(Published on - 4/14/2018 6:45:14 PM)
by Jeff Ross
Thursday, after traveling 6 plus hours, we reach the point of no return, a right off the pavement, and onto a very narrow single lane sand and rocky road, then up that maybe two miles to a spot we could pull off. We are headed into the the Cottonwood/Marble Canyon area of Death Valley
This would be the start of our 27-mile Death Valley hike we have been talking about for years.
Stopping earlier at the Ranger Station, we found we would only had reliable water in two locations over the 5-day trip. We have planned contingencies in place, nothing will deter us.
Little known fact, Since I know you are wondering. There has not been a single death recorded in Death Valley from a Snake bite. With that off the table,
We are up early, Goal is on the trail at 8 and accomplished.
Jack and I had our traditional Dog Haus Sausage Breakfast Burro before leaving the vehicle, these are considered by most to be the best Breakfast Burro’s in town.
Today we wanted to get to Cottonwood Spring, one of two water sources according to the ranger, so we each carried 1 1/2 gal of water, or 12 ½ additional pounds to our pack.
A steady climb from 1200 feet to 3400 feet. The first 9-miles was easy hike, though we did discover water at the 9-mile point, which was not expected until the 12-mile point, will tell ranger when we get out in 5 days.
The next 3 plus miles was completely different, the route was not marked well, the Trail in a lot of areas was completely over grown or choked by down trees and limbs.
Weather was good until we hit the 9.5-mile mark and entered the canyon, then the clouds picked up and it felt like wind gust well over 50 mph, we were head right into them. Did not help that we were in a narrow canyon. What was supposed to be an easy hike turned out to be a lot more difficult, with the trail covered with fallen trees, branches, no trail at times. At one point we all huddled behind a huge cottonwood tree just to keep from getting blown over, but alas we had about mile to go.
Windblown we finally got out of the narrow canyon and more open space, with much lighter winds.
Along the way we saw a lot of wild horse or mule sign, but no actual animals.
Late afternoon and at camp, found the spring and camped some distance from, to help preserve the spring.
Tents up, camp set, no fires in the Death Valley area. Dinner tonight was my traditional 1st nights dinner. Nimarco's Pepperoni Pizza. The Pizza is heavier then all the other meals I carry, but early in the hike, am fresh and able??. The night before get the pizza, refrigerate and then wrap 4 individual pieces in foil, keep in the cooler until we start the hike and into the top of my pack, pretty hard to crush pizza and just a nice added touch for the first night
Out a little later this morning, was cold and windy out last night. Cold we can deal with, but gusty strong winds just chilled to the bone. This is Death Valley, and this was the last thing we planned for, but survived.
Today’s hike will be up a gentle climb to 5200 feet, over 5 miles, easy hike. no trail, so used the GPS as the guide. As we climbed to the pass, all seemed fine, to the pass and down into the ravine, and to the bottom of canyon.
At that point things just did not seem right?
The canyon was clogged with undergrowth, no one had been into the valley for a very long time. Had we taken the wrong turn into the valley? Or were we in the wrong valley all together. We were maybe 4 miles from where we thought we would come out after descending into the valley.
At this point, the concern was not as much, were we lost? Hard for that to happen if we are following the GPS loop that will take us to the start point, but the initial confusion was there.
Our main worry? was there something in the canyon in front of us we could not navigate. We pushed on, through dense brush, over huge rocks, up the sides of the canyon to bypass areas we could not hike through, then to our surprise we ran into a 15 ft pour over. Fortunately, Jack had some rope, we roped our packs over the edge and gentle scurried down. The rest of the canyon was uneventful and finally made it to the point we should have entered into Dead Horse Canyon.
In reality, my error. We were in the right canyon, but I had the route set to high up the canyon, so down the wrong ravine.
We ended up going were no Man or Women has gone before or dare go again. ??
But alas, things happen, we knew exactly where we were, and just had to hike some 4 miles extra.
We even got to see a Gray Fox scurry up a hill side, wanting nothing to do with us.
Finally, at camp, the day had been windy and cold and camp tonight will be no exception, we are in a canyon and the wind blew all night. We all got our tents up, but the area was wide open, no trees or shelter to keep our tents from being buffeted from the winds. We each fixed out dinners, mine was bean and beef burritos, with cheese, salsa, and crunched up Fritos. This may be the best outback meal i fix for this trip.
Dinner over by 6.30, with the cold and wind, we all headed to our tents. I always take my Kindle, one of the best Backpacking items you can take, light with plenty of reading.
Tomorrow will be a new day.
Last night Mother Nature showed us not to complain about to wind and cold. At 1:30 in the morning she threw some snow at us, fortunate just a little taste to show what she can do, even in Death Valley.
A lot later start today, cool at maybe 25 or so last night.
This morning I had one of my best breakfasts ever, compote freeze-dried strawberry’s, and my dehydrated pancakes. Even Deb and Jack had some and raved about, this may be in future meal plans.
Not in a rush this morning, heck only had to hike an hour or so our next Camp, Marble Canyon. Once there we found great camp spots with water only 10 minutes away. Once camp was set we decided to explore Marble Canyon and its 3 side canyons. There was supposed to be 3 springs up these canyons, only found one. Got brushed out in 1 canyon, and a pour over 20 feet high in another, another did not show much promise, but we had fun explore the canyons and after 7 or so miles we were back at camp by 4:30, so full day.
Getting water, fixing dinner, talking about our day, and planning tomorrow took the rest of the evening.
The night was peaceful until the it got nice and dark, then the friendly Great Horned Owl out there someplace starting to do its Hooting thing, and kept it up every 30 seconds or so, for hours it seemed, finally we drifted to sleep only to hear that same owl right before dawn.
‘the easily-recognizable hoot you're familiar with is usually a territorial call. Heard for miles around, hoots declare a claim to a particular territory and serves as a warning to other owls to stay away’
Yesterday we saw some hikers, today, not a single person in sight.
Tomorrow may be our last night in Death Valley.
Up early and on the trail, Great hike down narrow section of Marble Canyon, as the pictures show, very narrow and high, at one point a huge ‘choke block’ in the middle, necessitating a hike around. As you see, tried to move out of the way, but a tad to large.
Another Positive, another day without seeing anyone.
By midafternoon we were back at the car. The plan was to find a spot that we could spread out our sleeping bags and relax for our last night out.
Things went smooth with that plan for the most part, we found a place, we all set up our tents and fixed our dinners.
Deb normally will fix some steel cut oats, put them in water in her cooking pan, put a rock on top of and let soak all night, ready for her in the morning. Has worked for a lot of trips,
Well, things changed on this trip. We all woke up about 1:30 in the morning to Deb very loudly trying to shoo something away from her tent. She was shouting, pounding on rocks, throwing rocks, banging on things but to no avail.
Looking out, we see 3 very cute Desert Kit Fox’s, and they were enjoying Debs Oatmeal. Somehow, they got the rock off and had a great meal, all the while Deb doing her best to scare them off, which they had nothing to do with that. We got a good laugh at Debs Breakfast expense.
They were really cute though and Deb was throwing things at the Fox, REALLY?, it was just Oatmeal…
A great way to end our time in Death Valley, we hope to come back again.
Daring Deb, Jumping Jack Flash, Karyn, and I, Chef Jazzy Jeff hope to be out again.
Guess I should explain our trail names.
The Rules: you cannot give one to yourself, they need to have something to do with your hiking demeanor and must rhyme some.
Deb is fearless, Jack dresses well and bring tons of stuff, I make my own meals and they tend to be far better than the package meals, and Karyn, well she does not have one yet, this was her first hike with us. We will see if she comes back, or did we scare her off??