Winter in the Desert

posted Feb 14, 2019, 9:32 PM by Paul Wagner
We often try to fit in a trip to the desert this time of year, and now that we're retired, it seemed like a good idea.  We hopped in Le Vin Blanc and headed South, stopping to stay once again at Red Rock State Park for the first night.  It was beautiful, as always, and pretty damn cold--25 Degrees F.  Froze the water in our five gallon jerry can, and frosted the windows quite effectively the next morning! 

From there we wandered around Ridgecrest for most of the day, poking into Randsburg and Red Mountain, the Maturango Museum, the BLM office, and Fossils Falls to do a bit of hiking.  All fun.  And we were invited to a rather posh dinner that night in Ridgecrest, with Champagne, cassoulet, 1977 Cab in a six liter bottle, 1937 Port...and great conversation as well.  That was a night to remember.  



The next day we had a reservation at Furnace Creek campground, and went there via Ballarat, Wildrose, Emigrant, and more.  Some of those roads were not open the last time we tried them, and that led to some adventures.  This time it was a more sedate journey.  The weather in Death Valley was wild. The following day there were up to 50 mph winds, with guests to 70 mph. and that kept us hiking in Titus Canyon to escape the worst of it.  And that was followed by rain.  Yep, we got rained on in Death Valley! It was more of a sprinkle where we were, but we could see heavier rains in the mountains, and we imagine there were a few canyons that got flushed as a result.  And the clouds at sunset were spectacular. 




A good weather day followed that, and we explored the Southern end of the park, hiking into Ashford Mine Canyon--a great hike with stunning mosaics and nice old mining sites.  But just as we were settling in for more hiking, the weather turned even worse, and predictions were for steady rains the following day.  Nuts. 








We headed south via Greenwater Canyon Road, stopping to see the newly refurbished Zabriskie Point and the sights from Dante's View, neither of which disappointed.  From there it was about 30 miles of washboard down to Shoshone, and Tecopa Springs (gravel parking lots surrounded a few hot springs) and a really fun visit to China Ranch Date Farm, complete with a really nice hike along the Amargosa River and a date shake, to boot.  




But we were struggling with the weather.  We had hoped to do some dispersed camping off some of the dirt roads in the park or the surrounding BLM land, but with rain seriously in the forecast, we were hesitant about getting trapped in a muddy mess, or behind a flooding gully.  So we drove around a bit, and finally ended up staying at the Hotel California in Nipton.,  What a wild and wonderful place that is!  Highly recommended for both style and comfort.  And $65 a night for the two of us including a light breakfast.  






We spent the next morning trying to found our way around the Mojave Preserve, getting rained on, and deciding after lunch that we had had enough.  In Barstow we were 6 1/2 hours from home, and it was just after lunch. 

the last half of the drive was through the first big showers of the next storm, and we got home just in time to enjoy a soft bed.  And we have a ton of things we learned on this trip and want to explore the next time we're down that way---hopefully with slightly better weather!

The rest of the photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZpvtoeEaV2hqQKfE7
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