Very quiet in the Valley last weekend...

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Posted by Last Chance Rand on September 17, 2001 at 15:39:55:

Leading a contingent from the Southern California Land Rover club, I found peace & serenity at all of our destinations last weekend. There we're no flyovers, and we saw only one other vehicle, which came right at the start of our first day.

After playing in the giant sand box of Dumont Dunes, we entered the Park via its southern most entrance, the Harry Wade Route. Although we made it to Saratoga Springs well before noon, temperatures were already restricting our activity. Even the very short walk to the pupfish pools was uncomfortable.

Driving through the Narrows was very scenic, and, as always, there was no relief from the sun & heat at our Ashford Mill lunch spot. Each of us huddled against the side of our Rovers, the only sliver of shade available to each of us, and forced down lunch with a minimum of conversation.

The group then ascended Warm Springs Canyon. At the old turnoff Wingate Wash blistering hot southwesterly winds scorched us with temperatures as high as 115 degrees -- and I had the only Rover with no A/C installed.

We were disappointed to find the swimming pool at Warm Springs not only empty, but closed per order of Inyo County Health Department. According to a posted notice, on July 25 of this year the Park Service found thirty dead bats in the waters of the pool; five were tested and found to have rabies. So we all gathered around the shaddy but empty pool, staring into it like a group of sad children.

We continued on to Butte Valley and set up camp at the Mengel place. The lack of any moon caused us to amaze pleasurably at the stars, and amaze disappointedly at the light pollution from Las Vegas. We were also treated to a lightning show from tall storm clouds high above the distant Amargosa Valley. The cool and comfortable evening breeze was a welcomed contrast to the day's repressive temperatures.

Sunday we crossed the dicey-as-usual Mengal Pass, which was tougher on the Butte Valley side. The decent through Goler Wash brought not only far more comfortable temperatures, but also occasional shade from its steep, high rock walls. Note that the irrigation system is not doing very well at the Barker Ranch, despite a healthy flow of water into the main tube. If someone has the time to investigate, I'm sure the thirsty trees and shrubs would appreciate it.

At the foot of Goler Wash, rather than turning north to Ballerat, we continued across Panamint Valley and ascended the volcanic-rock strewn alluvial fan of the opposing Slate Range into Fish Canyon. In crossing Panamint Valley, ours were the first tracks since the last rains, at least ten days ago. Rockcrawling up Fish Canyon to Brier's Silent Sepulture, we found no previous tracks at all. This was undoubtedly the toughest driving of the whole weekend.

Following lunch in the shadow of the Seputure's rock monoliths, we decented Fish Canyon back to BLM's P168, up and over Manly Pass. Roger at the Texaco in Trona was pleased to see me deliver a long line of empty Rovers to his gas pumps.

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