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Old 06-03-2012, 08:34 PM   #1
Country Doc OP
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Little Bikes, Big Desert II - Death Valley, 2012

This is starting to feel like tradition, which is something not often found in my life. I'm warming up to it.

It was late February, and I'd been living in a rental house in Napanee, Ontario, waiting for my upcoming move to our new-old farm, which will be our home until I shuffle off this mortal coil. For those of us in Canada that ride motorcycles, this is about the worst time of the year. It's been three months since any rideable weather, and at least two more until it gets warm and nice again, and the trails open up.

Naturally, it's the perfect time to jet to the desert for a week of backcountry riding and camping with rinconrider. Wes has been one of my best friends since we were teenagers. I remember early in my eighteenth year, firing up my Hawk GT that I'd bought shortly after breaking my ankle, and riding it up and down the street with a cast on my leg, so anxious to get out that I could not stand waiting any longer. Luckily we still both feel the same way about riding, and it's a highlight of every year when we get a chance to travel together.

As essentially novice dirt riders in 2008, we explored around some of the basic trails in Death Valley ("Deserts, Sunshine, and DR's"), and caught the dirty bug in a large way. We've had some other great trips in Southern California, but decided to revisit Death Valley and try and see all the out-of-the-way places we couldn't get to four years ago, when we were limited mostly by inexperience.

We kissed our respective kids and wives goodbye, and hopped in his fine new Taco PreRunner with the bikes and gear loaded in the back. Most importantly, we'd had time to visit Trader Joe's to stock up on many a bottle of fine local wine, marinated meats of all persuasion, cheeses, croissants, sausage, and other essential items of survival.

I'm going to keep this one to mostly a photo tour. Hope you enjoy the ride with us!





Leaving Pasadena. I am a pickup truck convert.









Golden.









Road Food at the In 'N Out.









Wes hates arm straps, so he commandeered a pair of his "wife's" nylons.









We camped in Panamint for the first few nights, and this was a cold start to the first day of riding out Saline Valley Road, headed for South Pass/Hunter Mountain -> TeaKettle -> Racetrack -> Lippincott Pass -> Panamint. It was just barely above freezing here on Hunter Mountain. Brr....









Down near the Racetrack just before Lost Burro Mine, we hit a huge, nearly invisible silt washout that almost sent me over the bars.







s

Lost Burro Outhouse










Cabin at Lost Burro









Inside









He must have played the left Bauer, just before he was hanged.










A proud pair of Canucks in the desert.










Teakettle Junction












Guess where?












One of my favourite views in the world.













The Racetrack!











Ahhhhhh....












The Racetrack rocks I expected to be underwhelming. They were incredibly cool and definitely not to be missed.












Running from a weather system most of the day, it split over the Racetrack for a spectacular late afternoon view.













Wes. Hero shot.













The biggest rock I could find. The paths and distances these things move is simply incredible.













Heading over Lippincott Pass, late in the day, with thunderheads chasing. What could possibly go wrong?












A flat, of course. It doesn't show in this pic, but it started pouring rain shortly after this moment. Good times It was getting late in the day also, with about 45 mins of daylight left. We were starting to get a little anxious about getting out to the road before dark.










Trailside bloody knuckles.









Success!

We made it out in the quickly darkening twilight, and down to Panamint for a late dinner at the campground/hotel restaurant, which was much appreciated after a cold, dark ride down Saline Valley Road. Another great day in the books in DV. Tomorrow we head for Pleasant Canyon/South Park Canyon via Rogers Pass, a loop we were stymied on a few years ago by deep snowfall in the higher elevations.

Off to bed for now. More pics of Day 2 tomorrow. Cheers!

dc
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Old 06-04-2012, 05:53 AM   #2
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Day 2.

It was bitterly cold in Panamint overnight, sleep was fitful despite multiple layers and a good mummy bag. The morning was subzero and we huddled by a fire until the sun broke over the mountain range and began to take the chill off.





Breakfast at camp. Hard livin', eh?








Why carry chilled chardonnay, if not to wash down a fine breakfast of sausage, sautéed vegetables, and croissant? (perhaps this accounts for some of our late start today )






Heading up the river that flows down Pleasant Canyon. This is a truly great ride up the first part of Pleasant. Fun, technical, scenic, lots of wildlife.







Not a great pic here (I only had a fixed-lens camera) but this is one of the many herds of feral donkeys that now roam around Death and Panamint Valley, left behind to fend for themselves after the mines closed down.







Nearing the top of Pleasant Canyon, as the snow began to accumulate. What other place in the world can you start at 75 degrees on the valley floor, and shortly thereafter, be navigating six inches of snow cover on the trails?







A short "rest" break.








A very challenging steep climb up to the summit of Rogers Pass, which was thick with snow and very slick.







Heading down to try and locate the trail down South Park Canyon back to the Panamint Valley floor. We'd elected this time to roll without GPS's to try and recapture the "adventure" part of riding. We had paper maps and our iPhones, and it sure made for some adventure, as we had to navigate many sections of divergent trail up on the ridge before gradually finding the one that seemed to head in the right direction.







Gorgeous view down towards a high meadow enroute to South Park Canyon. We were a bit anxious about not finding the trail at this point, as it was getting late in the day, so this was a welcome sight.







World class views.








Down in the meadow pictured earlier. This was one of my favourite spots of the ride.










High up in South Park, Wes is hanging out on a rock butte that dropped several hundred feet below. Crazy man.







Nearing the end of a great day










Yours truly, catching some late afternoon sun just north of the South Park canyon cabins.








This loop was one of my all-time favourite dirt rides. It's hard to imagine a more diverse, beautiful, challenging, and gratifying section of trail.


Tomorrow, we head over to Echo Canyon and loop back through the Chloride Cliffs, and again, are caught out late, late in the day!

dc
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Old 06-04-2012, 04:30 PM   #3
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Day 3 and 4 were a bit lower key. We moved camp from the cold, windy Panamint Valley down to Furnace Creek, and lounged there in the late morning soaking up some much-needed warmth.

After lunch, we decided to ride Echo Canyon out into Nevada, and then cross back through the Chloride Cliffs, where we'd ridden on our first trip several years ago. We'd heard Echo had some tough sections with steep dry waterfalls, but there was really only one, maybe two sections that could be a bit tricky.




The main tricky dry waterfall. Not difficult, but definitely keep your momentum and stay balanced on the bike.







Heading back through the Chloride Cliffs, we were in quickly failing twilight. The ride in darkness, descending from the Cliffs as the temperature slowly warmed up was magical. Probably not the safest thing in the world, but magical nonetheless.










Adventure Man









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Old 06-05-2012, 10:26 AM   #4
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Day 4 was another lighter day, exploring to the south of Furnace Creek up around Greenwater, then crossing over to Nevada via Deadman Pass before looping back to camp.





Exploring in the hills west of Greenwater, I stopped for a break and noticed oil spewing all over my engine and swing arm. Yikes. Luckily, it was just a loose oil filter cover, and I hadn't lost very much yet. Lucky save.






Downtown Greenwater.

















Some of the Greenwater sights.








Heading up over Deadman's Pass. A long, fast gradual climb out of the valley and into Nevada, but be wary of deep washouts that can crop up almost unseen.







Yeeah!



















Wes conquering the pass, and literally riding his a$$ off.








Amargosa Hotel, NV, in the evening light.









Wes relaxing in magic hour.













Watching the planets back at Furnace Creek.


Tomorrow is the long loop - truck to Scotty's Castle, then through Crankshaft Junction to the Eureka Dunes, over Steel Pass down to the Hot Springs camp, along Saline Valley road, back over Lippincott and past the Racetrack, Ubehebe Crater, and to the truck at Scotty's Castle.

dc
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Old 06-05-2012, 11:33 AM   #5
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Eureka Dunes. Quite spectacular, and unexpected.













Mastering the soft stuff!







Short rest break on Steel Pass







Fast ride down Steel Pass towards the Hot Springs camp






Mark this as a place worth coming back to!








Trusty DR350/441






Back over Lippincott in the reverse direction this time







Feeling Neduro-esque out past the Racetrack in the evening light.







Out of gas...near the Ubehebe Crater, we were about 10kms from the truck, and my bike ran flat dry. I thought I could get 200 miles out of the 4gal tank, but it ran dry at about 180.







Fashioning a siphon with some duct tape and old fuel line.








Super-friendly couple from Georgia stopped and helped until they were sure we were going to be safely out of the desert, as by this time, night had fallen. They followed us out to boot. Thanks!!


The long loop through Steel Pass was a nice ride. Good relaxed pace all day, and a wide variety of scenery and trail types. Unfortunately we had a foot slip while loading the bikes in the truck, and Wes' hand was crushed between the pavement and a bike foot peg, and it wasn't clear if he'd be able to ride tomorrow for our last day.

Incredibly, he shrugged off the significant pain and swelling to enjoy another great final day where we looped through Chloride again, and back through Titus Canyon for a final farewell to the park before having to head south to home.


dc
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Old 06-05-2012, 11:48 AM   #6
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This was a good read while Im having breakfast. Thanks.
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Old 06-05-2012, 11:56 AM   #7
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Sweet!
Where did you get the "freedom road" sticker?

I love it
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Old 06-05-2012, 01:55 PM   #8
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Awesome!

What a great trip. Really enjoyed this. More incintive for me to get off my ass and get out there!
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Old 06-05-2012, 02:23 PM   #9
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nice

thanks for posting - really enjoyed it! I've got to do that someday!
What caused the flat? Could it have been patched (pull tube out side w/o removing wheel)?
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Old 06-05-2012, 02:43 PM   #10
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Wonderful trip!

Hi Country Doc,

We've been to some of the same places, but you bring home much better photos ... thanks for taking the time to post them!

That's a pretty fancy DR350/441 ... nice ...

Now I have to go and check out the threads in your sig ... thanks for the links, too!

See you around the campfire,
-- SFMCjohn
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Old 06-06-2012, 05:30 AM   #11
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Thanks guys! Glad you enjoyed it. One more day of pics coming up.

The flat was a pinch flat from the sharp rocks on Lippincott. We tried patching it but in typical fashion, all the glue in our repair kits had dried up and turned to rock after years of not using it. Either way we would have removed the wheel - much easier to deal with. We ended up using a spare 21" front tube and nursed it home to camp, where we bought new patch kits and repaired the tube properly.

The freedom road sticker, I think, is made by someone on this forum - but the name escapes me at the moment. Hopefully someone will know. I'll try and dig it up and add it to the thread.

Last day coming up!

dc
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Old 06-06-2012, 05:36 AM   #12
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Old gravesite in the Chloride Cliffs





One of the most spectacular viewpoints in the valley, high up in Chloride, looking across towards the Panamint Range.







Nope. That ain't normal.







Mountain goat roads along the edge of Chloride. These were more than a little bit nausea-inducing, and eventually we turned around for fear we wouldn't be able to get back. They weren't on the map, and I'm not sure where most of these roads and trails go. Probably dead end at mines in the hills.






Back on the Nevada side before the Titus entrance. Wes feeling triumphant about riding with an incredibly painful hand. Mind control!


\

Red Pass























Goodbye Death Valley. I might not be back for a while, and I'll miss you dearly.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:32 AM   #13
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Ummm...WOW!! I need to get out to that area.
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Old 06-06-2012, 08:54 AM   #14
Baja Ho
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Great report, thanks for posting.
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:51 AM   #15
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Great pics and story...

Death Valley is on the Bucket List...
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