What a wonderful time of the year to hike Death Valley.
Our first day was a hike out to Sidewinder Canyon--this one is a lovely hike, starting south of Badwater at Mormon Point and heading up into the
Indian Pass Canyon--The next day, we were after more of an adventure. One of the hikes sometimes recommended as a backpacking destination, the hardest part of Indian Canyon is knowing where to start:
about 6.5 miles north of Furnace Creek...park there, and you just head up across the miles and miles (four, actually) of gravel wash before you enter the canyon. From there you can hike for more miles up past a dry waterfall, narrows, springs, and all sorts of nice places to see.
We didn't see anyone for two days. The first waterfall has an easy by-pass on the north side, and from there the canyon just gets better. The canyon has at least two tight narrows, but the walls are lower here, so they weren't so much slots as simply constrictions of the canyon. We were not impressed with the springs (wet sand at the bottom of a depression) but we loved the solitude, the
wildness, and the rock of Indian Pass. Take along lots of water...and remember that while it may seem flat, the hike in is certainly uphill, and we were sweating in the mid-80 degree heat in spring. In the summer, this would be an oven. The third day, on our way out, we found the going much easier (it was, after all downhill at this point) and we even found the gravel more interesting---with some wild Blister Beetle mating parties going on, and so many different kinds of flowers. This trip logged in at about seventeen miles round trip from the highway to Poison Springs and back. And it was worth it. Check out P's feet at the end of the hike---covered with pollen from three days in Death Valley.
Happily, at the end of this hike, we were able to find a campsite at Texas Springs, where life is slightly less austere... and for an extra two dollars a day, the campsites include a picnic table and fire ring.
Fall Canyon--On Day Four, we were looking for something a little less energetic, but still wanted some views.
Jayhawker Canyon--On Day Five, on our way out of the park, we decided to take a hike up Jayhawker Canyon. You won't find this one listed among the more popular hikes, but we would do this one again sometime. It starts right at the 3,000 elevation sign on the highway out of the park, above Wildrose Canyon. And while there is not supposed to be a trail, there is a clear trail here--marked with cairns, rows of rocks, and well-travelled paths. We couldn't help but think that maybe the Timbisha Shoshone had done this---it was a lot of work, and it's hard to imagine anyone else being motivated to do it.
After a quick stop to see the charcoal kilns at the top of Wildrose Canyon we drove out of the park just as a blustery storm blew it...and left the heat, sun and warmth of Death Valley to find snow at our cabin in the Sierra that night.