A Trip to Death Valley’s Backcountry

Recently ventured up into new territory for me at the invite of a fellow desert explorer. My Nissan Frontier handled the roads up to the camping spot handily despite not having four wheel drive. It would not have made it further along however but Kevin volunteered the mountain goat qualities of his FJ Cruiser for the tougher roads! Glad he did. The vistas were spectacular.

All photos can be clicked on for higher resolution views.

Prince’s Plume, buckwheat, yucca brevifolia in the foreground.

We explored the area around one of the springs, located in the rolling sagebrush meadows beneath the mountain. We were hard-pressed to find any tailings, adits, or shafts but there had obviously been an ambitious operation there at one point in time - at least the presence of not one but three well-built arrastres would seem to indicate. Interestingly “arrastre” in Spanish literally means “dragging”, which describes exactly the function of these devices. A donkey or mule hitched to a post and beam would pull a weighty grind stone over ore to break it down. A painstaking process. Other curiosities were bags of concrete that had been left under a pinyon and forgotten. And what appeared to be the foundations of a small building with metal posts protruding twelve feet in the air and terminating in brackets.

Other highlights included riding out the 7.1 Ridgecrest earthquake on top of the mountain. Tree limbs swayed and shook as the ground rolled under us. Both vehicles were rocking back and forth. On the way back out to Los Angeles, I stopped to investigate some petroglyphs I’d spotted on the way in - it’s a known site but my first time seeing them in person. The sheep figures were more stylized than other sites I have been to, leading me to believe these were later period petroglyphs.

In sum, it was a great trip. I had the opportunity to explore new territory and fall in love with another piece of our vast American desert.

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