LooseCrew-JeffO: Death Valley - Day 4


Ramblings of an adventurous guy living in Denver and playing in the mountains.
For my trail adventures, visit my Trail Bum blog

Friday, February 29, 2008

Death Valley - Day 4

Wednesday was fantastic!
Paul wanted to do an ultra-ride, so he woke me up at 1:30am. At WHAT?!!!! Hey, 0-dark-hundred is fine but 1:30am is way before 0-dark!! He was apologetic, but I said, "So what? Let's do this!"

I dropped Paul off near the Furnace Creek Inn and then I headed north to Stovepipe Well (the well, not the town) to get some beauty sleep.
At twilight, I drove down to the well and started hiking west to the biggest dune I could see.
The well is called stovepipe because when the wind shifted the sands and covered the well, someone started the tradition of sticking a section of stovepipe on the pump to mark the buried location.
When I arrived, the sands weren't around it.
Wagon tracks from 100 years ago and more were barely visible, leading out of the clefts in the hills to the east.
As I travelled away from my vehicle, force of habit, I kept looking backwards to pick landmarks so that the return would be easier.
The forecast was for rain, but so far there was only clouds. The clouds did reduce the quality of the sunrise, but I still had a nice show to watch.
The ground went to an interesting crusty dirt, then I was into sparse little dunes. Then I was into the Mesquite Flats area.The dunes were about 20 feet high and perforated with holes from either big lizards or roadrunners - not sure which. If you saw a hole in one side, there was always an additional hole somewhere else. Something evolved with sidewinders crawling in and wanted a back door.
The big dunes had black grains on them. I took the magnet from my hydration valve and waved it over. It easily grabbed-up the particles. So there's lots of iron sand out there.
I climbed the highest dune and then headed back a slightly different line towards my landmark.
I never saw any creature other than an occasional bird.
A Cessna dropping down to land at the town of Stovepipe Wells circled around me, but nothing else stirred.
Finally, it began to sprinkle. Aw! Just a little moisture brings out all the scents of the desert. It was fantastic. Rain in the driest place in North America.

When I got back to my car, I drove on north towards Ubehebe Crater. It was raining with a bit of gusto then. Paul had ridden south to Badwater that morning and then turned around and headed north and had already passed me. I passed him again.
At the intersection to Scotty's Castle, I saw a very disturbing sight. A coyote was loitering on the pavement not far away. The expression on its face was sad, like it had no pride, no wildness. I wondered if it was sick and about to die, but no, it had been fed by tourists its whole life and was living in a limbo - neither wild nor tame and dependent on hand-outs. Shame on everyone who feeds these animals!
On to Ubehebe, the landscape became a barren series of black hills covered with pumice and cinders. Nothing grows out there. I ran down and back up in the rain. That's why I don't have photos, but I found some on the Internet.
Paul was getting extremely fatigued but didn't want to give up. I ended up driving to certain junctions on his return ride to Furnace Creek, playing roving aid-station.
That evening, I was allowed to eat pizza at the Adventure Corps post-clinic party at the Furnace Creek Inn.
We went outside to watch the lunar eclipse begin while drinking beer.
After the party, up on our ridge with the sleeping bags laid out on the ground, and watching the eclipse fade away, Paul commented how strange it is that some people paid $128 a night to have a ceiling block the view.


At 10:34 PM, Blogger Meghan said...

Aww, sad coyote! That picture breaks my heart. Earlier this winter, we had to put down a coyote that was being aggressive towards a skier. I'm sure it had been fed in the past and wanted food again (It post-mortem tested for rabies and it came back negative.). When it didn't get any, it got mad. Unfortunately, this is probably the future of the lonely coyote in your photo, too.

Stupid tourists!


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