Posts Tagged ‘dunes’

Death Valley

28th February 2011 by Helen
Outside the general store in Shoshone

Outside the general store in Shoshone

Having ‘camped’ just outside Shoshone last night we went into town to fill up with fuel before heading out into Death Valley (25th).  The town sign says the population is 100 – the woman serving in the garage said they might have reached that many by now!!  She happily told us that the town is owned by Susan Brown, granddaughter of Senator George Brown.  Although the town has its own museum there are also artefacts everywhere else – an old range in the garage, a couple of cupboards, old fireside tools, etc.  Even the post office had artefacts on display.  Probably the work of Susan Brown who apparently also takes the trouble to make sure the shops stock interesting and varied souvenirs, and none of them were tacky.

ruins at Ashford Mill

ruins at Ashford Mill

Once inside Death Valley we visited the remains of the old Ashford Mill.  Death Valley has several disused mines.  Although gold and silver were mined here, so too were a number of other minerals, including Borax and Bakelite.  The first mine we explored was the Queen of Sheba mine, where an old bunkhouse and shower block are still standing.  Some of the buildings have collapsed but much of the machinery is still recognisable and we followed the lines of pipes and machines, working out how the old mine had worked.  While the Mill was on the main road through Death Valley, the mine was at the end of a long ‘4×4 road’ to the side of the main road, and we saw no-one else out there.

Salt Formations and Devil's Golf Course at Badwater at lowest elevation in Death Valley

Salt Formations and Devil's Golf Course at Badwater at lowest elevation in Death Valley

Passing through the middle of Death Valley we reached the lowest recorded point in the US, where our Sat Nav read that we were over 300 feet below sea level at one point.  Here is the remains of a river running through, but it is almost solid with salt deposits.  Here too are strange mud formations, encrusted with salt, and nicknamed Devil’s golf course.  To say it was windy would be an understatement.  Paul tried to get out of the car to take some photos and could hardly shut the door again against the wind.  In this there were cyclists, fortunately going in the same direction as the wind – I doubt anyone could have cycled against the wind.  Cycling is pretty popular here for some reason, not quite sure I could fancy it.

There are numerous canyons inside Death Valley’s mountain ranges and on our first night here we camped in Echo Canyon.  By now the wind had died down and it was as calm as calm could be.

one of the huts at Inya Mine in Echo Canyon, Death Valley

one of the huts at Inya Mine in Echo Canyon, Death Valley

The next morning (26th), after a night of high winds, with me lying in bed imagining the early scenes from the Wizard of Oz, where the house is picked up by a tornado and poor old Dorothy ends up in Oz, we explored more of Echo Canyon.  Further on from our camp we found the disused Inya Mine.  Here too were some fascinating examples of old machinery.  An open air museum almost.  Paul marvelled at the inventiveness of some of the early machinery, using what looked like car parts in places, the whole mechanics of everything.  Me, I just marvel at the transition from the agrarian age to the industrial age, marvelling at the creativity of invention.

derelict machinery at Inya Mine in Echo Canyon, Death Valley

derelict machinery at Inya Mine in Echo Canyon, Death Valley

Travelling back down Echo Canyon we took a diversion off along the road towards Amargosa Desert.  The road came to an end (my version), slightly rockier patch (Paul’s version), but I really didn’t want to chance going any further and so we turned around.  It was then we noticed, next to what appeared to be the remains of some kind of ruin, that a wire ran up the mountainside, along what appeared to be a smooth path.  Paul followed the wire up, probably 1,000 feet, and over the crest, only to find the upper reaches of the mine we had explored earlier – and more examples of early machinery.  How they got it up that far we can only guess at.  Determination.

And so, as it’s possible to camp in most of Death Valley (as long as you are more than two miles away from the main road), we headed out towards Cottonwood Canyon for another night in the tent under the stars.  No wind this time.

Chert (flint) in the rock in Marble Canyon in Death Valley

Chert (flint) in the rock in Marble Canyon in Death Valley

It was a bit warmer when we woke up the next morning (27th).  Continuing to follow the Cottonwood Canyon Road we turned off towards Marble Canyon.  There we came across a couple of tired looking hikers who turned out to be two members of a group taking part in a geology field visit to Death Valley.  We gave them a lift right into Marble Canyon, with them riding our ‘tree sliders’ and hanging on to our roof rack for as far as the road would go.  Then we hiked into the canyon together.  They enjoyed the ride and we had the advantage of some expert information as we travelled.  Needless to say a lot of the rock was marble!  The geologists pointed out geological features.  Then we spotted some strange rock.  Dark grey with black circles of another rock embedded in it, making it look like the rock had a bad attack of the measles.  Turned out the darker embedded rock was Chert (or Flint as we would call it).

After leaving Marble Canyon we stopped to admire the well trodden Mesquite Sand Dunes before hitting the road to head back out of Death Valley.  Not before one more night of camping under the stars!!

Finally, the next day (28th) we explored the road to Chloride Cliff where we found some of the workings to the closed Keane gold mine.  Overworked to the point of being in danger of collapse the mine area is closed to the public.  Our final stop was at the ghost town of Rhyolite (with seated row of ghosts at the town entrance) where we met a group of photographers just starting a short break in Death Valley.  Just past here were a small group of Burros.  The Burros had been introduced to Death Valley, presumably during the height of the mining in the area they are now being rounded up and removed because they, along with the horses, are not native to the area.

We finished the day many hours and a long drive later just short of Reno in Nevada.  Once again in the cold and snow we found all the forestry roads had been closed because of the winter weather and we were unable to find a campsite.  Eventually found a tiny roadside layby.

Campsite – just outside town of Walker, Nevada

Distance travelled – 503

Tug of the Land

25th August 2010 by Helen

Tuesday 24th August

After breakfast at the ger camp and Paul finishing off the repairs on the fuel tank we took part in one of our few ‘tourist’ activities – a camel ride.  We were led to an oasis, an island of lush green grass, pools of water and frogs nestling amongst the sand dunes, before heading back to the camp.  It took no more than an hour but my nether regions were declaring very loudly that an hour on a rock hard saddle was more than enough.  Coming back from the camel ride we were amazed to see the remains of a hedgehog run over on one of the sand tracks.  Of all the space here in Mongolia the hedgehog can still manage to get run over!!

Then it was off to the dunes with Landy.  Paul’s aim was to get in a bit of practice at dune driving, hopefully get stuck and have to dig ourselves out.  Goal achieved (the latter part taking about an hour) we headed back towards the ger camp and the main road to Dalandzagad where it is vital we get some internet access to order spare parts from Foundry 4×4 to be waiting for us at Ulaanbaatar.

Just a minute or two later, as we crested the brow of the first dune on our way back, we saw right in front of us a tractor struggling to pull a cart heavily laden with a packed up ger.  The cart is stuck in the sand, the wheels of the tractor are spinning in the sand, and the children of the family are frantically scrabbling at the sand in front of the cart’s wheels trying to help free the cart even as the tractor is pulling it.  The family’s dog and cat wander round

We stop and pull out our Dyneema rope provided by Goodwinch, hook it up to the cart and, with both us and the tractor pulling, help free the cart.

Then the tractor breaks down.  The men are desperately trying to restart the engine by hand.  Occasionally it fires and once or twice

Landy tows a tractor and a trailer over soft sand

Landy tows a tractor and a trailer over soft sand

 it even starts, only to stop again.  We’re not sure what we can do but we sit and wait.  Eventually it’s obvious there’s only one thing we can do.  Paul reverses Landy back over the sand, hooks up the Dyneema rope on to the front of the tractor.  Then, with Landy in low range gear, he slowly begins to reverse.  Landy’s own wheels are spinning in the loose sand, but the General Grabber AT2 tyres are able to get enough purchase to keep Landy moving.  The rope tightens and the tractor begins to move, just fast enough to for the tractor driver to bump start his engine.  A cheer goes up all round.

This surely has to be a headline: Land Rover Defender bump starts a tractor by towing in reverse on soft sand.

However it’s not over yet.  Paul pulls Landy forward as the tractor reverses back and hooks up to the cart.  Then, still in reverse, on soft sand, Landy pulls not only the tractor but the cart which contains a ger and all the family’s possessions, until they are free of the soft sand.

New headline: Land Rover Defender tows tractor and whole house!! 

(Did I mention we still have a dodgy water pump?)

Drama over it’s back on the road again to Dalandzadgad.

Campsite – just past Bayandalay

Distance travelled – 138 km

Tourist ger camp

24th August 2010 by Helen

Monday 23rd August

looking up at the sandstone cliffs in the Gobi

looking up at the sandstone cliffs in the Gobi

We’re still heading for the largest dunes in the Gobi today.  We also know there is a tourist ger camp close to the dunes.  The old road seems to have fallen into disuse and we end up taking a bit of a detour to get there.  This really is a TOURIST ger camp.  Owned by a man who lives in America, prices are in dollars and tourist prices apply.  We didn’t see the owner but he flew off in his helicopter about 10 minutes after we arrived.  We decided to make use of the showers and restaurant but saved $50 by camping in our own roof tent just outside the ger camp.  This suited us better as Paul was able to start the repair to the fuel tank by draining the tank, and we wouldn’t have wanted to do that inside the ger camp.

Campsite – largest sand dunes in Gobi

Distance travelled – 273 km