By: Sara Wyrens
On the weekend of November 25, 2000, I had the privilege of leading a DPS trip to spectacular Death Valley. This was a very special trip for me as this was the first Sierra Club trip I have lead, excluding of course, my provisional to Crystal Cove last May.
My first trip to Telescope Peak and Death Valley came in June of 1999 and was lead by a Desert Peak Section leader Linda McDermott. I was told Death Valley was awesome but I beg to differ. Awesome only begins to describe this unique and sensational place, and I knew I just had to lead a trip there sometime and share this with others.
Myself and three other peak enthusiasts set off, adventure bound, that Wednesday night for the great DV. They were: Lynn Heath, Gean McLaughlin and Tony Tejiman. The four of us had two whole days before the actual DPS trip to explore and experience this vast new territory (well new to us anyway) where we met up with Roger Massoud (co-leader) the next day.
For our first day of exploration, we took the advice of Dea Denton (amateur geologist) and visited the majestic Marble Canyon. The canyon can be reached by a primitive road known as the cottonwood canyon road which starts at Stovepipe wells. This road is sandy at first, then a washboard ride for several miles. 4WD is suggested but high clearance will make it, but very carefully. Our hike started beyond the first narrows and out again into a wide canyon with views that would take your breath away. The earth had hardened over with time, which made hiking easy - it was sort of like walking on a natural sidewalk. We continued about four miles to the second narrows. The guidebook described this among the most impressive in the park and the reason why many visitors come to Marble Canyon, and to see the petroglyhs which are the main attraction. These prehistoric figures were painted on smooth rock surfaces by abonginals centuries ago. Marble Canyon is blessed with more petroglyph sites than anywhere in the park. We ended our day where we met up with Woody Brown and company (Woody also an active Sierra Club member) for a lovely and delicious Thanksgiving dinner at Stovepipe Wells Inn.
Our second day took us to Scotty's Castle. To me this was moderately interesting. The actual highlight of my day was visiting Ubehebe Crater, a humungous Volcanic crater that sits between Cottonwood Mountain and Last Chance Range. Most visitors to the crater are satisfied with just walking around it and admiring its vastness, but not this group! We ended up "skiing" down skree in our boots amidst a dark-gray field of volcanic ash that went on for about 500 feet. That was the fun part. The hard part was getting back up the skree, a sort of 2 steps up and one slide back routine.
After the crater experience we decided to go back to Stovepipe Wells for some badly needed showers (Stovepipe Wells has them available for $2.00) then back to camp to meet with the participants of the trip who had begun to arrive, and to look forward to the highlight of the 4 day weekend. THE PEAK CLIMB!
Our group met at the Telescope Peak trailhead at Mahogany Flats campground promptly at 7:30 a.m. so we started up. Our strong group of 12 were all able to follow at a good pace and all made the summit by 11:30 on this lovely, sunny, picturesque day. Telescope Peak is "the roof of Death Valley" and one of the highest mountains in the deserts of California. The trail is well maintained and swings back and forth over the crest offering alternating views of the east and west sides of Death and Panamint Valley. We were back to camp by 3:30 p.m., this was an hour earlier than anticipated. Everyone was plenty hungry so we jumped right into happy hour/potluck time. Everyone brought wonderful food to share - we had both vegin chili and carnivore chili (a term coined by Sue King), two kinds of homemade soup (thanks to Jan St. Amand and Lynn Heath) and Gean McLaughlin's very unusual contribution of beef on a stick and many other good things.
Well all good things come to an end and the next morning bright and early, the four of us left for homeward bound after a fantastic breakfast at Stovepipe Wells. I can't wait to go back to see Titus Canyon and the other wonders that we missed.
Many thanks to all the participates; they were: Roger Massoud, Lynn Heath, Gean McLauglin, Colette Simongs, Roy Randall, Jan St. Amand, Halsey Green, Susan King, Richard Boardman, Chip Dever, Tony Tejiman. I look forward to leading and participating in more DPS trips for 2002!
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