Thursday, December 18, 2014

Death Valley National Park, CA - Part 2, Furnace Creek area and Emigrant Canyon

Sunrise from our campsite in Furnace Creek, the most popular and central part of the park (and the only place in the park that has cell service). Palm trees on the valley floor, snow-capped mountains in the background. This ominous little cloud becomes an overcast day.
Dante's View

Close to the south of the park, Dante's View provides stunning vistas of Death Valley looking north towards Furnace Creek as pictured here and south towards the park boundary. From this height (5,475 feet), it is easy to see the salt flats of Badwater right below us (-282 feet), the lowest spot in North America, and the Panamint Mountains to the west. Today, the wind is blowing like mad making it cold and me wishing I had put my hair in a ponytail!
Echo Canyon and Inyo Mine

The 4x4 road up Echo Canyon takes us 10 miles east into the Funeral Mountains and the Inyo Mine, now mostly rubble. This structure looks like part of the conveyor system bringing the rock down the hillside to be crushed and processed. Some old buildings still stand, but others are in ruins.

One of the mine shafts which is actually angled downward. Many shafts are still here and to our surprise are not fenced or closed off; some even drop straight down, so we have to be very careful.

In the canyon, the Eye of the Needle is more visible on the trip back down to the valley.

The Eye of the Needle from the other (sunny) side looking up the canyon.
Emigrant Canyon Road to Aguereberry Point and the Charcoal Kilns

Another stunning view of the valley from Aguereberry Point in the Panamint range looking northeast. Yes, we're wearing coats now as it's barely above freezing, but thankfully not windy.

A view of the badlands just south of Furnace Creek, taken from Aguereberry Point looking due east. It is in these clay hills that we can hike Golden Canyon or drive Artist's Drive. The colours and folds are just amazing.

The Eureka Mine Camp along the road to Aguereberry Point. Pete Aguereberry (the point nearby is named for him) mined this area ALONE for 40 years, taking out roughly $175,000 in gold. He was not a wealthy man, but he managed to survive, happily I would assume, in this harsh environment.

The Charcoal Kilns near Wildrose Peak. Yes, lots of snow up here. The road was totally snow-covered for the last 1/2 mile. And it's cold - coats are on again. Wood was burned in these kilns to make charcoal and shipped to a nearby mine to use as fuel. You can still smell the burnt wood inside the ten kilns.

We have a stunning sky driving back from the kilns. You can see the snow in the higher peaks (highest in the park is about 11,000 feet), but the desert floor is barren and back at Furnace Creek (almost 200 feet below sea level) it's 60F (16C). It's all about elevation.
Mesquite Dunes

Mesquite Dunes near Stovepipe Wells in the park are not very high (about 100 feet), but are beautiful especially in the late afternoon sun with the backdrop of the Grapevine Mountains.
Desolation Canyon

Only a few miles south of Furnace Creek is a hike up Desolation Canyon. Here, the colourful badlands resemble Artist's Palette which is in the same area. The soft hues of green, pink, purple and gold stripe the clay-cemented mudstone hills.
And so ends our journey in California after two and a half months.  Fitting I suppose to end it in Death Valley!

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