It is interesting to learn that not all that many people died in Death Valley. Some wagoneering pioneers lost a couple or three folks (not uncommon) then uttered a passing comment on the way out that went something like “Good-Bye Death Valley!” which stuck. Not that I’m disappointed that so few died, I was just imagining something more, uhhh, monumental, or gory is all!
We gas up and hit the visitor’s center and are greeted by Beagles and one chewed up rim. You do what you gotta do in the desert...
We are here in the chilly times, but getting stuck in the backcountry out here during summer could turn into a survival situation in a hurry.
We set up camp at Furnace Creek across from the visitor’s center, and simply grab some RV site that is far enough away from generators and close enough to walk to the showerhouse and restaurant. We will get plenty of scenic views from the bike and on foot, we plan on only sleeping at the campsite. We’re gonna take the next couple of days to explore, so no need to pack up and move each night as this is our final destination and turn-around point for this adventure.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, this season has been unusually wet, and the area has been HAMMERED with record rainfall. Back-country exploring is not advised, in fact it is pretty much forbidden as they aren’t issuing permits and have CLOSED nearly every dirt road/trail in the park. Desert my arse! Oh well, this trip is about pavement exploring anyway, I’ll just have to come back again sometime with my knobby tires.
We gather as much intel as we can from the rangers (who think my SPOT messenger is really cool after noticing its blinking lights on my jacket), then take the rest of the night off to plan our assault of Death Valley. There is a cantina involved...
Gotta stay warm somehow!
There are so many things right about this picture!
The next morning we rouse ourselves when the sun comes up high enough to heat the low-earth atmosphere a bit, then hit the road for Scotty’s Castle. We have a big day planned and need to get moving!
Built by a 1920’s railroad tycoon and managed by his eccentric wild-west counterpart, this oasis in the desert is a unique destination acquired by the National Park in later years. Totally worth the trip and tour!
The palace, which was never completed, boasted a pipe organ, evaporative air-conditioning (in the 1920’s!!!), and diesel electricity generators, all over one of the few water sources in the area. There are may stories told by the costumed tour guides and it’s up to you to decide which are “true” and which are flamboyant fabrications.
The temperature has risen significantly by the time we are done with the castle tour and it is just beautiful outside, so after a snack we tool over to the “exit” of Titus Canyon. Apparently this canyon is an adventure motorcycle destination in and of itself, but the park rangers have closed it to vehicles because of the rain. I can imagine why! It’s a slot canyon with a one-lane gravel road in the bottom... However, the last couple of miles (it is one-way for vehicles) are open to hikers, and I wanna see it.
I wasn’t very successful at photography from the bottom. It was really neat to see in person, but just didn’t “pop” through my viewfinder and the lighting was all over the place. Photography is hard!
I’ll be back to ride this thing for sure, it looks like fun carving for miles and miles! Judging from what I saw in those last few miles I think it could be done on my street tires, but of course dirt rubber would be better.
This place is huge, and it seems to me that standing water is probably a rare sight in Death Valley, so we pull over from time to time to try to capture it. Did I mention that photography is hard??
Reluctantly Lady Firebird agrees to ride up a short section of real “adventure” dirt trail to Aguereberry Point. We voted to NOT seek out rough trails on this trip, mainly because she takes little pleasure in bouncing around on the back of the KTM and feeling out of control, but she concedes to this one because there is a prize at the end: a panoramic view of the majority of Death Valley from above!
Of course I have a blast. It’s a little bit muddy with a few small puddles, but we are up high enough that getting bogged down isn’t too much of a worry. It’s only a couple of miles with a few rocks, bumps, and switchbacks thrown in to keep it interesting, and I think it feels good to “let loose” what the KTM is really made for. She’s mildly impressed, and does admit that it is cool to have the ability to get to these cool kinds of spots that most people will never see.
And what a spot!
There’s still a bit of daylight left, so we dash back down the trail into the valley to check out some dunes where there are loads of Asian tourists. When we finally hit the pavement L.F. breaths a sigh of relief as I whip it up proper sport-bike speeds again. I find it interesting that 20 mph on dirt can feel so uncomfortable for her while 90 mph leaned over in a turn can feel like home... Both are good for me!
We stomp around in the sand for a while before suiting up to head back to Furnace Creek.
It’s nearly dark, but there is one more activity I want to accomplish today: a stop at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the continental U.S.
I've taken my mighty KTM to some of the highest navigable points in the country, and now the lowest too. Mission accomplished! It has been a big day so we decide to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner at the Furnace Creek resort/hotel thing, but after trudging into the lobby/restaurant and perusing the menu it doesn’t look like we’d be getting a fancy meal worthy of the price tag, especially after our meal in Vegas (how can you really top that?), so we opt for the Cantina again. Hot pizza and cold beer will be just fine in our bellies.
Death Valley blitz tour success!