Casting a spell...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by HardWorkingDog, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Going to Death Valley.

    How do you decide where to go, what to do, which trail to take? I don't know. Still trying to
    figure that one out. A few years ago I heard neighbors talk about camping in Death Valley; I've
    read many reports about riding in Death Valley, the riders praising it as a unique place to ride.
    Somehow it materialized in me as something I wanted to see and experience.


    It's a desert, right? Probably best to go in the winter before it gets hot, so found a block of
    time in late March, checked some temperature records, seemed a good choice. A couple nights
    before we were to leave I stayed up until 1 am, reading the mesmerizing report of larryboy.
    I don't use the word mesmerizing lightly. His report is a work of art.

    I wondered if a place could really cast that kind of a spell.




    There is always a sense of unease heading out someplace I've never been before. What if it's a
    waste of time? Only way to find out is to just go. Got packed up, bikes ready, warm weather
    clothes, and our new dog along with dog stuff. Hope this works.


    Well, first of all Marleau the dog turned out to be a great adventurer. He loves riding in the
    truck, calm, sleeps most of the time, and can hold it better than his human travelers. He loves
    being in his crate, and when nothing exciting is going on he's perfectly happy to just hang
    inside.

    [​IMG]

    It's a long day's drive from the Bay Area to Death Valley and we took our time getting there,
    driving through Red Rock canyon and up Highway 395, places that resonated with me from long
    ago. My father took me to Red Rock canyon to ride and camp once, and we'd spent several
    summer weeks backpacking in the eastern Sierra, traversing 395 each trip and filling me with
    strong memories.

    I had decided to head for Panamint Springs as it seemed like a good place to use as a base
    camp, with lots of interesting places radiating from it. I knew there was gas available there as
    well. We got there after sundown and as I pulled off the road and opened the truck door I could
    hear disembodied voices from campers across the highway, smell hot trailer brakes mixed with
    campfire smoke, feel the warmth still in the air. It was about 75°F, warmer than it had been
    for weeks in the Bay Area. Already, Death Valley was casting its spell. I paid for one night; I
    normally don't much care for private campgrounds and thought we'd give it test and decide
    tomorrow if we were going to stay here or move on down the valley.

    We pulled into our spot in darkness, headlights lighting up our camp neighbor asleep in a
    lounge chair at 8:30 pm. We tried to be quiet...

    The morning was a nice blue sky day, a little haze in the air, warm and pleasant. The
    campground was situated in the foothills between the Darwin Plateau and the Argus Range,
    with a broad panoramic view of the Panamint Valley below and the Panamint Range beyond.
    Death Valley itself was beyond that range.

    [​IMG]

    The campground seemed nice enough, and I couldn't find a reason that would make me want to
    hitch up and move so we decided to stay and paid for the rest of our nights in advance. Turned
    out to be a good decision.

    That day a couple moved into the site above us. Turns out we had strangely parallel lives. He
    rides (had his F650GS there), is an inmate at advrider.com (Hiya lostinnevada), we both have
    yellow labs with hockey names, and we have spent summers at the same state park at the
    beach near San Diego for years. Probably have been there at the same time...weird, huh. Their
    son is an F18 pilot, training at China Lake and they were hoping to see him fly. The weather
    didn't cooperate for them, but we did get to see some amazing flying skills right before they
    arrived. A very gracious couple, and hopefully I'll take the opportunity to ride with lostinnevada
    in the future.

    I'd picked up a few intriguing places from larryboy's report, and one of them was called China
    Garden. It was fairly close by and from what I could read would make a good first day ride. We
    geared up and headed back up Highway 190, looking for a dirt road off to the left. I turned on
    the first left I saw...a deadend driveway, leading up to some abandoned buildings. Great start
    already. Check the map and gps, hmmm must be a little farther up 190. Yeah, like another
    half-mile up 190. Found it, and away we rode. Nice washboardy dirt road, winding through
    beautiful desert rocks and washes and ridges.

    [​IMG]

    Got to the trail head for Darwin Falls and, not wanting to hike 2 miles in off-road boots, we
    kept riding up the road. Saved for another time. The road got steeper, rockier, a bit more fun.
    Julie lost momentum and her bike stopped against the side of a rutted rocky upslope. I had to
    ride it up a few yards, and then she took over. Good progress, because she didn't get
    discourage or frustrated. We figured out a solution and just kept going. Dropped down into a
    valley, and there was the unmarked side trail to China Garden. An amazing oasis in the middle
    of a desert. Time for lunch.

    [​IMG]

    The magic of China Garden lies in its gold.

    [​IMG]

    Goldfish, that is.

    [​IMG]


    Crazy fish, living in this harsh environment...we were absolutely taken in by the spell of Death
    Valley at this point. I don't know anything about the history of China Garden, there were ruins
    of buildings and what looked like some kind of mine machinery nearby, but the contrast of small
    beauty in a largely hostile environment is partly to explain why Death Valley seems like
    a place to be savored.

    On to Darwin. More great dirt road riding, and we arrived at the settlement of Darwin. An odd
    mix of abandoned and in-use buildings, the only clue to which was which was by looking at the
    tires of the vehicles in front of the building. I figured if they were aired up, someone was living
    there. Yes, a post office seems to be the hub of activity.

    [​IMG]

    The real estate boom was still going strong at least.

    [​IMG]

    It was getting late, so we heading on to Highway 190 in order to make a loop back to camp.
    Highway 190 drops down through Rainbow Canyon in a tight twisty series of paved turns. We
    rode carefully, most of the time, and made it back to the trailer.

    Marleau was holding the fort down securely.

    [​IMG]



    Next up, Titus Canyon. We first made the obligatory stop in Rhyolite. A bit...touristy...for my
    taste. The outdoor art museum was worth the stop at least.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The weather was slowly turning cooler, grayer, windier. Not quite the warm desert weather we
    were expecting but not a problem. Back on the bikes, and on to the one-way road through Titus
    Canyon.

    [​IMG]

    Spot the XT?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The earth forms are magnificent. I feel very lucky to have been able to experience this.


    The next day we planned to go up Saline Valley Road a ways, cross Hunter Mountain and then
    try to make Teakettle Junction. We got a late start, and trucked the bikes back up 190 through
    Rainbow Canyon to the start of Saline Valley Road. Can you guess why it's called Rainbow
    Canyon?

    [​IMG]

    We started climbing from rocky and sandy desert, to joshua tree forest, to scrub pine forest.
    The views back down into the Panamint Valley were spectacular.

    [​IMG]

    We climbed to over 7000 feet, there was still snow in places, some mud holes too. Nothing too
    bad, but we were slowed down and made a few wrong turns. One road I turned into led us to a
    couple firsts--my first gate, and my first cabin!

    [​IMG]

    Ride reports of far away exotic locales always seem to involve gates, and the dirt road
    etiquette involved. I guess I can say I've ridden somewhere exotic now. At least I knew gate
    etiquette—leave the gate as you found it. We did.

    The road only went another mile or so beyond the gate, and ended at a pretty simple cabin.

    [​IMG]

    Don't know the name, but inside there was a log book, a single cot (no mattress), some canned
    tuna, and a warning from the park service about hanta virus. The two windows were boarded
    up. No stove, but it was much warmer inside than out. By that time the wind had picked up,
    and the temperature was dropping. We kept moving.

    We stopped for lunch after we'd dropped down the other side of Hunter Mountain. We realized
    we'd never make Teakettle Junction because of the late start so we turned around and headed
    back. As we neared the summit, it started snowing. We'd brought plenty of layers but my
    hands and feet and face were getting cold. It was a long cold slog back to the truck and by the
    time I got the bikes loaded the engine had warmed up and I had the heater going full blast. Of
    course as the sun dropped down near the horizon it finally found an opening below the storm
    clouds. Despite the sunshine, it was COLD out there!

    [​IMG]

    That night it rained and stormed, I think the winds were probably close to 50 mph gusts. A tent
    full of gear blew across the campground like a tumbleweed. I felt honored to be in Death Valley
    during a rain storm. Got up in the middle of the night and just watched and listened to the
    storm for awhile.

    Unfortunately that was the end of our riding. The next day was not a good day to ride. Cold,
    wind, rain and snow. We drove into the main valley, bikes in the truck just in case, but never
    got them unloaded. Here is Towne Pass-

    [​IMG]

    Yeah, it's snowing.



    Scotty's Castle was pretty damp, but still would've been cool to have been a guest there in its
    heyday.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The wind was howling at Ubehebe Crater. You could lean into the crater at a 30° angle and the
    wind would hold you up.

    [​IMG]

    As we drove back to camp, I felt like I was going back in time. That road stretches out a long
    way into the past.

    [​IMG]


    We woke to a beautiful morning.

    [​IMG]

    The snow level had dropped to about 3000 feet I'd guess. Here is the view across 190 past the
    Panamint Springs restaurant.

    [​IMG]

    Usually at the end of a trip I'm ready to go home. Not this time.

    I was leaving, but I kept thinking this is only the beginning. I have more to experience here.

    [​IMG]

    Can a place really cast that kind of spell?
    #1
  2. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,679
    Location:
    Oakland, CA
    Yes...yes, it certainly can...

    Excellent report and photos, HWD! :clap The 3rd photo from the bottom is my favorite...although I totally dig the close-up of the goldfish!

    Looks like Julie is totally digging the XT. What was her take on the trip? Is she ready to go back, too? I get this little pain in my chest...very much like a heartache...when I know it's time to pack up and go home. It happens every time, and I don't think it'll ever go away. At least, I hope not, anyway. Just makes the riding that much sweeter :thumb




    WoodsChick
    #2
  3. Wolfgang55

    Wolfgang55 Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,814
    Location:
    Next to Rio Bravo
    So many rides to take & w/ so little time left.
    #3
  4. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Thanks, even though the photos are just OK, you're kind to say that :wink:
    These reports take me a lot of time, I know you know 'bout that too.

    Oh yeah, she loves that bike. It fits her perfectly. We both were ready to go back the day we got home. Thanks for looking in! :D
    #4
  5. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Yep, that feeling is only getting worse and worse as the time left grows shorter and shorter. Only one thing I can do...go ride :evil

    Thanks for taking a look—my first ride report here on advrider! I started writing reports on that crusty, ancient ol' internet backwater called usenet (rec.motorcycles.dirt) and then moved on to my own blog, but I spend so much time on advrider I thought I'd post a report here as well.

    That WoodsChick (& her husband) knows a thing or two about "so many rides to take." I'm trying to give her a run, but it's gonna be tough.
    #5
  6. PinkPillion

    PinkPillion Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    529
    Location:
    Northeastern California
    Thank you so much for sharing this report. Taking a few notes since we are headed down to Death Valley from Susanville on Monday. Riding 2up on the 1200GS. From your photos it appears you didn't have to share the road with many others. Looks like an awesome trip!!
    #6
  7. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    You're welcome, and thanks for reading!

    You are right about not having to share the roads much. The main paved roads--190 and Scotty's Castle Road have a fair share of passenger cars. Once you're on the dirt roads, just about deserted. A couple of jeeps surprised me on a blind turn, you can get lulled into thinking you're all alone and suddenly there's a jeep coming at you :eek1 so you always have to assume there's two way traffic.

    This week is probably going to be more populated because of Spring Break.

    Hope you have a great time...
    #7
  8. airborndad

    airborndad Long timer

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    Mar 6, 2009
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    2,639
    Location:
    Montclair Ca.
    Very nice RR :clap
    you must have been there the week or weekend before us, we got there the day after the storm stopped 3/24 and Hunter Mtn was virtually impassable / impossible & Titus was closed

    [​IMG]
    #8
  9. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
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    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Wow! Yeah, a week earlier. The weather guess is such a moveable target. Our neighbors were there the week before us and had almost perfect 50°nights/80° days...

    The closer to summer, the colder it gets, right? :huh

    Thanks for stopping by, I've enjoyed your reports (silently).
    #9
  10. larryboy

    larryboy Chopper Rider

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    Jan 9, 2005
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    17,295
    Location:
    Über Alles,California

    Ahhaa, met my mistress I see. You'll never be able to get away now. :deal


    That little cabin is called 'Hunter Cabin', that was his last name and if you closely you will find his name carved into a timber.


    Thanks for sharing your trip with us!!! :clap:clap
    #10
  11. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

    Joined:
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    3,702
    Location:
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Thanks for sharing. I was there a few weeks ago and the weather was great. Looks like we timed it just right.

    This is just further proof Larryboy's reports have increased the traffic out there. :D
    #11
  12. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    You called it, all right.

    Nice! It was definitely one of the highlights, especially after reading your report. I wouldn't have had any idea about the history of cabins in Death Valley.


    My pleasure, high praise indeed from a master of the art. :thumb
    #12
  13. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Just for the record, we were planning to go BEFORE I read his report...:evil
    #13
  14. Moto Psycho

    Moto Psycho Adventurer

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    Feb 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    Far Nor-Cal
    Sweet RR and excellent pics HWD. Thanks for sharing....:clap
    #14
  15. lostinnevada

    lostinnevada Paradise beckons...

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Minden, NV
    Thanks for the link to your ride report. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the pictures. It brought back good memories! Zamboni says "Hi" to Marleau.
    #15
  16. KHVol

    KHVol Long timer

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    May 21, 2004
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    2,570
    Tks for the RR...hope to make it there some day...short threadjack ..how did you like your Klim pants ?
    #16
  17. akadvntr

    akadvntr Frozen

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Thanks for writing! Hope to be in Death Valley in the next year.
    #17
  18. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, it was a great time and great to meet up with your family. Marleau says "woof!" :D Sorry for the delay, the 3 of us just got back yesterday from our second annual trip to Moab. Weather was just as "interesting" as at Death Valley, and we had an amazing time...

    They are great. I've never worn over-the-boot pants before, and for this kind of riding they seemed just the thing. It's nice having a couple pockets available to carry small items. They're just water-resistant enough to keep most of the water off when riding through light rain and puddles, and they have zippered vents along the legs (the Dakar pants are what I have) that do help make them comfortable over a wide range of temps. We rode in a range from 30 to 78°F just recently in Utah. Very well made. The only slight issue I have is they're a bit tight around the tops of my boots and occasionally snag so when I climb off the bike they're bunched up around my knees—but who cares about looking cool when you're OFF the bike :lol3

    Glad you (all!) read my report. It's a great place to ride, can't wait to get back there
    #18
  19. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

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    1,679
    Location:
    Oakland, CA
    OK, so how long do we hafta wait for that report? Get crackin', mister!

    You missed some wild hockey while you were gone :D




    WoodsChick
    #19
  20. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
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    2,132
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Just sitting down with a cup of Moab Coffee Company's Anaconda blend and downloading both camera's photos...I'll pick something and post it up here in a few minutes :evil

    Oh, and yeah, go Sharks!!! On the way out we listened to the radio broadcast until Fernley, NV (picked up a local am radio station that was carrying it). Otherwise, it was score by score text messages from my daughter and phone browser game recaps.
    #20