Back in December, most of you know i picked up my first adventure motorcycle. A BMW F650gs Dakar. As a kid, I grew up riding dirt bikes in the Southern California deserts and in Baja. Well, it had been a long time since I got out on two wheels and I wanted to do something about it. I also wanted to be able to camp off the bike and be comfortable for longer hauls. So once i had the adventure moto, the endorsement for street use, and proper riding gear, my buddies didn't waste anytime signing me up for the ADVRider NOOB rally in Death Valley. As the kind of guy that doesn't mind a challenge, I said.... sure, sign me up!
First, a little back story on the ADVRider event. It's usually 3 to 4 days worth of fun and many arrive early in the week. You sign up early, because it does sell out fast. The guys feed you daily, arrange campsites ahead of time and vendors give away really cool prizes. They really go all out. Everyone is super friendly to new riders, supportive and they never leave anyone behind. There's a stack of runs you can choose from each day from mild pavement for the big bikes to wild rocky washes with waterfalls for the smaller nimbler bikes. You can do a small out and back run and get back for lunch or you can select a large loop that will put you back around dark. There's always something going on and some folks even put on a night run.
On this particular year, the event was held at Panamint Springs Resort. Let me reassure you of one thing. "Resort" is used loosely here, but they do have over 100 craft brews on site and many good beers on tap. The food is nice and the camping is well, camping. There's showers and bathrooms and it generally makes for a nice place to land if you need to on a Death Valley or Panamint/Inyo trip. We've been camping here since 2007 and like to use it as a base camp as it's somewhat centrally located.
The first day on the bikes would prove to be the longest and most intense. To begin we would run over from Panamint Valley up over Towne Pass, through StovePipe and south to Echo Canyon.
Gabe working his way up the canyon on his DRZ400sm.
Taking a breather. It was hot in the canyon and the KTM 950 adventure was running funny. I waited in whatever shade i could fine since I had my all weather jacket on. As long as i kept moving I was fine and had a smile from ear to ear.
Our buddy James arrived on the KTM Adventure 950 and it was still acting really weird with back firing and idle problems. It was time to take a look as we all arrived a the Inyo Mine.
Inyo Gold Camp or Scwab Mine (down the road from the mine) as some call it, has plenty to see. There are multiple structures/tent sites, what looks to be an ore crushing machine and several different dug outs. Old remnants can be found around every corner. The last time it was in use was in the 1940's.
One of the old bunkhouse structures up on the hillside. I'm always intrigued with buildings like this and want to see what is inside them. This one was no exception.
Inside of the above structure. Old bed spring and frame waiting for a matress for a good nights sleep. Floor was a little soft and sketchy, so I didn't go in much further.
Complete with furnace for those cold winter nights. Or a converted drum, whichever worked best at the time.
Another wooden structure. Pretty well intact but you can tell in a state of decay, note the sloping of the roof and wall lines. The building is starting to fall.
Looking down southwest of the town along the mill line. Hardy terrain here. Not a place you want to be in the summer time either. Just being here when we were in late March, early April meant already warm temps during the day.
View of the bikes from the mine site. James and Gabe were still wrenching on the KTM. I'm like a bull in a china shop, so i know i'd only get in the way. Plus, there's only so much room to work on a moto.
Some photos of the rest of the mine operations.
The diesel engine used to power the mill. I read something somewhere that it was only fired twice. That doesn't sound good for mine profits.
Small storage area built in the side of the hill.
Inside the storage area. Maybe used for explosives?
Various bits and pieces people have found and placed on a nearby table. See with your eyes and leave it be. Pretty cool to check it out and know people aren't hauling it back for a souvenir.
It was time for me to head back to the bikes and see what the latest was on the KTM. This didn't look good. Pulling carbs 75 miles from camp and in the middle of Death Valley?
Hell these guys were up for anything. James with a huge smile and great attitude the whole time. You wouldn't believe it by looking at them, but they had just spent nearly 40 minutes pulling apart half the bike to get to the carbs. Oh the joy!
After pulling both carbs and checking everything they could, they buttoned it back up with a decision to make. James would have to ride it the way it was or limp it back to camp alone. He was very confident in his riding ability and Macgyver skills so he opted to head back. We also knew there were plenty of other riders out in the park in case he had problems along the route and needed assistance.
Continuing onward through Echo canyon we ran into rocky terrain and various waterfall hike a bike sections. I opted to "bully" my 420lb Dakar up the rocks with the help of Gabe. He opted to fly up the falls on his 300lbs bored 400. In hindsight I really wish I had taken the time to shoot some photos, but I was so tired and hot I didn't feel like making the extra effort.
We stopped on top of a plateau for well needed lunch. My camel back was lighter than ever before and I was starving. I was definitely feeling the newbie blues. Again, no photos of me catching my breath.
After a couple hours of riding through the canyons and a large wash, we ended up in Nevada near the Amargosa Big Dunes. You can see them rising from the valley behind me.
Arriving in Beatty, Nevada for fuel, hydration and snacks. We checked in with home as well since we now had cell service.
Since we were in the area and everything is a quick stop on motos, we stopped in Rhyolite. It is still one of my favorite old Ghost Towns around with many buildings and history to see. If you'd like to see and read more about Rhyolite, check out our Nevada Overland Report.
After Rhyolite, we turned up to start the epic journey through Titus Canyon. Somehow Gabe got a flat while running 70mph along the beginning of the route. Thankfully he wasn't injured as at that speed, anything could happen. He ended up fixing the flat in record time and we were again on our way. It always pays to bring proper tools, tubes and everything you may need in remote areas, especially Death Valley.
Titus Canyon is spectacular. You can the various ways the water cut through the canyons tearing the walls apart and generating water lines. It's also a one-way route from East to West which is a good thing for blind corners and shear switchbacks.
Gabe taking a breather and enjoying the view. This part of the ride was the highlight of the trip in my eyes.
Shot of the Leadfield Mine Ruins. Founded on extravagant claims that had little to no truth. Established in 1926 with hopeful folks, and by 1927 the town was nothing. Yep that fast. Post Office up and Post Office down.
You can see the limestone water lines in the canyons here. Just epic and the camera doesn't do the area justice. You really need to come here and check it out yourself.
The area was submerged beneath tropical seas between 570-505 million years ago.
You feel dwarfed by the walls of the canyon. It was a total pleasure to take our time motoring through and listening to the bikes chugging along.
The road is closed in the winter for obvious reasons. Not snow, but flooding. I wouldn't want to be caught in this area in a flash flood. Gabe stops to take a photo next to the ancient walls. Again, you see the magnitude of the canyon as compared to him and his bike.
This would conclude the ride for the day as it was approaching dark and we needed to head back to our basecamp an hour away via pavement. In the end, we were out riding for 10-12 hours and covered 230 miles of the park.
The next day we got up and headed back out. First stop was the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns.
These particular kilns are one of the best surviving examples in the western states. They're 25 feet high and are shaped almost like a beehive. They were built in 1877 for the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide fuel (burning wood to make charcoal) for two smelters located in the Argus Range about 25 miles from the site.
Today they still blow my mind when i see them in person. Imagine how long it would take to build all 10 of them? The acoustics inside are amazing as well.
There were plenty of other riders from the event up in the area.
On Todays ride, our friend James would ride a Yamaha TW200. Anything on two wheels and you're having a good time.
We traveled south and up to the top to check out some campgrounds. The highest of the two was Mohagany flats. It was cool, there were patches of snow in the shade and you could see Badwater in the distance. Pretty nice.
A view of the highest point in Death Valley. Telescope Peak at 11,049 ft. The drop from the peak to Badwater is said to be twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.
You can see the Badwater Basin behind me in the distance. I'd really like to camp up here sometime in the future.
Next stop was a few miles across the range. Eureka Mine and Cashier Mill. Still in pretty good condition with again, plenty to see and explore on foot.
The mine founded by Pete Aguereberry in 1905. After he nearly died trying to cross Death Valley in the summer heat, he was then nursed back to health and retired to his mine operation. He ended up bringing out some hefty profits from this mine until about 1930 when his health started to whither him down.
Enjoying myself as always.
Gabe exploring up the hill and over to the original mine site.
Pete's original cabin is still on site and you can explore the tunnels when they're open in the spring. When we were there it was still considered winter, so the mine tunnels were closed for the Townsend's long eared bats.
Giving a look at one of the nets meant to keep people and animals from falling into the exposed shafts.
After checking out the mine area, we headed up to Aquereberry Point. It was epic and made a great place to stop and take a breather.
From this viewpoint you could see the entire west side of Death Valley and Mount Charleston in Nevada at 11,900 feet/80 miles away.
What's nice about being on motos is that you can literally pull off and explore any side roads your heart desires. It takes mere minutes, and you can get off the bike in seconds to see on foot. Here we find one of the many mines scattered through the area.
Checking out the shaft. I was surprised to see the park service had done a great job protecting the public with guard rails and another net over the shaft.
Next up on our list was to check out the old Ghost Town, Skidoo. For some reason, we all thought we remembered there being at least one or two structures left to see of the town, but to our surprise nothing was left. Skidoo was originally named "23 Skidoo" where it meant in early 20th century slang, "go away" or "take off". I guess they all go their wish.
This is what we saw, or didn't. A placard.
We headed towards the Skidoo Mill site. This was the furthest you could travel before the shelf road started to disappear and a gate was erected.
The site. It was pretty amazing the see it was built on the edge of a cliffside. They ran off spring water that was sourced high in the Panamint Range. This was one of the most profitable operations in Death Valley. It was also the only mill that ran off water, which of course is scarce in this area.
You never know when you may find a teeter-totter in the middle of no where. Made for a great lunch bench.
What the mill originally looked like.
Looking down off the side of the mill structure and into what looked to be the hopper.
Another mine near the access road. Gated up and no longer accessible.
Remnants around every corner of the old times. Like a snapshot of history.
It was time to cut loose and head back to camp, since James was on a TW200 and the range was questionable. We still had a good hour back to camp.
If you look closely in this photo you can see the guys ahead of me making their way back to camp.
Gabe making his way back to camp.
After arriving back at camp, we logged 170 miles this day. Little shorter than the day before, but that was alright with me. I was exhausted from the previous run. We settled in for the night, had some brews and ate like kings thanks to the AdvRider crew.
It was time to also flaunt the cool retro socks with sandals.
After a good night sleep we said our goodbyes to most folks, including James. Gabe and I had an itch for a small ride out to the Inyo side of the park and through portions of Saline Valley road. We explored and rode about 60 miles this day and then returned to camp to load the bikes back up for home.
For my first adventure ride in Death Valley i was stoked at how it went. I didn't lay the bike down once, i learned a ton and i was using the bike for what i bought it for. Big thanks to Gabe, James and the whole ADVRider crew for teaching newbies how to ride, the new goggles i won and for the great food and camaraderie!
See you all next year for sure!
This article was originally posted on AdventureDuo.com - Thanks to Dave Druck for sharing it with the Expedition Portal Community.
To read the original article, or to check out more great adventures, be sure to visit their website.