Desert presents many photo opportunities

Mountain Secrets

Tony KrizanMay 22, 2013 

Last week, I featured those exciting areas Nancy and I visited in the northern section of Death Valley. Today's article will introduce you to part of the southeast area with Texas Springs Campground serving as our base camp.

We departed from the Mesquite campground on our fourth day to the Texas Springs campground located outside of Furnace Creek. This year the campground was not crowded and I found an excellent space under a huge desert cedar tree for shade. Afternoons in the valley during April can rise to more than 100 degrees.

The following morning we departed from our campground and drove north from Furnace Creek on Highway 190 -- Then turned right on Highway 374 into Nevada before arriving at the junction of Titus Canyon Road. This 17 mile one way dirt road follows back into California then through the mountains into Death Valley.

Like most desert roads, they can be unforgiving, but our high clearance Jeep vehicle maneuvered this winding and steep road without a problem. While driving through the surrounding mountains one could see the colored layers of rock deposits. Millions of years of erosion have exposed these colorful deposits which look like horizontal painted lines.

If one looks closely while driving through these deep valleys, the mountain sides reveal old mine entrances and directly below are the tailing from those mines operated by the early miners. We did stop at a few old mines to inspect them and take a few photos.

The ghost town of Leadfield started mining in 1906 but didn't reach its hay-day until 1926. In 1927 when the main shaft dried up, those 1,749 housing lots became useless and the town gradually faded away. Today, all that remains are a few wooden structures and many building foundations. Tailings from each mine could be seen on the mountain side surrounding this old town. These old mine shafts were sealed with steel barricades just inside the entrances. All along the dried stream or washes are these multiple colored rocks which are ideal for photo opportunities.

At the gate which marks the end of this desert road we stopped and began our hike into Fall Canyon. This slightly up-hill trek took us through narrow canyons that wondered west into the same steep mountains that we had driven through earlier. At one isolated area within this remote canyon, we were rewarded with canyon walls laced with colored marble. Yes it was hotter within those canyons with the temperature rising over 100 degrees.

The following morning before daybreak we drove to the Sand Dunes located east of Furnace Creek. We captured another photo opportunity watching the shadows move across the sand as the sun peaked over the eastern mountains.

On our final morning we drove to the Eagle Borax Works just west of Furnace Creek. Our hike will be through the dried salt basin to attempt a 360 degree loupe around the south facing mountain.

We experienced great distant views of this enormous valley as the trail maneuvered to the mountains south side. Just before the junction point of completing this two hour loupe, we discovered an old dump to which the only item of interests was a discarded 1920s touring car. I couldn't identify the make because time and erosion was not very forgiving between the rust and missing parts.

Now keep in mind that any hike in Death Valley is an experience. The spring and fall are the ideal times to visit because of cooler temperatures.

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