Sunday, January 8, 2012

Further into Death Valley, mountains and coyotes and rocks

This is part 3 of my Death Valley tour journal. Scroll down to view previous segments.

After my first night camping in Death Valley National Park at roughly 2200 feet elevation (I found a USGS benchmark near my campsite to confirm the elevation), it was obvious that I would be going downhill to get into Death Valley itself, which is below sea level.
Much to my surprise, I spent my first hour or two that morning going uphill. I topped out at Salsbury Pass, elevation, 3315 ft. I compiled a little video mash-up of my descent (more or less) into Death Valley from Salsbury Pass. What the video doesn't show is that every time I would round a corner or get over a hill, thereby improving my view of the landscape, I was constantly grinning from ear to ear and exclaiming things like, "Wow! Wow! Holy shit! Wow!" The scenery was amazing, though it might look less impressive through the limited frame of reference of my iPhone video camera. I eventually turned off Hwy 178 in favor of exploring the gravel of West Side Road. There were signs at the beginning, warning off anybody who might be inadequately prepared to drive this road. Since I wasn't driving, but pedaling a bicycle, I figured I had nothing to worry about.
I spent the afternoon riding some 20 miles of West Side Road, and only saw one car - the driver seemed surprised to see me out there. Camping along West Side Road is prohibited, but there are a number of "roads" extending west into the Panamint Mountain range, where camping is permitted at least 2 miles from West Side Road. When the time came to make camp, Johnson Canyon Road was the only choice. I wasn't able to ride Johnson Canyon Road because it was extremely rough. It would have been ridable without my 100ish lbs of gear, but even then, it would have been a challenge. So I pushed. I made camp in one of the most torturous physical environments I've seen. The area around Johnson Canyon Road is almost entirely devoid of plantlife. Just rocks. I did see some lizards on one of the bigger rocks, but otherwise, I might as well have been on Mars. At night, I felt like the last man on Earth. Standing outside my tent staring up at millions of stars, only occasionally did I see headlights off in the distance along Hwy 178. Otherwise, I was quite likely the only human being withing 10 miles of that spot. The video I shot Christmas morning sums it up best.

The sunset shining on the Amargosa mountains, with the rest of the valley in the shadow of the Panamint mountains:


D.Hill said...

I'm really enjoying reading these. I was in Death Valley a couple of summers ago, but spent all my time in the Panamint mts. It snowed.

Looking forward to more episodes!

Wide Receiver said...

Jim, was that a dog, or what? I know there would be no reason for a dog to be out there, but thatis what it looked like to me.

I am enjoying your account and pictures. I have questions about how much water you had to carry and how many hous of riding and pushing.

Great job.

Fonk said...

Man, you really were in the middle of nowhere out there! You must have had to carry a ton of water with you.

Jim Thill said...

When I left Pahrump I had 16.5 L of water on board. I was down to about 4 L when I made it to Furnace Creek to refill.

Jim Thill said...

The "dog" was a coyote. I saw several in DVNP.

Anonymous said...

What a cool trip! I see from the other comments that most of what you were carrying was water. how much did your equipment weigh? At 8 pounds to the gallon of water, I guess minimally about 33 pounds, but what about food and equipment? Also, how did you charge your iPhone? What kind of tires on the troll?

Jim Thill said...

Estimate of bike plus water, initial food supply, and gear: perhaps 150 lbs. But that's just a guess. I weigh around 180 lbs, closer to 190 with clothes.

Tires were Schwalbe Marathon Extreme 26x2.25. No tire issues whatsoever. These tires are great.

I charged my iphone with a 11Ah Lithium Ion battery pack I found on Amazon for around $75. The 11Ah capacity is roughly 6-7 full charges of my iphone4. I had the iphone on "airplane mode" most of the time, to conserve battery life.

jim_h said...

I'm really enjoying this. From a nice safe distance of course.