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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?"


  1. Looks like you just missed me and you drove right by. I was the caretaker for Cerro Gordo for seven days Oct 20-27. There were two of us up there to give Robert a break.

  2. We're happy that the cooler weather is coming back and we can start doing trips out to the desert again. We just spent 3 days in the Silurian Hills area and have decided that this is maybe our favorite place to hang out.