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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Morning at Cuddeback Lake - "retreated to a drier location"

 Drove through Mojave around 11PM and had an idea to photograph the sunrise at a desert lake. It was after midnight when I turned off US 395 and drove East toward Cuddeback Lake.
 After a few miles the road became waterlogged.
 After another mile on this muddy road I gave up my quest for the lake and retreated to a drier location to set up camp.
 Dawn at our camp near the muddy flats of Cuddeback Lake.
 The higher sun rose behind the clouds the more disappointed I became that my route the night before did not allow me to reach water on the lake bed.  It was time to get my shoes muddy and hike to the water.
 There wasn't much water.
But it was put to good use.
 Found an interesting collection of debris on my way back to camp. I could not put the puzzle together and figure out the story behind these rusted artifacts.
 An old well but no water at the bottom.
 Red Mountain to the NW in the distance and water soaked mud flats in the foreground.
 Our Four Wheel Camper below the clouds and on safe, relatively dry, ground.
 The route back to pavement.
 Southbound on US 395.
Wind turbines West of Mojave.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Soggy Death Valley - "blasted out the mouth of Rainbow Canyon"

 The rain began to fall as we entered the desert East of Barstow shortly before noon. 
Every weather forecast predicted that the storm would clear later in the day so we weren't concerned. But we should have been.
It was late afternoon as we drove North on CA 127 out of Baker and it was still raining.
Finally the sky began to clear as we drove a few miles off pavement looking for a campsite.
After dinner we relaxed in the Ibex Hills and waiting for the stars to appear behind scattered clouds. But stars did not appear because the clouds thickened and rain began to drizzle. We all thought that the drizzle would pass but we were very wrong. Soon the drizzle changed to a downpour and alternated between drizzle, hopeful moments without any precipitation and back to downpour for the rest of the night. That canceled Don and Robyn's plan of sleeping in the bed of the pickup on an air mattress. (We heard a revised weather forecast the next morning that reported the storm front had stalled over DVNP.)
The next morning after coffee, tea and pastries served up by Jan in the FWC we headed back to pavement. Ibex Hills in background.
As we neared Tecopa we found water flowing across the highway.
One of the five times we drove through water on the 127.
After buying fuel in Shoshone we reached CA 178 which is the southern entrance to DVNP and encountered our first road closed sign.
We would have to take the long way to Badwater.
Rain clouds rolling over the Greenwater Range.
Eagle Mountain looked like a soon to be erupting volcano.
Turning left(West) at Death Valley Junction we soon reached the DVNP pay station where Don and Robyn paid their entrance fee while Jan and I enjoyed the fact that my newly purchased Senior Pass meant no fees for us.
Another left turn sent us south toward Dante's View.
Once again we were stymied by the weather and our view of the Badwater Playa was blocked by clouds.
"Dante's View at Death Valley National Park" by Jean-Pierre Lavoie - CC BY-SA 3.0.
What the view would have looked like on a typical DV afternoon.
Our next stop was Furnace Creek, then south to Badwater but once again it was raining and once again the road was closed.
And it was still raining when we stopped at the Furnace Creek Ranch.
We drove north and found the salt flats of Middle Basin covered with water.
Would have liked to have been at this location with just a small break in the clouds to let the sun flash on the lake's surface.
The very damp Stove Pipe Wells Dunes with the cloud covered Grapevine Mountains in the distance.
Robert, a geologist from Liverpool, stopped by for a friendly visit with Jan while I was out in the dunes. Bosco was less than cordial.
We drove West from Stovepipe Wells over Towne Pass and down into the Panamint Valley.
Our route took us past Panamint Springs, climbing up to the Darwin Plateau where we stopped at the Father Crowley Viewpoint for one last look East into DVNP.
"U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler (Public Domain)"
While we were at the viewpoint a jet roared down Rainbow Canyon so fast that I did not have a chance to take a photo but it was very cool watching the vapor vortices shed at the tips and the leading-edge extensions. It looked like the photo above except that the plane was headed straight at us as it flew around a corner, blasted out the mouth of Rainbow Canyon and zoomed across the Panamint Valley.
We made quick side trip to Darwin before moving on toward the Owen's Valley.
A few 14'ners were poking their summits through the clouds as we drove along the valley floor on our way to Lone Pine for dinner.
After dinner, as the sun set, we headed for home leaving a soggy DVNP behind while Don and Robyn repeated a question that they asked several times on this trip, "Isn't California supposed to be in a drought?"

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Buttes and Harper Dry Lake - "A squall line approached"

 Mike and I drove about ten miles east of Kramer Junction and then turned left on Lockhart Road crossing the railroad one mile north of US 58.
 We passed by the parabolic troughs at the Mojave Solar Project north of Lockhart.
 Soon we were enveloped by the night on a narrow dirt road zigzagging our way to the Buttes.
 We set up camp on the very small dry lake bed between the buttes.
 Dawn at The Buttes.
 Rain to the East.
 The Big Blue Van.
 I need a larger truck.
 Panorama of our camp at The Buttes.
 Storm front moving over the El Paso Mountains to the NW.
 Mike relaxing at camp.
Later in the morning we hiked around the largest butte and did a little scrambling.
 Another storm was forming to the East.
 Panorama looking NE.
 Later in the afternoon we decided to drive over to Harper Lake and see if the playa was dry enough to cross.
 Leaving The Buttes behind.
 The playa of Harper Lake was dry but showed evidence that it had been wet recently.
 Fremont Peak on the left and Black Mountain center-right.
 With rain in the distance to the East we quickly crossed the playa.
 Off to our right we found a trebuchet.
 A squall line approached as we reached the northern edge of the playa.
 Luckily this squall did not reach us because it would have turned the playa into a muddy mess.
 Rain began to fall as we searched for a place to make camp.
 An old campfire ring told us that someone had camped here before.
 Sunset near Harper Lake. The photo doesn't show the heavy rain showers that drove us both inside our vehicles for dinner.
 Fremont Peak looking very photogenic in the morning light.
 Shortly after sunrise a helicopter flew over our camp.
 After breakfast we scouted the area East of our camp and found this abandoned homestead.
 Years ago I read a book about ghost towns titled, "Some Dreams Die" and that is what happened here.
 A few miles away we found this old well.  (Would be quite a surprise at night.)
 The camp's trash dump was a short distance from the well and close by was a small foundation for what must have been a cabin.
 We drove south and once again reached the lake bed where the dogs were allowed to romp as we prepared lunch.
 Mike and Daisy enjoying lunch and limited shade.
 A Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker passed overhead while we were stopped.
After lunch we crossed the widest part of Harper Lake, with a few muddy sections, and headed for pavement and home.