April 7-13, 2002: Death Valley National Park
One of many trip reports by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: April 15, 2008
This report consists of a couple of saved, edited emails I sent...
From: Alan Silverstein <email@example.com>
Date: 15 Apr 2002 18:36:22 -0600
Subject: Death Valley NP report
...There's a lot more to the rest of the story of course, but in brief
overview the actual order of events was:
I flew into Las Vegas on Sunday, April 7. After waiting about an
hour and a half in hot sun, I obtained a Suzuki XL7 SUV instead of a
compact car when Dollar was out of compacts. We made good use of it.
I met Jenny Pruett and Greg Carr in the moonless dark at 8:45 pm at
Texas Spring campground near Furnace Creek.
Monday: The Badwater hike (see below), about 9:15 - 11:00 out,
12:00 - 1:15 back, and a family from LA with two little kids tagged
along with us! Also lots of scenery stops like Devils Golf
Course, Mars Hill, and Artists Drive. We swam at
Furnace Creek, watched sunset at Salt Creek, and camped at
Stovepipe Wells (SPW; bad gnats this time).
Tuesday/Wednesday: I started up Tucki Mountain from Mosaic
Canyon at 7:15 am (see below). I kept in touch with J+G by ham
radio while they toured and hiked, until I was down at 2:22 pm the next
day. I met them back at a rented room at the SPW motel. Later we went
to Aguereberry Point for sunset, and laid in the sand dunes near
SPW under the stars.
Thursday: We piled into the SUV to visit Teakettle Junction, Ubehebe
Lead Mine, the Grandstand, Racetrack Playa, Lippincott Lead Mine,
the Lippincott 4WD road, the Saline Valley road, the hot springs
(which are incredible but don't tell anyone, it's a secret), and drove
all the way back; out about 10:45 am to 00:05.
Friday: J+G headed home, and I climbed Tucki the back way, by
the "Telephone Pole" 4WD road, 1:15 pm - 6:06 round trip, and later
camped at Texas Spring again.
Saturday: Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, and back to Las Vegas for
my flight home.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Alan Silverstein)
Date: 16 Apr 2002 00:24:03 GMT
Subject: Death Valley NP report
More tidbits from last week there:
Low point on the salt flats (-282', 361431N 1164932W WGS84),
shown on the Badwater 7.5 minute topo, is 3.3 miles out from
Badwater. This time, the second time, I took a GPS so I could
confirm my location. But there's really nothing special out there, no
markers or obvious relief seen. It's cool to know you're at the lowest
point in the western hemisphere, but the scenery looks the same 20
minutes out from Badwater.
Distance from the low point to the West Side Road is about the same...
If I hike to the low point again, I'll go from Tule Spring on WSR next
Tucki Mountain, 6726', south of Stovepipe Wells (at sea level) is
an amazingly massive and tedious hill. The trail up and out from the
920'+ trailhead past the large dry fall in Mosaic Canyon (about
two miles in, look back on river right) leads to a higher part of the
same drainage, thence up a ways to a fork, thence no further signs of
trails or cairns (although I saw a few much higher). The ridge to the
right at this fork leads up to steep but straightforward access of the
west ridge of the Mosaic Canyon bowl.
After 10+ hours and 5000' with a full backpack, including 20 pounds of
water, I was spent, so I overnighted at the 5920'+ high point at the
head of the canyon (last 400' steep and tough), with a tremendous view
especially down to the north to Stovepipe Wells and beyond.
There was still 2.1 miles direct and ~1200' more gain to the true
The next day I spent nearly 7 hours descending the west ridge to the
Mosaic trailhead, taking great care to read the map and stay on or near
the correct ridge as drainages appeared -- there is only one way
Tucki is almost all limestone/marble, in dozens of colors and patterns,
Tucki Mountain's easier route is an unnamed 4WD road that takes
off at about 2600' on the Wildrose road, when it enters a canyon
itself. Look for an unmarked turn left across the wash, then downhill a
mile or so before heading up the unnamed canyon into which Telephone
Canyon drains. Good high-clearance road, under an hour to go 9.5
miles to a fork, and a left here takes you another 1.9 miles over a
ridge (very steep up and down) to the closest departure point at
Tucki is still a long hike from here, with difficult
route-finding on ridges and/or lots of sidehilling and/or drops into
drainages (upper Tucki Wash). It took me 1:52 up for "only"
1300' gain. Nice view from the top, and seldom visited.
Around Tucki's summit there is a lot of mineralized white quartz, sort
of anomalous mixed in with the limestone.
Racetrack Road is in better shape than it was 5 years ago, pretty
easy going. The Racetrack had fewer rocks on it this time, and many of
the tracks were southbound toward the source cliff (north winds?) Also
lots of "fossil" footprints in the playa that weren't there 5 years ago.
Walking from the Grandstand to the south end (while friends
commuted in the vehicle) was 2.13 miles direct (GPS), took 0:50, and was
interesting, including a serpentine swale of darker dirt in the playa
with some vegetation (mostly tumbleweed).
Lippincott road (about 7 miles from south of Racetrack to Saline
Valley road) was serious 4WD but passable. It took us about 1.5 hours
in a rented Suzuki SUV. As the sign at the top says, don't try it
unless you have 4WD experience. Some spectacular views.
Saline Valley Road is remarkably rough from the Lippincott
junction north to the warm springs turnoff; better south of the
junction. Road grading equipment was parked along it but had done
nothing useful (grin).
From the lower springs back to Stovepipe Wells was 37 miles GPS direct,
98 miles odometer, and via the south pass with minimum stops, it took
3:05! This is an amazingly remote area, except for the China Lake jets
that thunder by occasionally.
Mars Hill still has no marker sign, probably never will, but it's
at the right spot on the AAA map now, across from the Artist Drive exit
and worth a short walk to the top to admire. Imagine orange sand
instead of brown, and it's like a Viking Lander photo.
Camping at Texas Spring or Stovepipe is now $10/site/night. Upper TS
(loop B) was closed (plumbing problems?)
A number of other places I revisited really hadn't changed much, which
is something I really like about Death Valley! (grin)