I had originally thought that the latter part of March would be a nice time to visit Nevada. I was wrong. I ended up spending too much time reading the weather forecasts and planning my trip around the forecasts. There were two snow storms that came through Nevada when I was at the Valley of Fire. After that I thought spring had sprung and I headed north. But snow, rain, and cold weather (low twenties) kept happening.
After staring at maps and checking weather forecasts, I decided my next location would be the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. High wind warnings, potential rain for the next couple days, and rather chilly temperatures all were in the forecast. I wanted to be nestled into the rocks of the Valley of Fire campground protected from the high winds, with power to run my electric heater since my trailer propane heater was on the fritz, and be on paved roads if it rained. The park would be a good place to hang out for a few days with the poor weather.
I had read that Death Valley was big. I knew Death Valley was big. I knew that it was over 5,000 feet between the valley floor and some view points. But until I saw it, it didn’t sink in. It is impressive. And I only saw a portion of Death Valley.
I happened to be in Death Valley during a hot period. Highs near 85 degrees. Too hot to leave the dogs behind or in the truck except for early in the morning. So most of my exploring was by driving. I thought of this as my introduction and recon trip to Death Valley; saving places to explore for the next trip. Here are a few things I saw.
I had heard about the ghost town of Rhyolite near Beatty. I stopped to explore on my way to Beatty to pick up material to fix my fender (see prior post). This is not a middle-of-nowhere place, but a nice place to explore and be reminded of how temporary, the man made portion of our life can be. The town started in 1905 and in 1920 the population was close to zero. I often compare these ghost towns to my prior Seattle home. It was built in 1900 and still provides shelter and warmth today.
Searching for the perfect camping spot, I drove on a road with my trailer that I shouldn’t have been on. As I usually do before my travels, I research where I can potentially camp before I leave. I had found a good camping spot that looked like it fit into the middle of nowhere category. I wouldn’t have to stay in the Death Valley National Park’s parking lot campground at Stovepipe Wells. But somehow in my research I missed the information that it was not a good road to travel with a trailer. I’m puzzled how I missed that critical information because I am typically very cautious. But I missed it.
I picked a warm sunny day to head up into the Panamint Range of Death Valley. This would be an easy day to see some of the top tourist sights. My first introduction to Death Valley. I headed up the Wildrose Canyon aiming to see the charcoal kilns. My first surprise was to see broad somewhat flat valleys on top. I had created in my mind an image of steep sharp valleys. That image was so very wrong.
In the early evening, a clanging noise from my metal trailer step startled the dogs and got them barking. Hum, I thought it must be the metal contracting as the air cooled. I looked outside into the dark and didn’t see anything. The next night about the same time I heard quiet metal noises on/off for a half an hour. Once again I looked outside and didn’t see anything. I kept looking outside. All I could think of, was that a RV had joined me at my camp site but I didn’t see them. I had found this camp site on the web so it wasn’t a secret place. Ghost campers? But when I took the dogs out for their 8:00 pm piss/poop walk there was no new campers at my spot. Hum. A mystery.
The next morning I found small scat left on my outdoor rug. Phil told me he had seen fox in the area. Perhaps fox scat? The metal noise could have come from my dog fence as the animal scurried around maybe investigation the dog smells.
It was time to explore some of the history of the area. I had done my research by searching the web and looked at aerials. I was ready I thought. My first stop would be Clair Camp up Pleasant Canyon by Ballarat. I stopped at Ballarat and confirmed with the friendly store proprietor that my truck could make it with no problem. I bought a cold drink to help “pay” for this information and left to go see Clair Camp.
I learned long ago that life doesn’t stop happening while traveling. Things break, dogs need to go to vets, and… tires need to be fixed. It is all part of the adventure. I try to laugh and go with the flow.
Back in the fall of 2020 I hatched a plan to head south the first of February in 2021. The plan was to get away from the Pacific Northwest cold and wet weather. I would drive south on I-5 to Bakersfield and then head eastward towards Death Valley and explore. Then covid hit California hard. Driving through California didn’t seem responsible with the ICUs full and I didn’t want to drive down the east side of the sierras pulling a trailer with the potential of icy roads. Surprisingly, California started recovering from covid in February. I made the decision to go south.
I started driving from Seattle and it took me five days to get to what I thought of as the beginning of the trip – Red Rock Canyon, California. This included an extra day waiting on the north side of the Siskiyous for the road conditions to improve. When I read the Oregon DOT site at 1:00 pm; it was 30 degrees at the pass, snowing hard, bumper to bumper traffic with a 60 minute delay. It was not a hard decision to check into the Valley of the Rogue Campground to wait the weather out. The next day was much better.
It was a long slog south, but I made it to Red Rock Canyon.