This month we went to Shot Show in Las Vegas. But being the outdoor adventure types that we are, we couldn't just take the normal routes that most take to get from San Diego to Las Vegas. We took the super scenic route. Our adventure started in Lone Pine, CA where we stopped at Elevation Sierra Adventure, an outdoor equipment shop, to visit some old friends and meet up with part of the Death Valley crew, Mike T. Ross.
Now off to the real adventure. We started with stopping by the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center and picked up a couple of maps for off-road trails through Death Valley. The first night we camped at the Lone Pine campgrounds, about a half mile off Whitney Portal Road. It’s at the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. The campground sits right at 6000 ft. Our first night was a little chilly, it dropped below freezing and we got some snow flurries that wanted to stick really bad, lol. The next morning, we woke up to clear skies and warming temperatures. We were off to the next leg of the adventure.
We met up with Gino Gonzalez and Jose Luis Noverola (the rest of the crew). From here we headed down CA136 for about 15 miles until we hit Cerro Gordo Pass. This pass takes you over the Inyo Mountains and to the once very large but now small ghost town of Cerro Gordo. This old silver mining town was once home to over 2,000 miners. It also looks down on Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra mountains from its site in the Inyo Range at 9,000 feet elevation. It has since shrunk considerably to only two residents, a nice gentleman by the name of Robert and his wife, who are the caretakers of the town. If you ever find your way up there, be sure and stop to chat with him. He is amazing to chat with and his knowledge of the town is nothing short of impressive. Robert gave us a tour of the town where we saw some of the old mining equipment. He explained the process of removing silver and lead for the ore and he also made sure to give us a warning of possible bad weather conditions on the trail into Saline Valley.
From Cerro Gordo ghost town, we headed down the east side of the mountains in search of Saline Valley Road. Now this is where things get interesting. The trails are not marked and the maps we picked up from the visitor center were less than accurate, to say the least. Needless to say, we spent several hours searching possible routes that kept leading to dead ends. But just when we were about to head back over the mountains to try plan B, we found our path. And off we went, pushing the Jeeps and the Tacoma as fast as we could on the narrow, slick, muddy Saline Valley Road to try and make up time. Once again, we met snow and ice on the trail. Things were kind of slippery for about 5 miles, but once we dropped down below 5,000 ft it started warming up and trail conditions were good again. Because of the delay from searching for the right trail, it was already starting to get dark.
By this time, we were looking at the Saline Valley dunes, but it was so dark we couldn’t find the trail heading to the Warm Springs campground. This is a bad thing, because that is where we planned to spend the second night. After about 30 minutes of searching, we finally found it. We got into Warm Springs campground just after night fall. We set up camp and started a fire to cook dinner. Tonight was nice thick steaks and Talsiker Distillers edition scotch in fine crystal glasses. A well-deserved treat after a long day on the trails. We had a few beers as well and sat around the campfire, talking about adventures we have been on and adventures we want to have in the future. The next morning, we woke up to the sound of wild burros foraging. We started the day off with a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and biscuits that were prepared on a cast iron skillet, except the biscuits, which were baked in a dutch oven, also known as a colonial oven.
After breakfast we decided to explore the campground and hot springs. Now this place does come with a small warning: If you are easily offended by nude people, stay away, lol. This desert oasis is nothing short of breathtaking. In the middle of Death Valley you have natural, warm springs that provide water for fresh grass and trees, and a multitude of other vegetation. The springs are also funneled into several hot tubs that you can relax in before you are off to your next adventure.
Once we were done with the desert oasis we headed back south on Saline Valley Road until we got to CA190. We took the 190 through the park and stopped at Furnace Creek for lunch and to top off our fuel. We made our way down to the south end of the park and start heading down Warm Springs Canyon Road in search of Warm Springs Camp. This is where I found the limitations of the shocks on my Jeep is at about 65 mph off road. We made it to Warm Springs Camp before nightfall, set up camp and prepared for dinner. Here you will find abandoned talc mines and some old mining equipment to include a talc mill that is in good enough condition it’s easy to imagine how it worked. You will also find another warm spring that is surrounded by a few old houses, complete with in ground swimming pools, all empty of course. In one of the houses there was a fireplace still in working order, so we took advantage of it for the evening. That night was the final night in the wilderness, so we decided to feast. Our dinner consisted of a pot roast, prepared with fresh vegetables and cooked in the dutch oven for about 3 hours. Of course we had to finish off the scotch and beer too, lol.
All in all, it was an amazing trip with amazing friends that spanned three days in the wilderness, where 90% of the driving was off-road and unsupported.