Springtime in Death Valley - Part two

Tony KrizanApril 25, 2012 

This is part two of my recent trip to Death Valley.

Below the Leadfield Mining area Titus Canyon begins to narrow and steepen. The surrounding rocks begin to change colors from bright red and yellow hues to softer gray and russet tones. On the right a lone sign will identify a natural spring hidden within the mountain.

Directly below and next to the road are two huge flat leaning boulders with petro graphs inscribed in their surfaces. During the early morning hours the Big Horn Sheep have been seen quenching their thirst at this location.

For the next three miles this winding road enters the narrow and steep canyon walls of Titus Canyon. These walls extend 500 feet above the canyon floor. Embedded within these walls are small shinny crystals inlaid within the rock formations sculptured by erosion and time. Once through the narrow canyon only a short distance to the parking area and two miles to the highway.

Before returning to our campsite and with the afternoon still young, Nancy and I will attempt to hike Mosaic Canyon just east of Stovepipe Wells on Highway 190. Once again I'll be driving another two miles of graded dirt and gravel road before reaching the parking area.

From the canyons opening there is a sweeping view of the northern valley. Just a short distance into the canyon is the polished patterns of multicolored rocks. These unbroken lines of polished colors (resembling marble) extended along the canyon walls. Interesting what water and time can create from rock.

I continued by climbing around and above the first steep rock barrier, then forged ahead climbing through a few narrow polished slots. To my surprise the sun focused its light on a polished silver green colored stone barrier approximately six feet high and 10 feet wide. This formation was called Mosaic Falls.

Ten minutes beyond the falls was a box canyon much too ragged and steep to climb. This is the end of today's adventure. The late afternoon shadows are consuming most of the canyon walls, so it's time to turn around and follow this remarkable canyon back to the parking area to complete another day experiencing Death Valley.

Today I'll be driving to Wildrose campground at 4,100 feet. But there are still two major destination locations to preview. After the high winds and 50 m.p.h. gusts yesterday the fourteen square miles of Sand Dunes should be clear of footprints. They are located eight miles east of Stovepipe Wells on Highway 190. The changing contours, deep shadows and ripple patterns make an interesting contrast to the sharply edged mountain ranges silhouetted to the east and west. An early morning walk across those rolling sand dunes is very impressive.

Emigrant Canyon Road is next and the Ghost and Mining Town of Skidoo. Only 29 miles from Stovepipe Wells, then eight miles of 4x4 graded road. Between 1906 and 1917 gold mines in the surrounding hills were some of the few in the area that actually showed a profit. Its name was acquired because its millage to Panamint Mountains (water source) was the same number as in the popular saying of the era; "Twenty Three Skidoo."

It's geographic area I'm estimating covers 15 square miles including the hillsides which are dotted with mines and roads. Most mines are screened over or barriers set up blocking their entrances. A few wooden structures used for holding material are still surviving weather and time. But all that remains of the town are parts of the stone foundations. Skidoo is a must see when visiting Death Valley.

We set up our final camp at Wildrose Spring Campground. Behind the camping area was a well-used game trail. With a few hours of daylight remaining we decided to attempt another adventure. The trail became quite steep as it followed through two small canyons. Adding flavor to our adventure was multiple colored quartz rocks scattered throughout the hillsides. Now we have the choice of crossing over the hillside or continue along a narrow plateau. But we decided to follow another trail down into a smaller canyon which led back to our campground completing our day.

We departed the following morning and started our seven hour drive back to Oakhurst. I retained two irreplaceable items from this adventure; photographs and memories. I believe it's time for you (my readers) to experience the wonders and charm of this remarkable place called Death Valley.

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