Death Valley Riding Condition

Discussion in 'West – California, the desert southwest and whatev' started by 2on2off, Dec 18, 2009.

  1. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    I have never ridden the dirt roads from Beatty to highway 267 and I think, but am not sure, there are two dirt roads that run parallel to each other.

    We rode to Rhyolite and then followed the dirt road west and then north. My Garmin GPS software does not show any road going all the way through but the Tom Harrison Map does.

    We rode through a cattle gate heading N/E and decided to turn left and ride the fence line dirt road instead of staying on the road that appeared to head N/E. Not sure this was the best idea because we wound up on a dirt road that turned into 20 miles of whoops but it did go all the through to highway 267. After riding N/W for a few miles, we came to the end of the fence where the fence made a left turn. Where the fence line road made a sharp left hand turn and followed the fence, we decided to cross country it for about 100 yards as we could see a road on the GPS and we connected to it. This is where the road turned to whoops for 20 miles.
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    As we approached highway 267, I noticed what appeared to be a well graded dirt road to the east of the road we had been riding. The next time I am in this area, I plan to ride this section the opposite direction and connect with this road and see if it is better and also see where it comes out.

    We checked out the old mining equipment which is just off the road where the dirt and paved roads meet:
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    Heading west, right where 267 crossed into Death Valley heading west, there is a road closed sign. No word from the park service when it will be reopened.

    There is also a "road closed" sign on 267 at Scotty's Castle heading east.
  2. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    The dirt road, Big Pine/Death Valley Rd, just to the east of Ubehebe Crater has a "road closed" sign on it meaning that road is closed from Ubehebe Crater to Eureka Dunes. No word when it will reopen.

    The road from Ubehebe Crater to the Race Track is worse than it was in May but is ridable on a dual sport or adventure bike.

    Lippincott Mine Rd from the Race Track to Saline Valley Road is more torn up than last May and riding an Adventure Bike requires someone with very good skills. It is easier to ride down this road than to ride up it because of how loose the surface is. Don't ride it alone especially on an adventure bike.

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  3. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    North Pass is in pretty good shape but you have to pay attention to every dip in the road. Some dips are fine, some have shallow washouts and others have deep washouts. Some of these you can't see until you are right on top of it so slow down and take you time when riding on North Pass.

    Conditions of this road change with every rain storm based on how much rain comes down all at once. North Pass is easily done on an adventure bike.

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  4. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    Just a few miles west of where North Pass intersects with Death Valley/Waucoba Road, you can take Hines dirt road and connect to Papoose Flat of Squaw Flat dirt road and 4x4 trail. The Squaw Flat road and Papoose road offer great views and will take you up over 9,000 ft. so you have to ride this trail either before or after the snow gets deep in this area.

    This is a great dual sport trail and some of the difficult sections will require advanced skills if on an adventure bike. I rode this for the first time last spring and it is now one of my favorite trails.

    Papoose eventually connects with Mazourka Canyon Rd, which is a very well graded dirt road. It will take you to Independence and highway 395.

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    Once on 395, we headed for Lone Pine to gas up and then road to PSR for the night and some great pizza. Total miles for day 3 was about 230 miles.
  5. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    I turns out that a few of the workers at PSR live in Darwin and told us some interesting things about living so close to the military base.

    We rode to Darwin on day 4 of our trip from PSR on the Old Toll Road. This road was also affected by the flash flood in August and 700 feet of water pipe to PSR was destroyed. They had it all back together by the time we stayed there.

    Old Toll Road will be a challenge on an adventure bike especially riding west. It was even a challenge on our dual sports but slow and steady was the theme and by now, we had ridden so many miles of rocks that it was beginning to seem normal. We all set our suspensions to the softest settings.

    Darwin is worth checking out and there is a paved road into town from highway 190 if you don't want to ride in on dirt.

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    We rode south on a dirt road out of Darwin until we reached the military base border. Nothing much to see there.

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    Then we rode south/east on Ophir road and went to the China Garden.
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    Other than the rocks and washout conditons, Ophir and Old Toll Road have some great views.
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  6. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    The caretaker at Ballarat told us that when that storm hit in August, there was three inches of water running through Ballarat into the lake bed. The lake filled up to the point that the road that crosses the lake bed was under 3 feet of water. Indian Ranch Road was also flooded so he couldn't get out for over three days until the water went down. He said that storm wiped out Goler Wash and made it completely impassable. He also said road crews had been working on Goler Wash all week to get it back into shape but he didn't know when they would be done.

    We rode from Ballarat up Pleasant Canyon Road. It wasn't too bad and we made good time. It was rougher at the bottom than at the top.
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    Riding up to Roger's Pass has the usual ruts near the summit but not much worse than usual. We stayed on the trails to the left which took us up to some of the highest points in this area where the views are amazing. These pictures don't come close to capturing the feeling you get when at the top.
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    Coming down the steep section of trail to Butte Overlook, was much more difficult this year than last spring. The rain washed out so much of the dirt, all that was left was slippery, shale rocks and deep ruts. I bull dogged by bike down most of this because it only take one little mistake and you are on your head. I was exhausted when I got to the bottom.
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  7. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    This loop has three sections and is less than 40 miles long.
    1. Pleasant Canyon to Rogers Pass to Butte Overlook
    2. Middle Park
    3. South Park

    Middle Park is by far the easiest section and is a high altitude valley.
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    South Park has Chicken Rock and Chicken Bridge, Briggs Cabin and a steep rocky canyon to the bottom.

    If you can ride an adventure bike on this loop, you are a pro level rider as far as I am concerned. Even someone on a light weight dual sport bike should be an experienced rider. This loop is not for beginners. Again, in my opinion, it is always better to ride with someone else in case something unexpected happens.
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  8. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    South Park Briggs cabins is the highlight of this section. The cabins are very well maintained with an out door patio and running water.
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    Riding down the canyon wasn't too bad but it was the worst as far as rocks and washouts near the bottom.

    Once back in Ballarat, we loaded up the bikes and headed home. Next trip I want to check out:
    1. The Escape Route
    2. Goler Wash, Mengel Pass and Echo Pass

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  9. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    I see you are on an XRL that looks set up for DV. You have the right bike so if you have the skills, you should be good to go.

    If you haven't already done it, I would drop one tooth on the counter sprocket or gear down some other way.

    I rode my XRL in DV and had a blast but it didn't like riding on ice on the north slope of south pass.
  10. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    What you said is true but you have the right bike if you have the skills. It helps a bunch if you have one or two riding buddies to tag along.
  11. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    We spent two nights in PSR and one night in Beatty. PSR is a good place to stage from.

    There are trees in pockets. Swansea Road going up to the Salt Trams has some trees you ride through. There are also some trees going up Pleasant Canyon near the top. North Pass has some trees and so does Hunter Mtn. There are trees on the north slope going north from Cerro Gordo.

    The trees are at a variety of altitudes and there are not many in Death Valley. No trees in Darwin other than a few people have planted.

    Yes you have to plan your gas very carefully. With my new 5.3 gallon fuel tank, I can ride just about any loop I want in DV. I love it.
  12. KTM Freak

    KTM Freak MILF supporter

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    Great write up! I look forward to going back to DV soon.
  13. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    We were impressed with the condition of the dirt roads in Esmerelda County, NV riding from Crank Shaft Crossing to Gold Point and the Castle.

    It looks like Nevada is taking care of their dirt roads and it makes me want to do more exploring between Gold Point, Tonapah and Bodie. Nevada is calling me............

    I'm not sure when Inyo County or Death Valley Park will do any road repairs because of budget cuts so Nevada dirt is looking good. I think it is private parties who are working on Goler Wash to keep it open. I think it is the Meyer family who still has a cabin near mengel pass.

    Walt, at Gold Point, told us Esmerelda County has made a deliberate effort to keep the dirt roads in good shape so they can keep them. He said the BLM did not want the county to maintain them so the BLM could take them over at some point. Esmerelda County doesn't want anything to do with that according to Walt.
  14. cbig

    cbig Rift- Raft, SCooter Trash

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    Looks real interesting. Not Pleasant Valley? Been thru Mengel/Golar, Lippencott, Echo and Titus areas. Seen a lot but not enough! Going in November hoping to stage out of PSR and/or Furnace. Nice shots.
  15. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    This is outside of DV Park, doesn't show up on the Tom Harrison DV Map and is at the N/W tip of DV.

    My route parallels highway 395 with Big Pine to the North and Independence to the south and is about 10 miles east of 395.

    You ride the the mountain tops on the west slope and can see down onto highway 395. You have great views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain 14,000 ft peaks that had snow on them last weekend. This trail goes over 9,000 ft.

    These trails show up on my Garmin Mapsource Software and I programmed in the route to my Garmin Zumo. This trail is a blast to ride.
  16. cbig

    cbig Rift- Raft, SCooter Trash

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    Will check that out. I was recently given a map by Mammoth rangers extending to that area I recently laminated.

    Out of curiosity, how do you compare the new pumpkin to the xr400 and xr600 you used to ride for this kind of work? Comfort wise? Power I am sure is there and reliability is too soon. I've got a xr600 and a xr400 to bring out there. Recommendations? We got a guy in our group with pumpkin envy..
  17. rider914

    rider914 Agnostic Adventurer

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    Great writeup Jim :thumb

    Keeping my fingers crossed for good weather around Thanksgiving or New Years when I hope to have some time available to spend out there.

    -M
  18. zeegman

    zeegman Been here awhile

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    Very good ride report.

    Thanks for taking the time with the details on road conditions.

    Planning to be in DV in early Nov with a 530EXCR.

    Thanks,

    Mike Z
  19. 2on2off

    2on2off Head'n somewhere new

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    I would take the XR400 assuming it is street legal because a lighter more flickable bike is more fun in DV.

    I liked my XR400 but didn't use it for dual sporting. I liked my XR650L better than my XR650R because it actually handled better for me and was more mellow. All three were comfortable to ride. The DRZ400S and my new KTM 500EXC are both great bikes and yet very different. The main difference between the two bikes is weight, suspension and power. The KTM is about 50 lbs lighter, has better suspension and more power. The KTM is much better in the whoop and can climb any hill you are skilled enough to climb but that doesn't make the DRZ an inferior bike, it is just a different bike.

    I mainly got the KTM last year for my son because he does much better on a lighter bike but the DRZ is also very good. Both bikes are my favorite dual sport bikes to date. The recent 4 day DV ride was my first true dual sport test on the KTM and it did great. The DRZ is softer in the rocks but the KTM is better in the whoops we wound up riding between Bearry and highway 267.

    Reliability of the KTM, so far, is very good. There are many very good dual sport bikes out there and I would tend to rate the bikes more on their weight than anything else when riding in Death Valley. My buddy rode a very old dual sported XR600 and did great on our ride but it is a relatively light bike. A KLR650 fully loaded would be a handful in DV right now but we saw a guy riding one in Nevada at Gold Point. Had he tried to ride Steele Pass, he might not have made it through.

    I put a Corbin seat on my XR650L, WR450F, DRZ400s and just had a Corbin made for my KTM 500EXC. I like my seats 10" wide and can ride on them all day without any discomfort. The Corbin seats work great for me.

    I set up all my dual sport bikes in the following way so they can be dropped without damage which keeps me from getting stranded 50 miles from nowhere:

    1. Radiator Guards
    2. Aluminum Hand Guards. Protects levers and perches from getting broken
    3. Aluminum Desert Skid Plate
    4. Wheel Rim Locks, MSR Ultra HD Tubes, Dunlop 606 tires. I have never had a flat with this set up, knock on wood
    5. I used to use a 4 gallon fuel tank but now use an Acerbis 5.3 gallon tank that I love. It isn't too bulky and gives me great fuel range.
    5. Garmin Zumo GPS. I plan my routes with Mapsource and then download it to the Zumo and that works great on the trail.
    6. Promoto Billet Rear Rack
    7. I used to use Dirt Bagz Panniers but now use a Giant Loop Coyote pannier.

    So far the reliability of the fuel injected KTM 500EXC has been great. I hardly used any oil on this 4 day ride to DV. The Corbin seat is giving me the usual comfort I have experienced on all the other Corbin seats I have used.

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  20. cbig

    cbig Rift- Raft, SCooter Trash

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    Last times I did Death Valley were with a DRZ (2007) and a TE610 (2009) After that I switched format and bought a TE510. Never got to DV with it but plenty of Utah, Borrego, Randsburg. Light bikes definitely rule off road. Had some overheat issues and others, decided to go old school. I've had more fun riding these old school xr's. The xr250r being really competent at rock climbs and probably most fun, and the xr600 great at gobbling up miles, hill climbs. Have a xr400 I haven't put many miles on yet but felt DV was prime 400,600 area so I'd have a backup. (That 400 is just about as heavy as the 600 but has estart) I've had much of the xr600 apart and am reasonably secure about it mechanically and electrically. The xr400 is a bit unknown, and the xr250r I bought in as new condition - almost looked like it came out of a crate, but fear the sand will drag it down. Our pumpkin guy rides a 530exc, very nice bike. Very lite, maneuverable. Only holds 600 ml of engine oil tho and he does carry a bottle of coolant just in case. Those bikes have come a long way.

    The longest loop we are looking to do will be from I think PSR up thru Steel Pass and down thru Furnace or Stovepipe for fuel. I think it's about 210 miles? Maybe I will look at it again and see how many to complete the loop going down Lippencott instead of the road rip. Too bad no fuel at Scotty's - would solve a lot of issues! We're going to bring RV's to PSR or Furnace and stage.

    Your photos are great.

    Thanks,

    Chuck