The next morning, Michele – safe and sound in our beddy-bye with a wind break, just in case the wind comes up – slept in.
After a leisurely breakfast, we went for a walk. With the winter rains, the desert is alive: everything is happy and growing. We are used to flowers blooming at certain places, but what is really happening, all over the desert, is that certain flowers, at certain times, are growing and booming at certain elevations. At the elevation we were camped, lots of Eriogonum inflatums are growing. It is not one of my favorite plants but it is definetly one of my favorite plant names. Inflatum because its little stems are hollow and look like they have been inflated.
After our walk, we reversed our trip into the mountains by going down the alluvial fan on the other side, taking us into the Panamint Valley. Across the dried lake bed, we could see an active mine and, a couple of miles to the right, the alluvial fan we would be going up to get into the Panamint Mountains. From camp, last night, we could see the lights of a mine across the valley below us, but as we drove down the fan, we began to get an idea of its size. Double click on the second picture to get an idea of how big the mine is.
According to the Briggs Mine
information – prospectus? – they pulled 550,000 ounces of gold out of
this mine. At an average of $400 per ounce – maybe a number that is
high, but considerably under what gold is selling for now – that is
$220,000,000. It starts to make sense that they are moving all that dirt
As we drove along the west side of the salt pan of the lower Panamint Valley, our plan was to skirt the pan at the southern end, go up the fan into Coyote Canyon / Goler Wash, and then follow it up over Mengel Pass to Stripped Butte Valley. We soon ran into trouble.
A steep, rocky section of the road, like this, is called a waterfall – usually it is dry, but, in this case, it was wet and slippery – and calls for a little coordination with the spotter telling the driver where to put the truck wheels. In our case, after trying the slippery part, I directed Michele to try a different angle and directed her too close to the edge. The road gave way and we were stuck: lodged off the side of the road on top of a big rock jammed under the front suspension and the rear wheel trying to slip even further off the road. Our concern was, that if we slipped too much, we would roll onto our side.
About two or three miles back down the road, we had seen some people camped; so I decided to walk down there for help. Fortunately, I ran into a couple of guys on their way up the canyon, in a nice Chevy 4 x 4, to try their luck, and, after going down to the other encampment to ask for help, the five of us – literally four men and a boy – headed back to the fiasco site.
As an aside; the driver of the Chevy was a Predator pilot, stationed near Las Vegas. According to the company brochure, the “Predator is a long-endurance, medium-altitude unmanned aircraft system
for surveillance and reconnaissance.” However, Predator is also armed with Hellfire missiles, so our new friend, here on for a weekend adventure, spends his work days – in a an air-conditioned building near Las Vegas – killing unsuspecting terrorists in Afghanistan. These terrorists are not really terrorists, they are unsophisticated, dirt poor, tribesmen, many with poor weapons and bad eyesight, that pride themselves on their manly warrioriness; and killing them – as Michele said – from a place near Vegas just seems wrong. But, he was helping us, so, not that wrong. End aside.
Unfortunately, none of us had a tow rope. Mine is in my garage – I know, worthless place to keep it – and the pilot’s was in his garage in Florida. After some general milling around to get the rock unjammed, another guy, in a Jeep Wrangler, showed up – and he did have a tow line. I am amazed at how easily the Jeep, with it’s big honker tires, was able to drive up and down the waterfall. We attached the line and he pulled us out -driving backwards – and then just continued to pull us up the waterfall.
After we got pulled up the waterfall and everybody left, Michele and I started back up Goler. I have been lots of places that were too steep or too wet and steep to get up, but this was the first time everything had turned to shit so fast. We were both rattled. We found it hard to be sure which road we should be on, let alone enjoy all the flowers and cactus.
After we missed a turn, to calm our nerves, we took a late lunch break under some cottonwoods on a short side road to the house where Charles Manson and his posse held up years ago. Now your first thought might be You are going to Charles Manson’s former house to calm your nerves? Actually, we thought we were on a different side road, but what ever bad Karma was left on the road when Mason left, was burned off by the last 25 years, or so, of sunshine and we left in a better mood than we arrived.
It still took us a while to get
over the pass including some wrong turns so we were very happy to look back and see the end of Golar Wash.
But, looking the other way, we had a long way to go including a short stretch where Howard and I had trouble a couple of years earlier. Then Howard did most of the work and, now, I would have to do most of the work. But, again, the short stretch turned out to be pretty easy going down hill and we soon got to the Geologist’s cabin. The Geologist’s cabin is double clickable.
There sometimes comes a time
when driving on rough roads is no longer fun, you just want to get
there, where ever there is, and that time had definitely come. Saying goodbye to Stripped Butte Valley, we picked our way up the road as fast as
we could, watching the sun get low.
After we left Stripped Butte Valley, we went down a very long Warm Springs Canyon and then down a huge alluvial fan into Death Valley. We were just in time to set up camp with a spectacular view (double clickable). After dinner, we sat by the fire feeling much better about the day.
To be finished here