Death Valley 2015, Titus Canyon and Racetrack

Posted on Posted in Truck Camping, Uncategorized

It was going to be my last full day in Death Valley National Park for this trip, and it was going to be a full one, so I got started at 5:30 and was on the road just after 6:00.  I spent the first half of the day driving and checking out Titus Canyon Road.  There are portions of the road that are barely one vehicle wide so the entire route, except the last two miles of the road is one way.  The road actually starts outside the park.  It was a clear crisp morning in the high 20’s with just a few low clouds thrown in.

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Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road

The road was in fairly good shape and I was the only one on it starting out.  It climbs up the back side of the Grapevine Mountains and crests at Red Pass before dropping down toward Death Valley.

Red Pass. I wonder how it got its name.
Red Pass. I wonder how it got its name.

Before too long you end up at the ghost town of Leadfield.  It has to be one of the shortest lived towns around.  After little more than a year, including city blocks being laid out and a post office established, boom turned to bust and the town folded.

Leadfield
Leadfield
Leadfield
Leadfield

There are still a few building left standing, along with scattered remnants left behind and of course, tailing piles and a couple of sealed off adits.

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Dugout Shelter, Leadfield
Dugout Shelter, Leadfield

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After a walk around Leadfield I started down into Titus Canyon.  Before long you are deep in the canyon although it is still pretty wide toward the top.

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A ways down the canyon I came to the only fresh surface water I encountered while in the park, Klare Spring.  It runs a few hundred yards before soaking into the ground and is lush with vegetation.

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The natives apparently spent some time at the spring in years past, evidenced by the extensive petroglyphs on a rock above the spring.

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Rain
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Wall of Drawings
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Sun
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Bighorn

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I had the canyon to myself to this point, but it was getting late in the morning and I was moving slow so the rental jeeps started to catch up with me.  A lot of them passed me on the Racetrack Road later on too.  I’m not sure if it was because they were rentals, or jeeps, but I have my suspicions.  Shortly thereafter I was even passed by a bike, so I guess I was moving a bit slow taking in the sights.

After the spring the canyon starts to narrow more.

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There are plenty of interesting rocks and layers to marvel at.

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Approaching the mouth of the canyon it really narrows down, but is still wide enough to pass a vehicle.

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Titus was a great morning jaunt, and before I knew it, I ran out of canyon and was back in Death Valley.

Titus Canyon opens to Death Valley
Titus Canyon opens to Death Valley

The day was not quite half over, onwards to another adventure.  I was headed to the racetrack playa, but stopped along the way at Ubehebe Crater.  Ubehebe is a fairly recent blast crater, only about 2,000 years old, and at about a half mile in diameter it is an impressive crater.

Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater
Erosion, Ubehebe Crater
Erosion, Ubehebe Crater
View from Ubehebe
View from Ubehebe

From there is was about 27 washboarded miles to the Racetrack.  Just when your patience for bumps starts wearing thin the road gets rougher by an order of magnitude, but by then the playa is in sight so you just gut it out and keep going.  You do gain enough elevation on the way that you get into some nice Joshua trees, which make for an interesting sight.

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You are getting there once you get to Teakettle Junction.  As I understand it, the junction was marked for several years with just a teakettle.  Now it appears to be a tradition to drop one off as you drive by.  Many that were hanging there had recent dates on them, so I wonder if the Park Service has a storage building with years and years of kettles.  Somebody definitely reduces their population.

Teakettle Junction
Teakettle Junction
Teakettle Junction
Teakettle Junction

The camper was still attached to the truck when I arrived at the Racetrack, I had my doubts.  The Racetrack was just a place I had to see for myself.  I’d seen the pictures of the moving rocks, but seeing is believing.  It has only been recently that the ‘mystery’ of their movement was solved. How rocks at the Racetrack move

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It was quite surreal to see the tracks the moving rocks have left across the playa.  By the time I was done walking and checking out the rocks the sun had gone behind the mountains.  Time to find a camp.  I had originally thought I’d stay at Homestake, just up the road, but I couldn’t take one more inch of the Racetrack Road, and didn’t want to risk the chance of having to camp within site of another camper, so I changed plans.  It was back to Teakettle Junction and then up through the Lost Burro gap.  It gets dark quick, but I found a place I could pull off and set up camp.  Nearly every place off the road not occupied by a plant is desert pavement.  It provided a great place to park for the night.

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I thought the last nights camp had an awesome sunset, but I think this one topped it.  As far as I knew, I had the entire Hidden Valley to myself for the night.  Not a sound, except for the hooting owls in the distance.

Sunset, Sierras, from Hidden Valley
Sunset, Sierras, from Hidden Valley

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I was running out of time, but I made it to all the main locations I had hoped to in my limited time.  I barely scratched the surface of Death Valley National Park, but this made for a good orientation trip to get a feel for the place.  Hopefully I can make it back sooner rather than later.

Moonrise
Moonrise
Sunrise, Hidden Valley
Sunrise, Hidden Valley Camp

Time was up, time for a drive through the basin and range country of Nevada en route to Christmas celebrations.  But first a few lonely stretches of highway punctuated by a climb over the next range.

Basin and Range, Nevada
Basin and Range, Nevada

 

 

 

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