Friday, January 6, 2012

Holiday desert excursion, part 2, Pahrump into Death Valley

This post is the second part of a series. The first part is here.

I was pleased to walk out of the motel in Pahrump the next morning to discover the cold winds were gone, replaced by warm sunshine. My mood, which had been lowered a bit by the previous day's challenges, not to mention the casino ambiance, was instantly improved. I very eagerly finished loading my bike, and got back on the road. I opted to take the short way into Death Valley, straight west out of Pahrump toward Shoshone, CA.

I really can't emphasize enough that Death Valley is a valley, which implies that it's surrounded by higher terrain. The lowest point in Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level, but getting there, believe it or not, requires a lot of going uphill. Nonetheless, every time I surmounted a mountainous ridge and began descending, I assumed I was going into Death Valley. I would be proven wrong several times. This was the first:

I believe these were ancient cave dwellings, but since I was so excited (mistakenly) to be dropping down into Death Valley, I opted not to hike in and explore.

Finally, some confirmation!

The little town of Shoshone has a convenience store, gas pumps, a tavern, a cafe, a post office, and a few other conveniences. But, for the services they offer, there isn't much competition:

Any inference that these "next services" represent a substantial center of commerce would be mistaken.
OK, surely THIS means I can start going downhill into Death Valley!

Shortly after entering the park, I started looking for a dirt road where I could camp. The rule on backcountry camping in Death Valley is that one must camp at least 2 miles from a paved road (with some exceptions). I quickly found this dirt road, which is known by various names and is some 48 miles long.

I considered riding this road until its end, but it was made of big rocks and squirrelly sand, and wasn't easy to ride. My first night camping in the park was an estimated 2.0001 miles from the paved road:

Yes, I know I'm now in Death Valley National Park, but I still had to go over more mountains the next day to get to the valley itself. Stay tuned.

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