Death Valley Overland - 5 days exploring the backcountry of the hottest place on earth

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Adventure Ready

Uncommon Adventure Equipment
Oct 21, 2014
Seattle, WA
We haven't posted in a long time and for that I apologize. The shop has been extremely busy and keeping on with forums isn't easy. But I wanted to share with you our trip Report from Death Valley. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions!

Part 1:
As regular readers of our blog know, each year we do a long road trip in early summer. This year we chose to go to a place I’ve wanted to go for a very long time and spent 5 days exploring in the only way we know how: Death Valley Overland. Our trip report will be posted in three sections. Below is our route map.

Death Valley Backcountry/Offroad Map, Overland Trip Part 1.

Death Valley Overland Trip Report, Part 1 of 3:
You may be thinking, “Why in the hell would you want to go to Death Valley?!” Well let me tell you: Because it’s amazing, and absolutely nothing like what you are imagining in your mind. Is it hot? Hell yes. Is it dry and dusty? For the most part, yes. Is it a wasteland? In no way, shape or form. Death Valley is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to. Around every corner the terrain changes dramatically – from sand dunes to tight, winding canyons, lush mountain valley fields, hot springs oasis’, mud flat playas, and even snowy mountain peaks. We had 5 days to explore the Valley and decided on a looping route beginning at the Southeast corner of the park and exiting at the far West side near the small resort at Stovepipe Wells.


The Shoshone Laundromat, which I think is now defunct. To be honest this is kind of what everything in Shoshone looks like so it was a little hard to tell..

We officially entered the park area from a small “resort” town called Shoshone, following a very long and rough gravel road to the park boundary. Our arrival put us in the park near dusk, and without any real plan for the night we decided to follow an unmarked, and apparently very infrequently traveled Jeep trail that wound up a canyon to an amazing ridge overlooking the valley below. By this time it was nearly dark, so we climbed up a hill overlooking our campsite and enjoyed a few beers as the sun set behind the mountains.


The first night of our Death Valley Overland trip. A good one.

The next morning, as usual, we got a late start and after a quick breakfast got back down to the Valley around 10am. Our planned route had us heading North to the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center, however we had a couple of stops to make along the way. The first was Dante’s View, one of the most dramatic spots in the park where, at over 5,700 feet, you stand on a near-vertical ledge overlooking Badwater Basin below, almost 300 feet below sea level. To be honest we were a little awestruck by the scale. This was the first of many misconceptions we had about Death Valley that was instantly shattered. Sure, we’d read the maps and understood this was a big area, but the scale of it all was far greater than we expected. There are three mountain ranges at Death Valley – one bordering each side of the park and another that juts straight upward from the middle of the valley floor, the tallest point of which is Telescope Peak at just over 11,000 feet. To put that into perspective for you Pacific Northwest locals (in mountain climbing speak) that’s a prominence nearly equal to that of Mount Rainier if you consider the valley floor the lowest topographic point. But what’s even more dramatic is the rapidity of the elevation gain. From the nearest point at sea level, the peak of mount rainier is roughly 35 miles away. From Badwater Basin in Death Valley (at 280 feet below sea level), Telescope Peak is only about 4 miles away…


Dante’s View overlooking Badwater Basin.

From Dante’s View we drove further north and took an unplanned side-road out into 20 Mule Team Canyon. And were again blown away. This is a fairly short, well-maintained gravel loop off of the main paved road leading to Furnace Creek, but within about 500 yards you feel like you’re on another planet. The terrain changes from red, rocky desert valley to bright yellow and white rolling hills created by the strange, seemingly random mineral deposits found throughout the valley. The Canyon is named after the teams of mules that carried Borax ore from the mines in Death Valley out to the processing centers 160 miles away in Nevada. These teams carried over 9 metric tons of ore out of the valley at a time. Along with 1,200 gallons of water for the trip. Oh, and supplies. And men. In the mid-1,800’s… It’s fairly insane to imagine. If you get to Death Valley, take the 20 Mule Team Canyon drive. It’s worth it.


The drive through 20 Mule Team Canyon was one of the more dramatic terrain changes we experienced in Death Valley.

After a quick stop for fuel and to grab a few things at the Visitor’s Center in Furnace Creek we headed North again and turned West toward the small “village” of Stovepipe Wells. We stopped briefly at Salt Creek to see the Pupfish – a small, almost iridescent species of fish unique to Death Valley. I know…fish in Death Valley? It’s true! And as you can imagine, they’re very unique creatures. Salt Creek is fed by a spring and picks up minerals from the terrain that make the water in the creek four times more saline than ocean water. On top of that, the temperature of the water gets to over 116 degrees Fahrenheit. These conditions would kill any other species of fish on the planet. But these Pupfish are an example of a species perfectly adapted to their environment over thousands and thousands of years. And not only have they adapted – they thrive, in this one little spot in Death Valley. They were named “Pupfish” by an anthropologist because of the way they seemingly play like puppies in the water. They dart around, chasing each other all over the creek. It’s worth a stop here to see evolution in action. Signs encourage visitors to be careful though – the Pupfish are listed as an endangered species. More information on Death Valley Pupfish here.


The endangered Salt Creek Pupfish in their bizarre habitat at the floor of Death Valley.

After a brief stop for a snack in Stovepipe Wells (there is a gas station, gift shop, and very desolate looking campground in “town”) we took a gravel road up to the edge of Tucki Mountain where we made a short hike into Mosaic Canyon. Mosaic Canyon is a very peculiar place and is an example of one of the unique aspects of the terrain in Death Valley – washes. Contrary to popular belief, it does rain in Death Valley. In fact, some years it rains A LOT. But it happens in a very short period of time. As anyone from the Southwest can attest, desert rain storms can be extremely hazardous as well as destructive. Flash floods carry with them substantial force that can literally carve into rock, and instantaneously and completely wash away roads (this just happened in October of 2015 along the road to Scotty’s Castle, one of the strangest attractions in the park that is now cut off and inaccessible). Mosaic Canyon was created by a series of these floods – as the water searched for a way down the mountains it carved out a canyon that almost resembles an amusement park waterslide. The rock walls that extend up from the sandy canyon floor are almost polished to a shine, with interesting mineral deposits exposed to create a mosaic effect in the rock.


Mosaic Canyon hike, Death Valley.

That concludes part 1 of our Death Valley Overland trip report. Part 2 will be posted shortly, including details on our route further North in the park: down into Titus Canyon and out to Eureka Dunes.
I've made many trips to DV when I was a kid. One of my favorite places on earth! I've love to get back to visit but North Carolina is so far away. Love the pics and info, thank you.

Dante’s View overlooking Badwater Basin.

That's a great spot in Death Valley.

Did you know that was used in Star Wars for the scene of Mos Eisley spaceport?
"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."
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That's a great spot in Death Valley.

Did you know that was used in Star Wars for the scene of Mos Eisley spaceport?
"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."
View attachment 1276043

That's awesome, did not know that but it definitely makes sense!
The next two installments of our Death Valley backcountry trip report are longer than the first. As the terrain changed along the route and we accessed more backcrountry areas in the park there was more to see and explore.


Death Valley Backcountry/Offroad Map, Overland Trip Part 2.

Overlanding in the Death Valley Backcountry, Part 2 of 3:
After our hike into Mosaic Canyon outside of Stovepipe Wells we took the chance to top off our tanks at the gas station before heading out to our next adventure. This was going to be a long day, and with Scotty’s Castle being closed due to a vicious road washout this would be our last chance to refuel until Panamint Springs in 3 days. Our route only accounted for another 150 miles between now and then…assuming we didn’t make any side trips exploring up old mining roads or following a trail off into nowhere, and as you may have discovered by now, we’re not good at ignoring the opportunity to explore an intriguing side road or trail. And with the steep climbs and rugged terrain our mileage was down around 8mpg, meaning on a 22-gallon tank we’d be running pretty low by the time we hit the next gas station.

The goal for the afternoon was to exit the park toward Beatty, NV and head back in via the Titus Canyon Road. We’d seen a few pictures and heard some great trip reviews from friends at Overland Expo but nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to get into. The road out to Beatty was paved, which allowed us to cover the distance quickly with only a few brief stops to get out, look around, and absorb the scenery around us. Shortly before reaching Beatty we found the turn off for Titus Canyon – an unassuming gravel road leading back at a sharp angle towards the mountains dozens of miles behind us now. Titus Canyon is a one-way road so the route can only be traveled by first exiting the park and then turning back toward it as we’d done. And it’s a one-way road for a very good reason.


Down into the valley before climbing the ridge into Titus Canyon proper. Spot the adventure mobile…

Heading down into the first small valley we stopped for photos way more than we should have, because as blown away as we were it only kept getting better as we went. Up over the first ridge just before Titus Canyon itself the scenery was a little awe-inspiring, especially as we discovered this road was established almost 100 years ago by miners. Shortly after descending into the early part of the canyon we came across a small ghost town called Leadfield. Established in 1920, Leadfield at one point had a post office, general store, and at it’s peak over 300 residents. The town was almost completely abandoned in a very (very, very, very) short time when residents who purchased mining rights discovered they’d been swindled by land dealers who greatly exaggerated the mining potential. I can only imagine the hardship these people endured out here, leaving everything behind for a chance to make it rich only to discover they’d been fooled. And this is not an isolated incident in Death Valley – due to it’s remoteness, extreme climate, and unforgiving terrain the valley has attracted many who are a little less than honest, including the Manson gang who holed up on the other side of the valley at Barker Ranch (the compound is still standing and can be visited, although we didn’t make it out to that part of the park).


Death Valley backcountry: Entering Titus Canyon.


What’s left of the post office at the ghost town of Leadfield.

As we wound down the canyon the terrain changed rapidly (a consistent theme we discovered in Death Valley: things change rapidly). The road got narrower and narrower to the point it would be impossible to fit two cars across (hence the one-way designation of the road). At points the canyon walls rose hundreds of feet straight up from the road, giving us a brief respite from the heat but also giving me a slight claustrophobic feeling. But the extremity of it all made it incredibly beautiful. As we wound our way back toward Death Valley we couldn’t help but stop at regular intervals to marvel at our surroundings, hunt for petroglyphs (there are many in Titus Canyon), and take a lot of photos. Titus Canyon was definitely one of my favorite places in the park. It is also not a very challenging drive, meaning it’s fairly accessible; the road gets rocky in places but it’s nothing a skilled Subaru driver couldn’t navigate. Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion at the time we were there. Road conditions can change rapidly from season to season in Death Valley. Do not attempt any trail or road that is beyond the capability of your vehicle or your skill level.


The walls of the canyon close in rapidly as you descend toward the valley.


Overhanging rock created by rushing water that fills the canyon periodically following intense flash floods.

Exiting Titus Canyon we headed northwest toward the Eureka Dunes at the far corner of the park. The first part of the drive is paved but after the turn off for Scotty’s Castle it’s just a very long, VERY rutted gravel road that to be honest became tedious at times. It’s worth noting for those who are considering a trip to Death Valley that although the gravel roads in the park are maintained, they’re not well maintained, especially in the northern part of the park. The washboard is incredible to the point of being skull rattling, even at speeds that usually smooth out roads like that. I actually got out and measured the depth of the washboard…the ridges were over 3″ tall and it was constant for dozens of miles at a time. This is passable in a sedan, but I urge you not to attempt it. You will not like it and the likelihood of a tire blow-out or simply rattling parts off of your vehicle is very real. And this is not an area you want to have vehicle troubles in – there is no mobile phone reception and absolutely no services in the North part of the park. This area is very, very remote compared with the rest of the park, and due to the terrain it is not heavily traveled. We only saw one other person between Ubehebe Crater and Eureka Dunes (a distance of over 45 miles).

We made a brief stop at Ubehebe Crater on the way north. Brief as in about 45 seconds. A storm was blowing in from the West and the winds were so strong (I estimate about 45mph constant) that we parked, walked to the rim of the canyon, and got back into our trucks. No pictures were taken due to the dust storm we found ourselves in but it was definitely impressive (photos and info can be found here). At Crankshaft Junction we began a steep climb up Last Chance Mountain (I found this name comical given the terrain) and came across a now-defunct sulfur mine that was eerily Martian feeling. The bright white and yellow hills and pits around the mine contrasted sharply with the red rock of the mountain. To me it felt like a scene from a creepy first-person shooter game. From there the road was paved for a while down to the valley on the other side of the ridge, I assume to assist the mining trucks climbing up and down the ridge while the mine was active. It was back to beautiful scenery but mind-numbing washboard road for a while.


The abandoned sulfur mine on top of Last Chance Mountain.


Big Pine Road at the far northwest corner of Death Valley leads out through Ancient Pines Wilderness Area to the small town of Big Pine. Dom made a run for it and can be seen far ahead of me kicking up dust as he headed down the valley.

At the turn off to Eureka Dunes Dom and I high-fived and bro-hugged before he headed out to Big Pine on his way home. From here on out I would be on my own as the Bell’s, my friends from South Africa who were supposed to be joining me for the second part of my trip, had to postpone getting to Death Valley for several days due to some scheduling issues. To be honest a small tinge of anxiety crept up at this prospect, but I spend months out of the year alone exploring remote places in my rig, so this was nothing new to me. I felt comfortable with the supplies I had with me, and with my Delorme inReach satellite communications device I could stay in touch with friends and family and call for help if needed. This is where I digress for a moment. If you plan on any kind of backcountry travel I strongly encourage you to purchase a satellite communications device of some sort, even if it’s something simple like the Spot. At the very least you want to be able to signal for help. The reason I opted for the Delorme and set us up as a dealer is because, among many other unique features, the Delormes allow two-way communication with both friends and family (via text message once paired with your smartphone) as well as with search and rescue once you’ve activated the SOS feature. Yes, we do sell Delorme devices, but this is more of a personal recommendation than a sales pitch. </digression>

I turned toward Eureka Dunes as the sun began to set behind the mountains. 27 miles of washboard road later I arrived at the Eureka Dunes dry camp, which was really just a flat area below the dunes with an outhouse that has seen much better days (so bad I opted to walk out into the desert and dig a hole the next morning). At the “campground” I also found people! Not something I’d usually be surprised at but this was midweek at the most remote area in the Death Valley backcountry, and as mentioned we had seen only one other person all afternoon. It was nearly dark when I arrived so after a brief jockying around, building rock risers to even out the truck I set up camp (consisting of about 15 seconds to pop the tent), cracked a beer, and watched the world slip into darkness. Small digression here again (sorry) to answer a question we get frequently at the shop from new rooftop tent owners: What do you do to level out your vehicle if the ground is uneven or sloped? Tip: use firewood or rocks as risers under your wheels; build up a small shelf in front of whichever wheels need to be raised and slowly crawl up onto it. This takes newbies a little practice to get the hang of, but with experience comes wisdom – I can usually get the truck perfectly level in one try.


The Eureka Dunes is a crazy place. These massive sand dunes climb straight out of the rocky desert as if the sand was just deposited here from the sky.


Hiking to the top of the dunes…was not easy.

The next morning I made new friends. Even though I only had two neighbors at camp, as happens regularly someone is bound to come over to inquire about the truck and rooftop tent. The couple I met (from Seattle…small world) invited me to share some coffee and we swapped travel stories before deciding to hike (more like climb) to the top of the dunes while the night’s storm clouds were still keeping the temperatures down. That was a very tough hike. Rising over 680 feet from the desert floor, the Eureka Dunes are the tallest sand dunes in North America, and hiking up sand dunes is not easy. We followed winding ridges up to the tallest point (covering a distance we estimated at about 2 miles) and after a little over an hour we reached this crazy summit. It was exhausting, especially a small section near the top of the dunes where we were forced to crawl nearly straight up a wall of sand, making about 6 inches of progress per step as our feet slid back down each time we moved upward. But the top rewarded us with an incredible view of the valley below, and skating down the dunes on the way back to camp was a lot fun.

I packed up the truck and bid farewell to my new friends, encouraging them to meet me at the hot springs later that day (although not by the route I was taking). They agreed to consider it and we headed out in opposite directions, they out to the town of Big Pine along the gravel roads and me into the mountains and onto the most difficult trail I encountered in the park: Steel Pass. This is the first of two parts of my route in the Death Valley backcountry that I must encourage you not to attempt without a high-clearance 4wd vehicle and a decent amount of experience off-roading. In fact, access to Steel Pass from Eureka Dunes shouldn’t really be attempted without at least a locking center differential. The trail narrows to an extreme at the access point and climbs very steeply over loose, rocky terrain. The Landcruiser is about the widest truck I would attempt to take up this trail; I scraped on more than one occasion and even put a small dent in one of my sliders, which is no small feat given they are made from 1/8″ DOM tubing. After the technical entrance to the trail things do open up and become easier to navigate, but the trail is still very rugged and you will find yourself in rock gardens that, even with careful navigation, will at times test the articulation of your suspension to the point of ending up with less than four wheels on the ground (this occurred on two occasions). At the top of the Steel the trail turns more into a wash, and the descent toward Saline Valley is fairly easy.


Access to Steel Pass Road is very tight, very steep, and very loose. Shortly after I took this image the trail narrowed to about 8′ and became very off-camber. As always, photos don’t do justice to the incline angles. This was the first of several 20-30′ scrambles with 12+” boulders and steps.


One of the inescapable rock gardens along the trail on the way down to Saline Valley in the Death Valley backcountry.

Arriving at the hot springs was a welcomed end to a long, dusty, hot, and at times slightly stressful day on the trail. But that oasis in the desert will be the beginning of part 3 of our trip report, so stay tuned!
Looking forward to part 3.

Looks like you made it out of Saline Valley just in time.
This is Part 3 of 3, the final installment of our Death Valley trip report.

Death Valley Backcountry Road Map – Full Overland Route

There are few things in Death Valley that one could call “refreshing.” It’s hot, it’s dusty, and there’s not much in the way of lush landscapes. However there is a spot that, upon first encountering it, seems so starkly out of place that you actually blink and wonder if you’ve been overcome by dehydration and your mind is playing tricks on you; a true mirage. This place is called Saline Valley Hot Springs. But before I get on with the pictures I want to set the scene a little. Traveling down the Saline Valley trail from Eureka Dunes (detailed in our previous post) is a long, slightly monotonous affair. And although beautiful, it’s long. Did I mention how long it is? And rugged. And with a slightly sore back, tired legs, and more dust in my hair than I imagined possible, arriving at the hot springs was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

But I need to back up a little more. Prior to arriving at the official Saline Valley Hot Springs I came across a strange little spot that I don’t think has an actual name but what I’m calling “Pupfish Fortress Springs”, because not only is it a natural hotspring in the middle of the desert that is home to those same amazing little fish I mentioned in the previous post, but it’s also surrounded by an 8-foot tall chain link fence. In the middle of nowhere. Odd for sure, and one of those things that absolutely requires you to get out of your truck to investigate. And upon finding a 2-3′ wide gap in the fence (purposefully put there when the fence was erected) I did just that. But to be honest I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on at this spot other than it’s an incredible little oasis with the most beautiful natural spring-fed pool I’ve ever seen. To me this felt like a grotto. Not that I’ve ever been to a grotto or know exactly what one is, but this is what it should be like (queue the requisite scantily-clad bikini models…).


Pupfish Fortress Springs – Saline Valley, Death Valley National Park

It’s only about a mile from the Pupfish Fortress to the actual hot springs, and when I finally reached that carrot on the end of the stick I was just like, “whoa…” I’ve been to many a hot spring in my life. Some are natural rock-lined pools with no amenities, some have a wooden shack built over them, and some even have a rough man-made tub that’s fed by the spring via a hose. Well, Saline Valley Hot Springs is of the latter type, but to a degree that I hadn’t previously imagined possible. It’s so impressively built up the whole place seems more like a resort than a hotspring. In other words, it’s the kind of place I’d expect to pay a decent amount to stay at, but it’s free (though donations are encouraged). And as I mentioned, it is very literally in the exact middle of nowheresville.


One of the several pools at the Saline Valley Hot Springs

And there’s even a shower! With soap and shampoo provided!(This is a hot spring, so expect nudity and if you use the shower understand that there’s no curtain).


Open hot shower at Saline Valley Hot Springs…amazing…

After setting up camp at one of the designated spots around this “upper springs” I grabbed a cold beer from the fridge, cracked it open, and sat with my feet dangling in one of the pools, absorbing everything around me and soaking it all in (as it were). I don’t know exactly how long I sat there. Maybe 20 minutes, maybe 2 hours. To be honest though, at that moment it didn’t matter. One thought kept coming to mind though: “this is what it’s all about.” I’d spent the last three days driving around what is considered one of the most desolate places on the planet and here I was soaking my legs in an immaculate hot springs oasis, beer in hand, making friends with a wild mule lapping up water to my left (no, really). Then there was the prospect of a hot shower and to top it all off a light breeze blowing clouds in and dropping the temperature to an amazing 80 degree or so. In other words, absolute and complete perfection.


One of the wild mules wandering the desert. This one I named him Gus. He likes Ritz crackers.

Shortly after getting up to make some dinner my friends from the Eureka Dunes showed up, to be honest looking a little beat up. Their story of the easier road to the Springs didn’t sound so easy after all. The rough washboard gravel road had wreaked havoc on their van, even rattling pieces off of the interior. But they were as amazed by the springs as I was when I first arrived, and so the rugged memories of the trip dissolved quickly. The night turned into more than a few beers with new friends over one long, peaceful soak in the springs. The next morning was a late one, with more lazy hot springs soaking over coffee and a light breakfast. And after saying goodbye to my new friends one last time I packed up camp and headed out for more gravel road fun.


A fresh start to the day – my favorite Death Valley Breakfast.

The destination for camp the following night was just outside of the the Racetrack Playa, some 20 miles away up a very rough old mining trail. But to get there I had to cover what I found to be the very worst of the “maintained” roads in the park. The route along the Western-most edge of the park where it borders the Inyo National Forest wasn’t particularly long (maybe 15-20 miles), but when you can only travel about 10mph even a mile feels like forever, especially when you feel that mile in every bone of your body. In other words, the worst washboard road I’ve ever experienced. Even traveling at higher speeds, which usually smooths out this kind of terrain, was impossible. It felt like an entire day but it was really only a couple of hours before I reached the turn-off to Lippincott Pass.


Leaving the hot springs – heading out toward the Saline Valley Dunes

After turning off toward Lippincott Pass and reaching the base of the mountain I was surprised at the ease of travel, but as I climbed further up toward the ridge the trail became more and more rugged, narrow, and off-camber, including a few partial-wash-out spots that forced me to hug the inside edge and even ride slightly up onto the hill to keep from tumbling down off the trail. It was a fairly short climb, but beautiful and interesting too, past several abandoned mines and to several dramatic lookout areas.


The initial climb up Lippincott Pass is steep but fairly easy. As the trail progresses so does the ruggedness and narrowness.


Reaching the top of Lippincott Pass. The sign says it all – this is not a Subaru-friendly trail, and access is impossible for a tow truck; there’s one way in and one way out.

At the top the trail forks. To the left, about a mile away, is The Racetrack. To the right, about a half-mile away, is the “campground” where I planned to stay that night. With light left in the sky (albeit darkened by a storm blowing through – yes, it does cloud over and rain in Death Valley) I struck out for The Racetrack. This was a spot I’d had on my Bucket List for quite a while and a little impending bad weather wasn’t going to stall me from checking it out. I pulled over at a very unassuming (and completely abandoned) parking area next to the small sign detailing the phenomenon of The Racetrack. For those of you who aren’t familiar, I’ll take a moment to explain what The Racetrack is and why it’s special.

In short, The Racetrack is a mud flat where large rocks move around by themselves. Yes, seriously. It’s a mystery that still has no official answer, only prevailing theories, the most commonly accepted of which involves thin ice sheets. Others include wind, flooding, aliens, etc. Either way it’s fascinating, and made more peculiar by the fact that not all of the rocks are moving the same direction as I had originally anticipated. In fact, not only are the rocks all moving different directions, many of them appear to have taken sharp 90-degree turns at random points to head in a completely different direction than they initially began. And I mean sharp turns, not just looping arcs in the dirt but complete and instant trajectory changes. Odd. And crazy. And awesome.


The mysterious moving rocks on the Racetrack.

After a very (very) cold, windy, and wet night at the campsite near the racetrack (really just a flat ground with another pretty awful porta-potty) I made one more hike around the Playa to entertain myself with thoughts of mysterious rock movements before striking out to explore the area a little more. I meandered up several unmarked trails that more often than not came to abrupt ends due to washouts, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

A little while later I came to Teakettle Junction. To be honest I don’t know the story behind this spot other than at some point people began bringing teapots with them to hang on the sign at the junction, and it stuck and became a thing. Hilarious. I love this kind of stuff, especially when it’s embraced by park rangers with a sense of humor.


What else is there to say. This is Teakettle Junction. Ha.

I took the long way back down to the canyon, and from what I gather it is a much less-travelled road than the other option going down via Grapevine Station. But I sure was glad I opted for this route – it was amazingly beautiful. Maybe it was the late afternoon sun through the insanely clear air, or maybe it was just a bunch of things that came together to create an overwhelming feeling of comfortable solitude, but regardless this was one of the most relaxing and truly calming legs of my trip through Death Valley. I stopped several times just to climb up a rock or scamper up a small ridge to take it all in. And this is also where I saw the most vegetation in the valley, at a spot aptly named Hidden Valley (although not quite as lush as the front of everyone’s favorite Ranch Dressing).


The less-traveled route from Teakettle Junction: through Hidden Valley.


Heading down into Panamint Springs from Hidden Valley at dusk.

As night fell upon the Valley I made my way down to Panamint Springs where I spent the last minutes of light finding a table on the patio at a funky little restaurant/bar at the small “resort town” of Panamint Springs. I was back on pavement after almost 5 days, and with that luxury came pizza. Not sure if the pizza was really that great, but it sure was great at that moment. Stopping at a civilized “resort” was kind of the perfect way to cap my long, dusty, jarring trip around the valley. It gave me a chance to lounge comfortably and reflect on everything while sipping a cold beer and watching the bats flutter around in the sky.

The next morning I woke at dawn, had a coffee and snack, collapsed the tent, refueled at the gas station, and was on my way before the rest of the campground was alive. From there I had a full 23 hours of driving to get home, of course with a few stops along the way.
...I came across a strange little spot that I don’t think has an actual name but what I’m calling “Pupfish Fortress Springs”
Known as the "Burro" spring.

...or maybe it was just a bunch of things that came together to create an overwhelming feeling of comfortable solitude
Get that feeling every time I go.

Great write up, thanks for sharing!
Nice report.

Regarding Teakettle Junction-the rangers periodically remove all the teapots, which are soon replaced by new teapots. Crankshaft junction is the same way, though one 2F crankshaft I dropped off there in 2012 is still there(as of March 2016), just partially buried.

Hidden Valley deserves a return visit and an explore of all the spur trails and such. There's almost a full ghost town at the very end of the road, but you have to go several miles past the Hunter Mountain turn off. Similar with the road over Hunter Mountain, where there are several springs, and one very well preserved cabin, and the remains of an old ranch.
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Nice report.

Regarding Teakettle Junction-the rangers periodically remove all the teapots, which are soon replaced by new teapots. Crankshaft junction is the same way, though one 2F crankshaft I dropped off there in 2012 is still there(as of March 2016), just partially buried.

Hidden Valley deserves a return visit and an explore of all the spur trails and such. There's almost a full ghost town at the very end of the road, but you have to go several miles past the Hunter Mountain turn off. Similar with the road over Hunter Mountain, where there are several springs, and one very well preserved cabin, and the remains of an old ranch.

Right on, thanks for the added info!
Awesome writeup. I love that place.

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