand long enough to fill our shoes and got back in the truck for our trip to The Racetrack.
Another roadside stop was Devil’s Cornfield where sand blown around the base of Arrowweed shrubs has caused them to grown higher on the hillocks and look like corn sheaves from back in the day when corn and other grains were harvested by hand.
Not far past the Corn Field we turned north and drove almost 40 miles to the end of the pavement then began our 27 mile one-way trip to the Racetrack. We had been told this would take 2 1/2 hours. We engaged the 4-wheel drive and managed to do 30-35 kph (about 20+mph) so we made it in just over an hour and a half.
A jeep came up behind us so John pulled over onto a wide spot. As he drove past us the fellow asked John what pressue he was running in his tires. John told him it was high as we didn’t have a compressor with us to refill them if we let air out. The fellow said he had his tires at 16 PSI and was driving 50 mph (80 kph) and the ride was smooth as could be. Well, lucky him. We were being bounced around on rough washboard and big rocks and dips and washes. Not to mention the dust. Our poor truck is coated in dust. Even under the tunnel cover everything is covered in fine-grain grey sand.
We had a 56-pack of bottled water that we had removed a couple of bottles from. During this journey the bottles broke out of their plastic wrap, bounced all over the back of the truck and sandblasted each other so the bottles are all rough and gravelly feeling. One of the bottles even broke the seal on the lid and leaked under John’s box of beer. He was worried one of the beer bottles had exploded.
Along the way we saw a few different flowers, a red-tailed hawk scouting for dinner, and drove up high enough to go through a Joshua Tree ‘forest.’ Not to mention the amazing scenery.
And this is a good part. We arrived at the Racetrack to see a sign that said the Migrating Rocks (which we had come to see) are best seen at the south end of the dry lake – another 20 or so minutes of bouncing!
We dutifully drove to the south end of the lake and wandered out onto the playa to see the tracks made by the rocks as they move. Really, really cool!
Standing water here as well. Very strange that it survives more than a couple of hours. The temperature was in the low 80’s (25or so Celsius).An intersection. The rocks will move in one direction, stop, sit and move again later in another direction.John made good time on some of the smoother (and I use the word loosely) sections and we made it back to pavement in less than an hour and a half from the south end of the lakebed.
Inspired by the name of the junction people have adorned the sign with tea kettles. Many of them had sealed plastic baggies with the donors name and address in them.We left the Playa at 3:09 and arrived at the pavement at 4:30. Not far along after we re-joined the pavement we turned off the road to the Ubehebe Crater which we had been able to see as we drove the last few miles of gravel road.
What we thought was the crater was not in fact Ubehebe. The black crater we could see was one of the smaller craters created by the explosion. You can walk the rim of Ubehebe and hike to the smaller craters as well. (This isalready on the next-time list). The late afternoon sun brought the orange out in the rocks. It was truly beautiful. We arrived in Furnace Creek after the sun had set. We are staying two nights here. Tomorrow the adventure continues…..