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Old 04-04-2009, 08:56 PM   #1
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Death Valley Group Run part 4-6

Part 4: The drive to cottonwood.


From Stovepipe we drove toward Cottonwood Canyon. Steve gave Jeff a hand held CB to communicate with that came in very handy being he was in the lead.



The sand can be dense after high winds but it was OK this year. The trail is fairly smooth in most spots, so the word on the radio from the rear rig was “come on Jeff, speed it up”. Steve and Craig like to haul ass!
Eight miles in, the road switches to a Jeep trail. From here the road is rocky but most 2WD vehicles with reasonable clearance can do it. I never had to use 4WD for the first section of the route but the rangers claim switching into four wheel drive helps cut down on the washboard.



A short ways into the Jeep trail the road enters a canyon.



I followed the 2 tan vans in. Jeff knew right where he wanted to boon dock at.



I looked in my mirror and saw a mad man on my butt, so I pulled over and let him by. Actually I wanted pictures for the trip report and 3 vans look more impressive than 2.




This part of the canyon is pretty cool. There are petroglyphs here. Last year I found where an ancient Indian named John tapped out his name and a picture of a burro over 4000 years ago. I always wondered how “John” knew that burro’s would be brought to America after the 1500’s. Too bad people have to screw things up. Nevertheless, there are many real petroglyphs here if you know what to look for.



This is the spot where Jeff wanted to set up camp. It is a nice spot but I prefer inside Cottonwood Canyon itself.

(End of part 4)
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Old 04-04-2009, 08:58 PM   #2
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Re: SMB Death Valley Group Run part 4-6

Part 5: A run into Cottonwood Canyon.

As Jeff set up camp, the rest of the group asked about going into Cottonwood for a drive and checking it out. Even though it was getting late I was definitely up for it. My feeling is that someday the park will close Cottonwood to vehicle travel. God I hope not. It’s arguably one of the nicest spots to boon dock in Death Valley and it seems the Feds are always looking to close areas like this.



Most of the run is flat and a little rocky. The trail splits just outside the canyon where we had planned to camp at. The right spur takes you into Marble Canyon. Marble is a fantastic canyon but is closed off to vehicle travel and must park outside the mouth of the canyon. The hike is an easy 2 mile walk that should not be missed if you are in the area. The left spur leads to Cottonwood Canyon which is a great drive and the one we were after.



Don and I followed Craig’s EB and Steve’s RB into the canyon. Did I say those guys haul ass? The only way we knew they were there most of the time was when we caught a glimpse of them or when they called back on the radio to see if we were coming. About half way in, the trail runs by a large carved out chunk of the mountainside. It looks kind of like a symphony hall. It’s a cool spot and the guys finally made a stop to take some pictures and check out the cave. We pulled up with Rage Against The Machine blaring on the tunes…just me and Don showing our age.




Soon we entered the canyon itself. Within the somewhat confining walls there are several fantastic spots to boon dock at. If I had only a few days to just kick back and relax, Cottonwood would be one of the places I’d pick.
The group stopped at what appears to be the end of the line, but actually the road drops into the wash and continues on. This is where four wheel drive might be a good idea. The path becomes sandy, a bit off camber, and runs in and out of the wash which starts to look more like a riverbed. One of the Death Valley rules is “if you find water you can’t camp within a quarter mile of it”. I don’t know if that applies to standing water or flowing water. I had a feeling if we continued on we might of found water. Unfortunately we were out of time and had to return. It was still a great run and I’m sure I’ll be back. On the way out the guys…well, they hauled ass.



You can see how large the cave is compared to the vans. Heading back Craig and Steve pulled over for us where we grabbed a beverage.



It was time to rejoin Jeff and get our camp together. This was a fantastic run.

(End of part 5)
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Old 04-04-2009, 09:01 PM   #3
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Re: SMB Death Valley Group Run part 4-6

Part 6: A night at Cottonwood and to Zabriskie Point in the morning.

As we drove up on Jeff, everybody was picking a spot to set up. To keep from being banned from the group forever, I parked away slightly further away so everyone else could get some sleep that night.



Craig had brought fire wood and Jeff insisted I get out the Pit-2-Go. In Death Valley you can have an above ground fire. I go one step further and pack out any charcoal and ashes via the trustworthy army ammo can. Charcoal can last a long time in the desert, so I pack it up and take it with me. The BBQ’s came out once again and we even gave it a go. I saw vegetables, couscous, and BBQ chicken, not to mention the Corona’s. Wow. Now I don’t mind gourmet food but I like to keep it simple most of the time. Steve, Tom, Craig and Dave really put on a show and I wondered where the waiter was who would be pouring the wine. Sure looked good. I told em I like wine once and a while, and always look forward to screwin that top off and takin a big swig myself. All joking aside I actually do like good wine with supper. Don fired up our grill and threw on some chicken. We started in on our supply of beverages and got the fire going. The weather was cool enough for the fire during the entire trip and I was glad I brought the Pit-2-Go along.
Someone commented on the Moon and a very bright star unusually close to it. I told them it wasn’t a star but actually Venus. Don had told everyone I was packing a scope and we both have some background in astronomy. Steve set up a tripod to try and get a camera shot. Maybe Steve can post his picture

The guys asked if I could get out my scope and take a look. If I don’t have a larger scope with me, I carry a small Televue NP-101 which does OK. I had some fun targeting Venus which was in a crescent phase just like the moon. They all swore they saw the moon not Venus until I swung it over to the moon where all they saw were huge craters. This caused the standard verbal “WOW” effect. It was just a trick to give a little perspective to the night sky and what better place to get it than in the dark skies of the desert surrounded by friends. As I was putting stuff away I asked Don about the chicken…CRAP! Burnt to a crisp! OK who needs food; we had beer (liquid bread).



It was now time to kick back around the fire, relax and enjoy a fine cigar that Don had brought. The night was a kick in the ass and at least the insect life was not as abundant as at Ballarat.


In the morning we watched the chef’s engaged in a real breakfast while we had Mucho-Cup-O-Noodles again. Jeff had his giant coffee pot going, while Don and I went for espresso and Kahlua to wart off the evil spirits. Jeff looked down at all the beer bottles and asked “You guys don’t drink do you”? This was one morning I was glad I had some hair of the dog. Mengel was still the #1 goal for the next day with a pit stop at Zabriskie Point.



We all left out for the facilities at Stovepipe Wells. This time even I hauled ass. Besides having restrooms, the store also has a spot to dump garbage and we had a bunch of bottles to get rid of. Another nice convenience that Stovepipe has is free air. It’s a slow pump but definitely better than nothing. Everyone picked up some supplies, aired up, and headed off toward Zabriskie. We had to fuel up at Furnace Creek in preparation for Mengel. On the way I got some shots of the sand dunes.



You can walk out to them if you wish. Before I ever went to Death Valley I thought most of the area would look like this. The word desert just conjures up images of sand dunes I guess.



Driving up on Furnace Creek we passed the Furnace Cr Campground. This campground (one of three) is about the greenest spot in the lower valley.




After picking up some supplies and fueling up I got a picture of the palm trees before we headed out toward Zabriskie Point.
In all the times I’ve been to Zabriskie I had never made the walk to the vista point. Not that I’m lazy; hell older people are even walkin up there. But Zabriskie has always been the place we dumped garbage when coming out of Echo and it is more or less a tourist trap, so we never made the walk. It’s also one of those places that’s best visited when the sun is setting to get nice colorful pictures. Being our group showed up in the mid morning I really wasn’t expecting much. We made the trek (with all the old folks) to the point. We got some pictures but someday I need to be there toward evening with my camera.





Walking back to the van I laughed at the attention our vehicles were getting. Zabriskie like Badwater has tour busses coming in and out most of the day and people all over the place. The vans looked a little out of place. I won’t lie; it’s cool when you get a little attention. As we walked up to the vans, the guys said they had made a change in our destination. They now wanted to do the dry falls in Echo rather than Mengel. Steve’s goal in doing the pass was in jeopardy but he agreed the change. Echo is an easy drive but the falls are something else. Jeff said he had been there but I don’t think the rest of the group had been there. Last years Forum rally explored Echo but they never made it to the dry falls as far as I know. We left Zabriskie and headed toward Echo.

(End of part 6)
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:56 PM   #4
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Re: Death Valley Group Run part 4-6

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