Sunday, March 4, 2018

Death Valley and Beyond, Part 2

As we continue with our Cali/Nevada explorations we find one of the more unusual features of Death Valley—sand dunes. The Oregon coast has a great expanse of sand dunes between North Bend and Florence. 
Anne with the team at Pistol River

I’m very familiar with these dunes because I used to train and run my sled dog team around and over those dunes, but the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in the north end of Death Valley seem very strange. Called tawny dunes which rise as high as 150 feet and located near Stovepipe Wells, these dunes are like a small Sahara in the valley. 

In the early morning it was easy to find tracks from the night before.

The sand is quartz and feldspar which have been broken down from larger pieces of the nearby Cottonwood mountains. Also in the northern part of the park and near the Mesquite Sand Dunes parking area is an area known as the Devil’s Cornfield. 

Here Arrowweed grows tall in the desert salt flats with the soil mounding around their base making them look even taller. Thus they resemble corn stalks from which only the Devil could harvest corn.
Before leaving the valley we visited a portion of a major jeep trail called the Titus Canyon Road. From the highway which runs from Stovepipe Wells to Beatty, NV, the one-way jeep trail covers 26 miles of badlands, desert, and canyon only accessible by Four Wheel Drive vehicles. 

The approach and road to Titus Canyon.

But from the Stovepipe Wells area there is a three mile two-way access road with parking at the canyon entrance. 

Found some lovely quartz in the canyon walls.

Anne and I walked a little less than a mile of the tightest canyon section, called The Narrows. The road, a wide walking path for us, winds through varied colored rock walls and formations with different scenes around every corner. 
Leaving Death Valley via the road to Beatty, 
Looking back toward the dunes and Stovepipe Wells.

Corkscrew Mountain on the way to Beatty.

we stopped as we have before at the ghost town of Rhyolite (one of several in or near the valley—Ballarat, Leadfield, Panamint City). Rhyolite is the largest and at its peak between 1905-1911 had over 10,000 population with two churches, 50 saloons, 18 stores, and 19 lodgings. 
The ghost town just seems to demand black and white photos.

Today, there are remains of a few commercial buildings, one hotel/saloon, a house made out of glass bottles, and a couple of derelict residences. We’ve visited several times and can see very small changes in the condition of buildings, but the desert will eventually claim it all. 
Besides Death Valley, during our Las Vegas stay we ventured out to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on our way to Valley of Fire State Park. The Lake Mead Recreation Area was created in 1964 as the first national recreation area and contains 1.5 million acres. 

Called “America’s first playground,” the Northshore Road gives very little access to the lake itself—I was expecting scenes like I see of Lake Powell in Arizona. What we got was a nice drive through badlands and red stone outcroppings on our way to the east entrance of the Valley of Fire.
Nevada’s first state park, Valley of Fire, is about an hour north of Las Vegas via freeway (or closer to two hours away via Northshore Road). Dedicated in 1935, the 46,000 acre park is in the greater Mojave Desert region. 

Named for the bright red Aztec Sandstone outcroppings, the park has been used often as a major movie location. Once used by the Ancient Pueblo People, known as the Anasazi, their Rock Art (petroglyphs) remains a major attraction. 

We saw some of the petroglyphs on this trip first behind The Cabins—three shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and used as shelters by travelers on the Arrowhead Trail which ran between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles via Las Vegas. Next we took the Mouse’s Tank Trail (aka Petroglyph Canyon), a trail named for a local outlaw who used the canyon as a hideout in the 1890s. 
Beginning of Petroglyph Canyon.

The 3/4 mile trail leads to “the tank”—a natural basin where water collects. The canyon is filled with native petroglyphs. Our final stop was at Atlatl Rock which is a rock monolith with numerous panels of native rock art--
Atlatl Rock

A panel of petroglyphs like this is often called an Indian newspaper.

—including those depicting the use of an atlatl, a notched stick that aids in throwing small spears or arrows. You can see atlatl throwers on the main panel, but all around the rock are numerous groupings of petroglyphs.
Anne at the picnic area at Atlatl Rock.

     After the 70-85º temperatures of Las Vegas, Death Valley, and Valley of Fire, it was quite a change to come home to even the tiny bit of snow we got in Canby. Oh well, back to reality.

NEXT: About my new book.