The original plan was a self-supported bikepack, but as the group grew to include a few friends who were interested in car touring we 'con'd' them into hauling some of our gear & food. (ok, probably too much stuff, but we were most appreciative to have it) So, a special thank you is in order to Michelle, Kathleen & Doug for loading down your vehicles with our stuff. The route would be a mix of dirt roads, jeep trail and pavement. No singletrack whatsoever. Would this still be fun on a mountain bike for 230 miles??
This trip was about to become more interesting as the driest place in North America had rain in the forecast!?!? We were undaunted as this would provide us with a unique perspective.
Phil arrived at 6am to pickup Eszter and I on Friday morning. We drove to north Phoenix where we waited for Michelle & Sabine to complete our mini caravan north. While sitting in the parking lot a donut shop was spotted...then the staring ensued. Ok, I give in, I'm grabbing a donut. Usually a roadtrip donut isn't something of note, but sometimes an exception must be made. Enter this:
|Starting the trip off proper: maple/bacon donut from Desert Donuts, piping hot too!!|
We checked in at the Exchange Club then rolled out for some good 'ol fashioned sightseeing. Our first stop was the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV only a few minutes outside of Beatty. The old townsite ruins were cool to see, trying to imagine life during its heyday. For me, the really interesting part of Rhyolite were the random art pieces strewn throughout the desert.
|Time slowly erasing mainstreet.|
|Joshua trees & creosote are the tenants of Rhyolite now.|
|Parked for good.|
|The aroma of creosote was palpable.|
|Miner: yes, Penguin: huh?|
|Ghostly rendition of the last supper.|
|This place needs a little more color.|
|Venus of Nevada, Lego style.|
|Imagine camping here and waking in the middle of a starry night to this.|
|A couple of bighorns not far off the road.|
|Coming through Daylight Pass into Death Valley.|
|Even on a cool overcast day Badwater Basin has a menacing feel to it.|
|Sea Level is waaaay up there.|
|The rain began to fall and the few tourists who were there fled the scene.|
|Our turn for the touristy group photo.|
|Pretty neat to see a sizable amount of water here.|
|Our trek onto the salt flats ended when Sabine's hair began to stand on end!!|
The evening was capped off at the Sourdough Saloon in Beatty. An odd place for sure, where drinks are ordered in the back billiard room and food is ordered up front at the bar!! At least we had plenty of leftover pizza for the ride.
Day 1: Up, Down and Across.Eszter and I twisted Phil's arm once again for a more civilized wake-up call. Everyone prepped for the day and we were set to roll out around 7:30a from Beatty.
|The group all set to head out. Photo by Michelle.|
|Off we go. Photo by Kathleen.|
|Ilya & Phil on NV374.|
|30% chance of showers were in the forecast, but the sun was peeking out early!|
|Ride the snake west...|
|A quick downhill was met with a nice climb up to Red Pass.|
|Eszter topping out.|
|Photo op time!! It felt like we were about to descend into the Grand Canyon!!|
|Group shot, thanks to Evan.|
|Ez dodging one of those puddles.|
|Talk about a short lived boom town!!|
|Relics from the past could be spotted all along the route in one shape or another.|
|Earthen home or mine entrance?|
|Taking in the views & history.|
|The canyon begins to tighten and with it the road deteriorated into a washed out mix of mud & rocks. We tried to steer clear of the mud, but in the end it was unavoidable - so enjoy it!!|
|Many of the petroglyphs near the road were obscured by the modern day variety.|
|Earliest known smiley face??? Hmmm.|
|This was one of those stop dead in your tracks moments. The rocks are doing what??|
|We came upon this scene, 2 4x4's stuck behind a washed out section of road, later we found out the Park Service closed the road. I'm sure it was quite a scene a day earlier. Photo by Evan.|
|The narrows of Titus Canyon.|
|Time to sacrifice my bandana for a clean(er) bike.|
Eszter and I decided to press on since we were only 25 miles into the day and it was now past noon. The rest of the day would be flat riding, half paved, half dirt to camp, but it was still a long 80 miles away. I dove into my feedbag only to find one slice of mango & 3 swedish fish!!! Nooo!!! The rest had bounced out during our fun mudbogging session. Drat.
Down at our intersection with pavement, my bike was still stuck on one gear. Out came the camelback as I sprayed down my drivetrain & re-lubed. Presto! Back in shifting business.
|The miles melted away, until a park ranger blurted over a megaphone for us to ride single-file!!|
|Now we're getting somewhere. Down, down, down we go.|
|One of the borax mining sites.|
|Furnace Creek campground had exactly what we needed, a wash station!!|
|I made a quick stop in the visitor center to get my National Park passport stamped.|
We pushed off so I could make a pitstop at the general store when Phil, Ilya & Sabine came riding up. We urged them to head back to the campground to hose down the bikes. Armed with fresh gummy bears & gatorade we rolled out into the now sunny late afternoon.
|Whoa. Glad we were riding bikes!!|
|Furnace Creek Inn, $360/night gets you in. Free gets you a nice roadside campsite and stars.|
|Golden hour approaches and it was magnificent.|
|We fought a stiff headwind over this section.|
|Plenty of photo ops without a need to stop.|
|Lone hiker on a river of salt.|
|A fantastic golden hour shot of the salt formations by Kathleen.|
|The salt here reminded me of a 3-day old east coast snowstorm.|
We were still a few miles away from our designated camping spot when I had to stop for a snack. The cloud cover that was hanging over us all day magically disappeared allowing us to gaze upward into a billion stars. I think if we would have had our sleeping gear we may have just camped right there.
|One of the various points of interest along the west side road.|
|Another sure sign this was our campsite!! Photo by Michelle.|
I settled in after a nice warm meal and fell asleep staring upward into the starry night. The others rolled into camp sometime around 11:30p that night, but I didn't hear a thing.
Day 2: Let's do some climbing!!The pre-dawn stillness was interrupted by the rustling of sleeping bags. Time to get moving. This day promised to be the toughest in my estimation. Shorter by 27 miles from day 1, but still an 80 mile day with 4X the climbing! The elevation profile wasn't looking too friendly, but sometimes climbing grades are tough to decipher on paper.
|Beautiful view of Telescope Peak to start the morning.|
|Camp 1, full of amenities.|
|Dry Lake Manly.|
|The shoulder of the road was showing some color.|
|First pass of the day, legs starting to come around.|
|The long straightaways afforded me glimpses of Eszter.|
|Clouds rolling in as the road bends downward.|
|Two climbs down, two to go!!|
|Long, fast, 'free' miles will put a smile on your face.|
|The beginning of a gradual 17 mile climb.|
|The subject of our staring illusion.|
|12 miles of downhill dirt.|
|Suddenly I was craving cream cheese brownies.|
|The fast paved descent brought an ever changing landscape. We were in constant awe.|
|Are you kidding me?|
|Not only was the scenery stunning, the dirt road was 'hero dirt' and closed to motorized traffic on this day!!|
|It doesn't look real.|
|This hiker had the right idea.|
|Every direction provided its own unique landscape.|
|I'm glad we had overcast skies, a rare treat in these parts.|
|8 mile uphill finish to camp 2.|
|A view we missed due to darkness, thankfully Kathleen captured it!!|
Dinner was cooked, homebrews shared and once again the lingering cloud cover pushed off in favor of the Milky Way. Two nights in a row, are you kidding me?
|Kathleen once again captures the scene beautifully.|
Day 3: Up & Out, Back to Nevada.The last day was by far the shortest, only 43 miles back to Beatty, NV so there was no rush to get going. We finalized our gear dropoff & hotel arrangements since only Evan, Eszter and I were riding & staying in Beatty. The others opted for a cool night out on The Racetrack.
The three of us still had some climbing to do before exiting Echo Canyon. We made our way up the grade marveling in our new-found surroundings.
|Evan taking advantage of a small freeride area.|
|We had been waiting for this section of HAB, only lasted a minute or two.|
|Telescope Peak comes into view as we top out of a side canyon to the high desert.|
|The jeep roads begin to point downward.|
|Another canyon descent before opening up to the wide open desert.|
|We initially blew by this turn, brilliant old jeep connector!!|
|What?!? No casino at the Nevada state line!!|
|A long gradual downhill sandy trek to US95. Bare Mtn on the horizon.|
I like tracking all my rides via GPS, perhaps the geek in me, whatever. I get a little annoyed when the device doesn't operate like it should. So with only 20 miles or so left the Garmin decided to start cycling power. I played the game for a few re-boots, then opted for a fresh set of batteries from Evan. That seemed to do the trick, but my batteries should have been good as they only were used for two charges. A few more miles down the road I figured it was simply a loose connection in my charger, something I better pay closer attention to in the future.
We crossed US95 and began a gradual ascent around the backside of Bare Mtn. We left the well graded dirt road for a more primitive feel passing by an active gold mining operation.
|One of the few signs of civilization on the day.|
|The climb up Tarantula Canyon proved to be the steepest of the entire trip.|
|BBQ chips save the day atop Secret Pass. It's all downhill from here!|
|Evan enjoying the final downhill.|
|Colorful rocks abound!|
|Amargosa River .|
|Beatty: 'Chicago of the West'.|
|Death Valley 230|
|The rest of the gang at Teakettle Junction.|
|Skidoo ghost town.|
I'm also really glad Eszter slowed down a bit to ride with me, great company and as always great food! I appreciate you allowing me to poke your brain about some other long distance events I have my eye on, I learned a lot. Check out her blog for more epicness!
All the pics that didn't make it here: