Category Archives: Desert tour November 2014

Day 3: Death Valley (last entry)

The night was incredibly windy. I had to get up at and tie the tent down because I feared it might collapse. The stakes did not hold in the sandy ground, so I found some rocks and tied the tent to them instead. On the plus side, the wind swept all the clouds away, and the night sky at altitude and away from any cities or towns was breathtaking. I tried taking some pictures, but they didn’t come out well – I was shaking too much from the strong wind and the cold.

I’m very impressed how well my¬†$140 budget tent works though – it’s been all around California now and hasn’t let me down yet (I haven’t had any strong rain in it yet, though). Kelty Salida 2, highly recommended as a solo tent (too small for two people, unless they like each other very much).

I had arrived in the dark, and only saw in the morning how beautiful the area really was.

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My spot for the second night. Note how the tent is tied to rocks – it’s incredibly windy.

I cooked breakfast (oatmeal again), packed up and left with destination racetrack playa (one of the main attractions in the death valley, more on it later). On the way, I met some French Canadians and tried my best French on them “c’est la premiere fois en the death valley pour vous?”, which they did not understand. I guess my accent isn’t as great as I thought. After a few attempts we managed to exchange some niceties.

When I finally made it to the racetrack playa (a few hours away from my camping site), I met a Spanish film crew who was producing a TV show starring a guy on a motorcycle riding around in many places in the world. I was a bit disappointed that he proceeded to ride on the racetrack (you’re not supposed to take vehicles on it, because it ruins it), so I left.

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Spanish film crew producing a motorcycle show

The racetrack itself is truly a sight to be seen. You can see the tracks of the rocks which have been moved around by the wind when the playa was frozen – apparently a phenomenon unique in the world, and immersed in an incredible scenery. The pictures do not do it justice.

DSC00110After a while I had enough and decided to do Lippincott pass. I had read that it was quite a tricky road, and it had a big and scary warning sign.

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It turns out that it was far shorter and easier than anticipated – the roughest road I did on this trip, but by far not as bad as I had expected. It was followed by 30 or 40 miles on unpaved, deserted roads through an incredible scenery until I made it back to highway 395.

DSC00117Once I was back on 395, I took the shortest path to Bakersfield, where I stayed at the “America’s Best Value Inn”. Nothing exceptional on that part of the ride, except that it started out warm and sunny, and ended in the freezing cold.

This is the last entry for this trip – the next day is just the journey back from Bakersfield to San Francisco.

Update: this is a map of the complete route:

route

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Day 2: Pine Mountain Wilderness

I need a warmer sleeping bag for the desert. When I got up, it was cold and raining, so I made my tea and oatmeal inside the tent, trying hard not to set it on fire.
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I packed my stuff and went riding on some unpaved roads and trails until I was out of the desert. It’s a pretty nice area (for a desert) but it’s full of bullet casings and shot up TVs. They really must like shooting in Nevada, who would have thought.
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The plan was to take the highway to Big Pine, camp in the desert near a lake and cross the mountains into Death Valley the next day.
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As it turns out, both the lake and the only feasible path through the mountains are on private land and surrounded by electric fences, so I had to find something else. I ended up taking a 4WD trail into Pine Mountain wilderness, which was in the right direction.

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I finally found a nice spot to camp just before darkness and cooked some rice with sausage, which turned out excellent.

Tomorrow I’m going to enter the Death Valley, check out the racetrack playa, and then probably head to Ridgecrest or Bakersfield.

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Day 1: Nevada

Something is checking out my tent. I have the shovel ready next to me. It’s probably just a desert mouse.

The original plan was to cross the Death Valley north to south in a 4 day, 3 nights trip with camping and going off road as much as possible. As it turns out, you’re not allowed to go off road in the death Valley, and you’re not allowed to camp within two miles of any road. Since I wanted to go off road and didn’t feel like carrying all my stuff for four miles every day, I changed the plan a little and decided to do the off road part north of the Death Valley instead.

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Packing

As usual I got started way too late, and crossed Carson Pass in the dark. It was cold and icy, and it rained. Made for some interesting motorcycling.

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Ready to go

When I finally made it to Minden, Nevada, I was shivering and stopped at a gas station for some coffee. I chatted a bit with the attendant who gave me a free bearclaw. I haven’t been given free sweets at a shop in probably 20 years.

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Warming up on the way up Carson Pass

After that I rode out into the desert in the dark and promptly dumped my bike. Casualties: one mirror.

When I finally got it upright again (not so easy in the sand) I found a good spot and pitched my tent. I’m miles away from any human but miraculously have a cell signal.

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My home in the desert

I need to sleep now. Not sure yet what I’ll do tomorrow.