Four Birthdays in the Desert

Ventifact (wind sculpted rock), Eureka Valley.

Turns out I share November birthdays with not only Mike and my sister Jennifer, but several other friends as well. Two of those friends live fairly close to Reno.

For a few years now we’ve talked about meeting up somewhere warm and sunny for car-camping and a few days of exploring, eating good food and drinking adult beverages.

Mike gets in a little morning reading.

They have a pop up trailer and we have The Sprinter — add in a little fantastic scenery and you have truly deluxe accommodations.

Well, this year we finally made it happen. We spent a few days in Eureka Valley, which is a couple valleys west of Death Valley itself. It’s actually part of Death Valley National Park, but receives far less visitation because access is a little more difficult over fairly rough gravel roads.

Single-malt tasting session, complete with vintage Austrian thimble glasses.

We all thought it was a perfect place to wander around for a few days. We explored big sand dunes and searched (unsuccessfully) for petroglyphs one day, went up a peak the next day, and finished off the weekend in one of the many canyons that empty into Eureka Valley.

Todd's expert Dutch-oven cookery produced a birthday cake for all.

And, as it turned out, the weather we had — upper 70s during the day and mid 40s at night — was the tail end of Indian Summer. Area temps are now 40 degrees cooler, and there is snow in them thar hills. A fine way to celebrate four birthdays!

Here are some pictures from the trip — Click on any image to enlarge it.

Day 1: Chris weathers a rough afternoon in the shade of the Chalet.
Before we got to Eureka Valley, we had to navigate a sheep jam in Coleville.
Mike, Todd and the Aussie Patrol of Murph and Bean head west through the northern Saline Range toward Hidden Dunes, Eureka Valley, with the formidable slopes of the Inyo Mountains in the far background.
We were lucky to see the endangered Eureka Valley dune grass, Swallenia alexandrae.
Band shot: Chris, Bean, Todd, Mike, and Murph atop the dunes.
Horned lizard. This little guy is about 2.5 inches long.
Chris with her birthday puffy skirt and birthday Scotch.
What's a giant birthday cake without a giant birthday number representing our ages?
Day 2's walk began at a higher elevation, among the Joshua trees.
Looking north toward the mighty southeast face of Mt. Nunn (high point on the skyline). Just go around this bump, next to that lump, down that wash, up the face and yer there!
Next best thing to an actual topo map: Todd checks the course with his iPhone.
At the summit! View southeast into Hidden Valley (foreground) and Eureka Valley (background), with one of its two sets of dunes at the southern end.
Vintage summit-register entry. "Nov. 17, 1950: Climbed along ridge from Soldier Pass. Left Deep Springs School at 9:00 am. Arrived here at 4:00 pm after cooking lunch along ridge. Storm over Sierra but clear overhead. --Douglas Powell and Edward Loomis"
Day 3 canyon cruise out of Hidden Valley. Here, we find upended Cambrian limestone in the upper part of the canyon.
Closeup of the intricately layered rock.
Graffito. None of us felt an urge to chip something into the surrounding rocks, it seemed like a lot of work.
Chris heads up little polished-marble waterfalls in the ever-narrowing canyon.
You find the damndest things in the desert: bowling ball as trail marker. The End.

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