Death Valley

Death Valley, Eureka Dunes, Steel Pass, Saline Valley Rd.

On Friday afternoon we met friends Dave and Irene, George and Vince, and Bob at the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley. The dunes are the second highest in North America, but that wasn’t why we were there. The plan was to drive  up thru Steel Pass, stop to visit the Warm Springs, then exit the park on Saline Valley Road.

George and Vince in the black Bronco are followed by Bob, meeting us at the Eureka Dunes.
George and Vince in the black Bronco are followed by Bob, meeting us at the Eureka Dunes.
Carol shows off our camp site at the dune. We were sure too get there early enough to watch the sunset and shadows on the dunes.
Carol shows off our camp site at the dunes. We were sure too get there early enough to watch the sunset and shadows on the dunes. Here’s a cool video we made of the trip, including a sunset time-lapse of the dunes.
The morning sun reveals critter tracks on the dunes.
The morning sun reveals critter tracks on the dunes.
The backside of the Eureka Dunes.
The backside of the Eureka Dunes.
After leaving the valley floor and the dunes, we head up through Dedeckera Cayon.
After leaving the valley floor and the dunes, we head up through Dedeckera Cayon. The road stair-steps up and over rocks and ultimately tops out at near 5,000′ at Steel Pass.
Carol is the first in our group to take advantage of the Marble Bath, near the summit of Steel Pass. To help the cause, we added a couple hundred blue marbles to the bath (which, as it turns out, is not a lot of marbles).
Carol is the first in our group to take advantage of the Marble Bath, near the summit of Steel Pass. To help the cause, we added a couple hundred blue marbles to the bath (which, as it turns out, is not a lot of marbles).
We checked out the lower Warm Springs.
We stopped to check out the lower Warm Springs. Even though we’re in a National Park, clothing is optional at these springs. Nope, none of us had to worry about sunburning personal areas.
The remaining towers of the Salt Tram near Saline Lake. At the turn of the (last) century, salt was mined, then carried 14 miles over the Panamint Mountains to the town of Keeler in the Owens Valley. It operated sporadically from 1913 to 1936, but ultimately proved too expensive to operate.
The remaining towers of the Salt Tram near Saline Lake. At the turn of the (last) century, salt was mined, then carried 14 miles over the Panamint Mountains to the town of Keeler in the Owens Valley. It operated sporadically from 1913 to 1936, but ultimately proved too expensive to operate.
Bob, George and Dave arriving at the shores of the Saline Lake.
Bob, George and Dave arriving at the shores of the Saline Lake. Remaining towers form the salt tram run up and over the Panamints to the shores of Owens Lake.
Remaining rotted piers, where salt used to be mined in Saline lake.
Remaining rotted piers, where salt used to be mined in Saline lake.
Carol and George get the fire started with the help of a little gasoline.
Carol and George get Saturday night’s fire started with the help of a little gasoline.
Sunday morning sunrise.
Sunday morning sunrise. The drive out of the park on Saline Valley Road was going to be challenging – a week prior it was hit by heavy rains, flooding, mud slides. The water had turned the regularly smooth graded dirt road into 4×4 fun.

Video: Death Valley, Eureka Dunes, Steel Pass, Saline Valley Rd.

Starting at the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley, we drove through Steel Pass and out of the park on Saline Valley Rd., stopping briefly to see naked people. Saline Valley Road had been recently trashed by heavy rains, transforming it from a smooth, graded dirt road, into a genuine 4×4 experience. A seriously fun weekend.

Telescope Peak

Five of us hiked to the top of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park, the highest point in the park. From the top, you can see Mt. Whitney to the north, and Charleston Peak near Las Vegas, to the east. Telescope Peak is also notable for having one of the greatest vertical rises above local terrain of any mountain in the contiguous United States. Its summit rises 11,331 feet above the lowest point in Death Valley, Badwater Basin at −282 feet, in about 15 miles (a route we decided not to take).

The Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley. These ten beehive shaped masonry structures, about 25 feet high, were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide a source of fuel suitable for use in two smelters adjacent to their group of lead-silver mines in the Argus Range west of Panamint Valley, about 25 miles distant from the kilns.
The Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley. These ten beehive shaped masonry structures, about 25 feet high, were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide a source of fuel suitable for use in two smelters about 25 miles from the kilns.
Carol, Loren, Tito and Dave at Telescope Peak trailhead on Mahogany Flats (8,200').
Carol, Loren, Tito and Dave at Telescope Peak trailhead on Mahogany Flats (8,200′). The trail to the summit is seven miles long one-way, and tops out at 11,043, the highest point in Death Valley.
Everyone armed with a camera.
Everyone armed with a camera in a Columbian Standoff.
It had snowed two days before our ascent to Telescope - the dusting was mostly gone, except for the top of the mountain.
It had snowed two days before our ascent to Telescope – the dusting was mostly gone, except for the top of the mountain.
Professional hiking slippers.
Professional hiking slippers.
Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in Death Valley and the Western Hemisphere (-282'), seen from near the top of Telescope.
Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in Death Valley and the Western Hemisphere (-282′), seen from near the top of Telescope.
Resting at the summit.
Resting at the summit.
Jim, Carol and Dave, snapping a photo at the top of Telescope while holding the El Segundo Herald. The photo would later be published in the paper - of course they first ran it through their filter which softens the focus, and washes out colors.
Jim, Carol and Dave, snapping a photo at the top of Telescope while holding the El Segundo Herald (Carol refused to touch the paper). The photo would later be published in the paper – of course they first ran it through their filter which softens the focus, and washes out colors.
Our campground at Wildrose.
Our campground at Wildrose.

Cerro Gordo and the Salt Tram

On the way to Mammoth, Carol and I decided to take a detour to the old silver mining town of Cerro Gordo in the Inyo Mountains. After that, we took a 4×4 road to visit the Salt Tram Crossover Station, then drop down the mountain to the town of Swansea, on the eastern shore of Owens Lake.

The front porch of the American Hotel, which isn't open for business, due to some silly fire code issues.
The front porch of the American Hotel, which isn’t open for business, due to some silly fire code issues.
The American Hotel on the main street of Cerro Gordo (Fat Hill).
The American Hotel on the main street of Cerro Gordo (Fat Hill).
Inside the general store.
Inside the general store.

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One of the rentable private residence houses in town.
One of the rentable private residence houses in town.

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Leaving town, we decided to follow the Cerro Gordo-Keeler Road, which runs along the side of the Inyo Mountains with spectacular views of the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley. We'd eventually bump into the Crossover Station for the Salt Tram, a turn-of-the-century tram which hauled salt from the Saline Valley, over the Inyo Mountains, and down to Owens lake (in the background). Once at Owens Lake, the salt was loaded onto ships and taken across to the railhead on the west side for shipment.
Leaving town, we decided to follow the Cerro Gordo-Keeler Road, which runs along the side of the Inyo Mountains with spectacular views of the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley. We’d eventually bump into the Crossover Station for the Salt Tram, a turn-of-the-century tram which hauled salt from the Saline Valley, over the Inyo Mountains, and down to Owens Lake (that’s the “lake” in the background). Once at Owens Lake, the salt was loaded onto ships and taken across to the railhead on the west side for shipment.
The Salt Tram Crossover Station on the spine of the Inyo Mountains at Daisy Pass (8,700'). The building on the left is the tram operator's quarters.
The Salt Tram Crossover Station on the spine of the Inyo Mountains at Daisy Pass (8,700′). The building on the left is the tram operator’s quarters.
Due to strict union regulations, all of the Tram's stations were required to have an over-sized chair.
Due to strict union regulations, all of the Tram’s stations were required to have an over-sized chair.
Looking east into Saline Valley - the source of the salt. Saline Valley is located in Death Valley NP.
Looking east into Saline Valley – the source of the salt. Saline Valley is located in Death Valley NP.
A few of the tram's remaining towers on the west side of the mountains.
A few of the tram’s remaining towers on the west side of the mountains, leading down to Swansea.