Once again we slipped the damp caresses of an Oregon winter to wallow in the harsh, but sunny, landscape of Death Valley National Park. Even with soaring gas prices ($5.18 at Furnace Creek!), the trip was, once gain, worth it. Plus this year we were joined at times by our friends Wayne & Diane and Alan & Janet, so this one was an extra special get-away. We allowed ourselves plenty of time each day to enjoy the sunsets while sipping appropriate adult beverages on the patio of the Furnace Creek Inn (liquid intake being an important part of desert hiking). Overall, another great trip – cloud-free sun most days, daytime air temperatures between 65º and 75ºF, plus fun hikes. Definitely a winter refuge for these water-logged, sun-starved Oregonians.
As were previous trips to Death Valley, this one was a combined sightseeing/hiking trip, so we once again visited the ghost town of Rhyolite to see the statue of the unknown bicyclist,
the Harmony Borax Works,
and the Inyo Mine site at the head of Echo Canyon,
where the Eye of the Needle stands guard over the approach road (Telescope Peak is the snowy high point on the horizon to the far left).
We also drove up past the Eureka Mine site to Aguereberry Point in the Panamint Range,
which, at 6,433 feet in elevation,
gave us a panoramic view of Death Valley.
We warmed-up for hiking by circumnavigating Ubehebe Crater at the north end of the valley – it’s only 1 mile around.
For an actual dayhike, we went with Alan and Janet up Slit Canyon, starting from “Hole in the Wall” about 3 miles south of Furnace Creek on Highway 190 and 3.5 miles up a passable dirt road (as described in Digonnet’s Hiking Death Valley).
We parked at the Hole, then headed cross-country to the mouth of the canyon.
Shortly after entering the canyon, we encountered 3 (dry) waterfalls, the lower two of which could be climbed,
to reach a grotto below a third 20-foot high (and not climbable by us) waterfall. Fortunately, there was a use trail to the right around these three falls,
which took us to a shoulder-width narrows called “The Slit”,
parts of which required some fun scrambling to get over dry falls up to 10 feet high.
About 2 miles into the canyon, we came to a spectacular 50-foot waterfall.
There was a use trail to the left around these falls, which allowed us to explore more narrows further up the canyon.
Several miles further hiking up this canyon and over into the next would have brought us to the Inyo Mine in Echo Canyon which we’d visited earlier. This would have been an option had we been able to arrange a 4×4 shuttle.