Secondary Roads

My life on the road, exploring and adventuring. So many places to go; so many sights to see; so many things to do; so many experiences to share. The world is my bucket and the list is endless!


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Twisty Climby Fun

The sun returned after a day of torrential rains.  Ad Hoc “lakes” had returned to the lowest parts of the Basin.  For reasons not worth detailing I had to come up with a Plan B for the day so I decided to once more head back to the west side and ride out the west entrance.  As I’d driven in from that way a week ago the road captured my bikey dreams.

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Looking east, to Towne Pass, over which lies Badwater Basin and the east side of the park.

If you look closely at the above picture you’ll notice the road color change from dark to a much lighter gray.  That is the intersection with Panamint Valley Road which heads south  and from where I start and end this ride.  Less than a mile down that road you actually exit the National Park.  I’ll get back to this point in a bit

Hwy 190 is a spectacular, twisty climb.  It’s also a designated America Scenic Byway for excellent reason.  Nothing too steep, but not a walk in the park either.  I wanted to get 40 miles in so I ventured a few miles out beyond the actual park boundary.

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I don’t know why I take these shots.  It’s part of the Rainman in me.

The valley floor at this point sits right about 1500 ft.  The sun was all shiny, the wind was all calm (sometimes I can really be an oxy-moron) and it was about 63 degrees.  Three miles up the road is Panamint Springs, one of three areas of “civilization” in the park.  And by that I mean an RV park and campground, gas station, general store and place to eat.  It’s pretty rustic, but next time I visit I’ll spend at least some time staying here as it is closer to more of the things I want to see and do.  It was a 53 mile drive from Furnace Creek, the main park area where I stayed.  It doesn’t take long, or much climbing before the beautiful and stunning views begin. fullsizeoutput_1899 The peaks of the Panamint Range, now even more dipped in snow, dominate from everywhere.  Despite being a gorgeous day, the only route in or out from the west and a Friday morning, there was very little traffic on the road.  And the road surface is perfect.  A pleasure to ride.

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Ok, so that thing about Panamint Valley not actually being part of the National Park…  That means certain restrictions which apply to National Park land, and the air over them, does not apply in this valley.  And the Department of Defense has taken a fabulous opportunity to place a low-level route right down this valley.

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The sign on the other side of the road said 4000 ft, but my GPS said 4300 ft.  They had been spot on at the other signs.

Take a look back up at the route picture above.  That craggy chasm the road travels along…. awesome entry to the valley for a low-level.  And so, just as I came up to Father Crowley Vista, on the edge of said chasm, I happened to catch an Air Force C-17 coming past the vista.  Now it’s not every day you see a cargo plane on a low level.  As one who once flew these types of training routes, this cargo plane isn’t really low, but then again it’s not like the “heavies” are used to that flight regime.

 

A few minutes spent at the Vista brought along the real low level experts.  Three separate flights of Navy F/A-18 Superhornets and an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle came blasting

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Father Crowley Vista Point

through 500 ft BELOW the overlook on the Vista, at the speed of heat!  That’s a technical term for, uh……FAST.  500 knots fast, as that’s the speed limit for a US low level route.  I wasn’t able to capture any photos.  You get nearly no advance warning that they are coming because there is a low ridge line just prior to the canyon from behind which the route approaches.  The guys flying low will be below this ridge line and you won’t hear the aircraft until they pop up over it, flip inverted and pull down to enter the canyon.  Ahhh, I remember those days fondly.  Great Fun!

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Death Valley west Entrance along America Scenic Byway Highway 190

Just beyond Father Crowley Vista, while still climbing, the grade lowers considerably, and  by-the-way, so does the temperature.  While it was low 60’s in the valley, albeit two hours earlier, the wind has kicked up a bit and it’s down to 50 degrees when I turned around 4 miles further up the road from the entrance.  Glad I’d brought arm sleeves and an extra shirt. B8XhipH2SPKVRv1mg8SGSQ

By now you probably know how much I enjoy my DOWNHILL portions.  So, kinda got to fly my own low level.  More like 25 knots (31 mph), the wind blowing up the canyon in my face slowing me down some, but fun, fun, fun all the same.

Great way to end a fine week in one of our spectacular National Parks!

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Near Jubilee Pass along Hwy 178.  Amazingly green for this part of the country.  All that rain!

Seriously,  I don’t think you will ever see this part of the US any greener than this.

Yesterday I took the scenic route out through the south entrance of the park and then east across the desert, now for two weeks in Sin City.  That’s Las Vegas, Nevada for my international readers.  😁


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I Forgot My Shoes!

You’ll see in these photos from yesterday’s hike, the clouds are starting to move.  Death Valley is one of the driest places on earth, so naturally, today while I’m here it’s raining.  However, I could use a bit of a rest, need to do some laundry and would like to get these posts, uh, posted, so I’ve traveled a mere 60 miles, to Pahrump, Nevada.  It’s the nearest real town and certainly the nearest town with cell coverage and access to the internet.

“Walmarts and Laundromats”.  It could be the subtitle to my web page.

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Gower Gulch

In fact, yesterday I had a totally different plan.  I went 60 miles in the other direction, to the west side of the park to hike into the Panamint Sand Dunes.  It wasn’t till I got to the trailhead I realized I’d forgotten my hiking shoes.  GRRRRR!!!!  If my damn head wasn’t attached….  Zero chance I’m trekking through the desert in my, “loaf about my campsite shoes.”  At least it’s a fabulous drive…..both ways.  So when I got back I called an audible and headed over to Gold Canyon.

This is the closest trail to Furnace Creek which is where I, and the vast majority of park visitors, are staying.  The parking lot is always full and I expected the trail to be packed as well.  It was pleasantly surprising to find that not to be the case. xRPmCp0QSeCpJFJ8xiGI3A Most stick to Gold Canyon proper. I was making it a loop, starting up Gower Gulch to the Badlands Loop before returning down Gold Canyon.  This, by-the-way, is how I would recommend you do this hike should you find yourself here.  Not only does the scenery build in beauty, but it is by far the easier direction to travel.  Up hill for the first few miles is very gentle. Barely noticeable actually, while the return back down can be very steep at times.

Geek Alert!  Remember Star Wars?  The first one.  Ok, really, the 4th one, but only because……  Look, I just mean the original movie.  Those scenes on Tatooine, particularly with R2D2 and C3PO trekking through the desert.  They were shot in Tunisia.  Did you know that?  Tunisia!  Seems an awfully long way to go at great expense when there is scenery like this a days drive from Hollywood.

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As if it were pointing which way to go

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Hmmm.  Seems I may have hiked my way to South Dakota.

Cloudy-ish skies do even more to mute the colors than my iPhone, to my chagrin.

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Once you get up to where you can see, a bit above you, the Zabriskie Point overlook, the loop intersects with the other trail and turn back toward Gold Canyon.  It’s a short, steep climb and you then the scenery changes to this…

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It’s a couple of miles back, most of it up and down and through these fabulous formations, until the last mile puts you actually in Gold Canyon to the parking lot.

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Biking in the Basin

Sometimes it’s gravel, sometimes it’s dirt, or sand, or salt….

I took to the Basin on my mountain bike, exploring some of the areas closed to vehicle traffic.  I’m just itching to play golf again, especially now that I’m feeling better,  but not on THIS course. fullsizeoutput_1886

It may look like large crumbly clumps but in reality they are clumps of dirt and salt which are razor sharp and hard as granite.

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Telescope Peak beyond the Devil’s Golf Course

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Across the salt flats on West Side Road

Then I pedaled down the West Side Rd.  That’s west side of the salt flats, not the west side of the basin.  It starts on the east side, cutting across the salt flats then runs along where the basin starts to climb again in to the Panamint Range, it is only about 2/3 of the way across the basin itself.  West Side Rd runs more than 50 miles, none of it paved.  I only went 14 miles down then turned around.  Telescope Peak scoffed at me the entire time.  Pipe down there, mountain.  I’ll be back to check you off the list.

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Telescope Peak from West Side Road

Whatever this shrubbery is, it smells very much like Honeysuckle.  I believe it may be Creosote, but I’m not positive.  Regardless smelled lovely.

Twelve miles in I came upon this grave marker.  Resting site of two of the valley’s better known (to locals anyway) and colorful denizens of another age. Bm+D91%9S3uINjtxMpE2Tw

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I’m guessing Shorty is on the right.

I turned around at the Eagle Borax Works.  30 miles and perfect day in the desert.

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Half of Death Valley is CLOSED!

DOKvOD0pQUuSZB8nIU4%OQOk, not half.  Actually, it’s only the roads that are closed.  More effects of the torrential Winter/Spring of 2019.  If you look at a map of Death Valley you will see that there are really only  four paved roads in the park.  Most of the roads on this sign, with the exception of Emigrant Canyon are unpaved.  Unfortunately it is many of these unpaved roads which provide access to a fair portion of the adventures I was planning to have on this visit. By closed, they mean closed to motor vehicle traffic.  Hiking or biking is still allowed. Good thing I decided to stop in the Visitor Center.  Then again, it’s not like there isn’t plenty to do and see.

First I drove up to Dante’s View on the east side of the park.

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Panorama of Badwater Basin and the Panamint Range

It is 20 miles across Badwater Basin and the Panamint Range to Telescope Peak, at just over 11,000 ft, the highest point in the park.

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Dante’s View, 5475 ft above sea level, overlooking Badwater Basin, 282 ft BELOW sea level. Telescope Peak in the background.

I had planned to hike Telescope Peak, but that is one of the things I’m unable to do because of road closures.  Essentially the entire Panamint Range is inaccessible due to the closure of Emigrant Canyon.  By-the-way,  you are only looking about half way across the park, as the Panamint Range is in the middle.  Beyond it lies another valley, just as wide, and another mountain range reaching 5000-6000 ft in elevation.

From top to bottom….

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Badwater Basin, directly below Dante’s View

Only about a 25 degree temperature difference from above.  It’s not scorching yet, topping out in the mid-80’s during the afternoons.  It might look like snow, but trust me, it’s salt.  I have, indeed, tasted it…….on a previous visit.

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Up on the rocks, across from the parking lot is a sign indicating Sea Level, so here’s some perspective. Basin Graphic

Headed back to the campground I took the Artist Drive.  While you may not know the name, if you’ve seen pictures from Death Valley before you’ve likely seen some from this 9 mile side-trip.  It is unfortunate that the colors do not come out nearly as vividly in my photos as they appear when you’re standing there.

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Browns, golds, pinks, greens, reds……Artist Drive

 

 

 

 


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THE Joshua Tree

JTpanoramaYou may recall when I visited Joshua Tree National Park in February I mentioned searching for THE Joshua Tree.  Well, “searching” is a rather strong word.  More like, kind of hoping I might see it somewhere along the way.  That post will tell you that there

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Stunning drive along CA Hwy 395 between Sequoia Natl Forest and Death Valley

 

is someone out there who not only found it…….nowhere near Joshua Tree National Park, by-the-way……but has placed a plaque at the location which is now an impromptu shrine

Joshua Tree

located off Hwy 190

to the band U2, and to the album.  An album which in my opinion remains one of, if not the greatest studio album ever produced.  It is by sheer coincidence the actual location of said shrine is actually on my way from my last stay in Sequoia National Forest and my next stay in Death Valley National Park.

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There is no marker, there is no parking area, there is nothing to let you know that this is a cultural point of interest.  If you don’t know it is there you will certainly drive right past, even if you happen to be looking in that direction.  If you are interested in visiting, these are the coordinates at which I parked.  It is where a gravel road meets the highway and there is a large area there conducive to parking.  N36.335081;  W117.748355fullsizeoutput_1883

Even within 100 yards it is difficult to tell it is anything of significance.  And if you have not figured it out by now, the actually fullsizeoutput_1874 tree no longer exists.  Unfortunately it died a few years ago and only the hulking remains of the trunk are left.  That, and this plaque and all the various things left by visitors over the years.  Things such as guitars, flags, small signs, various words or designs made from rocks, etc.  There is even an old ammo can filled with notes and other personal things, including at least one wedding invitation addressed to the band.

 

 

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fullsizeoutput_1875I must admit that the skeptic in me did tap me on the shoulder while I was here.  I mean, why would the band, or the record company, or the photographer, or whomever chose this particular tree in this particularly remote location do so?  There are a bazillion other Joshua trees far closer to something resembling civilization.  That said, the photos of this tree, whilst it was still standing, do look to be quite like the tree from the album.  The surrounding environs are certainly similar enough though a little difficult to say definitively as they are not in focus on the album.  And so it was a mere whisper which had me considering the validity of this place.  While I’m sure there is more information out there on the interwebs which may confirm this, I have not delved that deeply.  In the end, I believe it to be.

 

 

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Yesterday A Ride, Today a Hike

Much like my golf game in any given round, today my distance control was horrendous.  Instead of a golf ball, I’m referring to my hike.  After yesterday’s ride, my longest and climbiest of the year and first in over a month, I was rather certain my legs would only be up for a moderate walk.  3-4 miles should do it.  Off I started, up the Cannell Trail.

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Finally a perfect day, in the mid 60’s with nary a breeze. YqRxkIl+TNmr6zIw+enU6Q  That’s when the whole plan began to fall apart.  I wasn’t a quarter mile in when this horrible scene accosted my eyes.  These two women are the only humans I would encounter all day.  I can barely stand to look at this photo for the memories it brings back.  And trust me, it’s only going to get worse.  Like the ride up to Johnsondale, it is uphill, in varying degrees,  nearly the entire way.  Around this meadow for the next mile or so it was relatively easy.  Uphill, but gently so, till you come to a gate. vGHFG%SJSFKmaQR%7wxQKw

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The gate

My very first plan was to take the split-off trail from here, down to and across the stream where it dead-ends and then reverse back to the parking lot.  Woulda been 4 miles total.  Perfect.  But look at me……it’s written all over my face……there’s no way I’m stopping now.  Ok, so I’ll stick to the Cannell Trail up canyon.  I’ll go to the 2.5 mile point and come back.

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Yeah, that’s a good plan. Or it was until I got to 2.5 miles. ani%RtgRQl6eYY78tkiQQw My legs, much to my surprise and delight, felt really good.  And damnit if every step further up the trail wasn’t more and more spectabulous!  I physically could not make myself turn around.  Ok, ok, plan 2B.  Just up ahead is a set of switchbacks after which the trail traverses into the next valley behind Powers Peak.  I’ll just go up to the top of the switchbacks.  That should be about the 3 mile point.  Once I was there I looked at my GPS.  Hey, look at that, I’m at 4600 ft.  Boy, you know, it would be nice to get to 5000 ft.  And looking up the trail I could see that it passed through a saddle, maybe another half mile up.  So, Plan 3, I’ll go till I hit the saddle or 5000 ft,  whichever comes first.  Twenty steps into this plan it changed to the saddle or 5000 ft, whichever comes last.  The saddle came last, at 4.25 miles and 5300 ft.

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Southwards off the saddle

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Northwards off the saddle

Everything was just as stunning on the way back down.  From the top of the switchbacks there’s a good view of the trail, some 800-1000 ft below.  You know, back down there around the 2.5 mile point.fullsizeoutput_1860

I thought those women at the beginning had a pretty good idea amongst the wild flowers.fullsizeoutput_185d

Screenshot 2019-03-15 16.33.18So here’s what the whole thing looked like.  The Cannell Trail continues on for miles and mile past where I turned around.  I’ve got to say, as if I haven’t said it enough already, this was one of the most amazing hikes I’ve taken.  As usual I’m posting the link to the Relive video below as well.  Notice how much greener these photos are than how the landscape appears in that video.  California has definitely known the meaning of the word “Drought” the past few years.

Relive ‘Connell Trail’

 


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Two Days in Sequoia….

National Forest, not the better known National Park.   I believe they are contiguous, but the National Park is a bit north of here.  Regardless, the Forest is SPECTACULAR.  This is just a short stop-over but now that I’ve been here, I’ll be returning for a longer stay.  Much longer, I predict. BBQHsowTS8mctfqRSLcU5Q

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Kernville to Johnsondale, up Sierra Way

Spring seems finally to have sproinged here in California, though still not so warm as I’d like.   It only rained the first night I was here in Kernville and while it’s still cool, barely reached 60 degrees on this day, it is forecast to get better and better.  So I was finally able to get out on my bike again.

Relive ‘Sequoia Natl Forest’

M-99, or Sierra Way, takes you up the Kern River valley, along the North Fork.  The higher peaks are snow-capped, the river is flowing nicely and there are still mountain roads which are closed.  Still, the sun was shining and barely any wind.  Great aP2OW%spR+ypo2AVfdySww

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day for a ride.  I’m sure the summer is quite different, but this time of year there was barely any cars at all.  It’s a fairly gentle climb the first 19 miles, until you reach the Johnsondale Bridge.

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Sierra Way bridge over the Kern River

1haOyE%mTtOG1S6xVRJDRQFrom here it kicks up steeply for a bit and then is a moderate 6-8% grade for a couple of miles up to Johnsondale, where I stopped for a little snack.  This is pretty much the only thing in Johnsondale. Well, this and the fire station.  There is an RV park as part of the ranch.  I may have to look into it for my next visit.  Despite the forest name, I saw no Sequoias.  Further up the road is The Trail of 100 Giants, a short hiking trail through a grove of the mighty giant trees.  However….tXrz8GsiRWG1ijv6ph0qWw

Ya can’t quite get there from here at this time of year.  Not that I was intending to.  This was my planned turn around point regardless.  Back down I went.

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Up next, day two……