deathvalley offroad day6

Day six: The long way home - Owens dry Lake to Hilton Creek, CA.  199 miles.

Once again up early, close up, and head to Lee's Frontier for gas and free coffee.  Today is ambitious.  Wasn't too early to have a boisterous horse lady bust my mutton chops about sharing trails out here in Lone Pine.  "You can't ride where I ride" she said.  "Neither can you" I replied.
With that she wanted to know all about Death Valley - she liked what she heard but agreed it wasn't a place for her horse.

 The lay-over day only postponed the inevitable - more bedrock.  Cruising up the Swansea grade. 

 Sometimes no line is the line. 

Our second glimpse of the owens.  Our homestead is down below on the shoreline. 

Looking across the owens valley I can remember a hike we took right up in those mountains.  It was just a day hike, up to Horseshoe Meadows, then up to Cottonwood Pass.  We headed south on the PCT and came back down Trail Pass.  It was raining a lot (summer thundershowers that the eastern sierra is famous for) and after the clouds cleared we came across a something we probably weren't supposed to witness:
Several coyotes were attempting to steal away a baby deer from it's mother.  All sorts of yelping and crying was going on - to interfere certainly meant we would get injured.  As each coyote grabbed the fawn they'd get kicked hard sometimes turning into a rolling ball of fur.  Then the mother would trample, but then another coyote would grab the fawn and attempt to silence it permanently.
It all happened so fast - then everyone was gone, coyotes, baby, except the mother.  She just looked at us wide-eyed and stamped the ground breathing heavily.  I made certain to give her a wide berth (real wide) as everything took place right on the trail.
Later that night, big warm rain drops fell on the shack. Woke me up.
Getting higher still, this road looked a lot shorter on paper.  Below most of the dry lake is shown, I think it is very close to 100 square miles. 

 First view of the top of the salt tram. 

Salt tram cabin, restored with help from off-roaders. 

View east, down to Saline Valley. 

Planning our next DV attack. 


This fork in the road was confusing.  The map showed a short cut to get down to Saline without having to drive through Cerro Gordo.  But on the ground was a wilderness sign stating no access.  Was the sign right or wrong?  Looking back and checking with other resources it is deemed 100% wrong. 

Due to the conflicting signage we ended up going through Cerro Gordo and down the backside of the Inyo's.  Back into Death Valley limits we get another view back into Panamint Valley.  Looks like the Panamint Dunes down there along with Lake Hill.

Grapevine Canyon water crossing. 

James coming through another crossing.  A while back someone was asking about grape vine canyon - was there a vineyard there or what was basically the question.  Wild grapes is the answer, the canyon is crawling with them, vines everywhere. 

Now we are down in Saline Valley, out in the plains is a wooden arachnid. 

Saline dunes with some fighter jets center screen. 

Saline was exceptionally hot and we left with out visiting the hippies over at the springs.  We needed out quickly and stopped at Willow Springs only to be met by guard dogs.  But as soon as the dogs got their ire up, a fighter jet blasted out of the nearby canyon and sent them all running - us too.
Once at elevation we stopped for lunch.
Heard about some single track in the vicinity so we went looking -- and found it.

In September 08 we were up here doing the Inyo traverse coming from Mazourka canyon and didn't spot this gem of a trail. Our Hilton Creek website gets a lot of views from those searching "Mazourka canyon singletrack", well, here it is.
On sustainable singletrack and access to public lands:
"Singletrack is about riding lightly on the land" 
"It looks like a deer trail, it blends in"
"Sit back and enjoy the ride" -James

Once committed here there wasn't any turning around.  (We had faith it would turn out well.) 

The great part about this 10 mile stretch of singletrack was the squid filter at the bottom.  Loaded down with our gear we only made it out because of gravity.  There wouldn't be any retracing of our steps coming in from the valley floor.  And that's probably what's kept this hidden trail in such good condition over the years. 

After that incredible stretch of trail we made our way over to the Big Pine chevron for some dinner and gas.  Once again we order the chili relleno burrito - superb!
After dinner we cut up to Baker Creek then over to Keogh's hot springs.  James almost gets mired in the Keoghs swamp but we quickly reroute around the "naked bather singletrack" and off up to Wilkerson, Bishop, and out Tungsten city road.  Below we hit up a couple of Mustang Mesa singletracks.  In this sunset photo below James' boots are stilled filled with water from Keoghs. 

Now it's getting cold but were up at Tom's Place right at darkfall - only minutes from home we stop off for a quick pick me up. Shot of Jager for $6 and an Irish Coffee for $5.50!!  We must be home with those prices!  Hah. 

 Hope you enjoyed this report, it ended up being a catch all for lots of things related to living, riding, and recreating in the Eastern Sierra.  Consider it a unique showcase of the Owens Valley, Fish Lake Valley, Death Valley, Panamint Valley, and our countless mountain ranges.  Inyo and Mono counties hold many special places in our lives - Esmeralda too!  Can't imagine being anywhere else.
Thanks go out to our whole family and Kim, everyone went all out to provide us with the best stop over possible.  And to all those we meet on our travels -- happy trails --
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." -Gandhi
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -Edison
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Einstein
The End.