No plan, No problem, One will present itself

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

We noticed what appeared to be a bag on the road directly in front of us. It was about 3’ long and 15” round, black in color. We slowed and saw the “NorthFace” logo and thought… this isn’t trash. After a short debate between me and the wife, we decided that the people that lost it were probably going our direction; and we thought we should pick it up and take it along. Then it hit us, is it a dead body? Is it a trap? Is it full of cash? If so, what way do we go? HAHAHA :)











 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

I couldn’t resist, I fought the zipper and finally got it open. It contained a few sleeping bags, if there was cash in there, there wasn’t enough to retire on so we stopped probing and threw it in the Jeep. About 8 miles later we encountered our first head on traffic. There was a 4x4 Toyota Tundra with a dark haired, sun glasses wearing guy all choked up on the steering wheel one hand out the window palm exposed fingers extended virtually begging for us to stop. He came sliding up to us as we came to a stop. He mentioned driving like “Robby Gordon” as he was catching his breath and also half enquiring whether or not we had “found something”, simultaneously I was asking whether or not he lost something. The sigh of relief came over him when we delivered the news that we had his cargo in stock! His door flew open and his appreciation poured out of him. He introduced himself as John and thanked us profusely. He runs the group tour of motorcycles we saw at the start of the road. His tour runs throughout the desert near and in the Death Valley Park. He was running a support vehicle and had lost a customers tent and gear on the road that we found. We did save him roughly 8 miles of eye watering vibration, but we would hope someone would do it for us! We decided to take this opportunity to enjoy a short hiatus. Quite frankly the encounter was very rewarding. We did something for someone who appreciated it; we got to rest from the monotony of the road. We also got someone else’s perspective on where we were in our journey and ask if he had info that could effect our decisions. My wife broke out the map we had and asked a question about the Hippy Camp. He said the camp was empty and he didn’t know anything about any hippies, laughing, but he knew of an interesting place on the desert floor we had to see to believe. He broke out his personal detailed map book and spread it open on the hood of the Jeep. He started with the “you are here” speech and was explaining where the camp was (yet abandoned and empty). He showed us on the map and via finger point where the “Saline Warm Springs” were, about 15 miles directly east of us. He claimed it was about half hours drive and well worth the trip. He insisted that we keep the map book, as sort of payment for our returning his goods to him. I wasn’t too keen on taking this guy’s map book but my wife had already accepted it and was holding it close as though it was a treasure. I guess because she had the job of navigation it was a treasure and she had new life come over her as though we had hit the lottery. John said he and the motorcycle guys would be setting up camp there as well and we should consider doing the same thing as nightfall would be on us soon. We decided to go check it even after warning that some of the folks that frequent this location tend to wake up and forget to put clothes on. That doesn’t bother me or my wife much, after all we can just cruise through and see the phenomena that is natural hot springs, without the wildlife getting to us . The road over there was fun, mostly soft sand with a few sand washes and cross grain to be concerned about. As you leave the outskirts of the dunes you enter very dark colored soil mixed with rock. The single track road is lined with old mining equipment, huge chunks of steel. Some of these materials were fashioned into a sign expressing Death Valley complete with bones of some sort.









My wife was behind the wheel now negotiating the terrain. I was so nervous; I had come to grips with the fact that we had crap tires for such an adventure and couldn’t help but try and drive from the passenger seat. I feel bad because I made it hard for her to enjoy driving, but at the end of the day, I felt responsible to get us out of there with all four tires still intact. Just another emotion to deal with and another dynamic to add to the adventure I guess.



 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

Upon arrival we were amazed at how many people were camped out here. I estimate that there were at least 75 vehicles that turned up for the weekend. Apparently this is the weekend of the year for this place; they have a huge golf game on Saturday and a softball game on Sunday. It's funny to see Astroturf with golf tees, and holes with flags in the middle of the desert. Several groups of people, most of which were wearing robes, just enjoying a game of golf 65 miles from pavement :) . These people were nuts and we were intrigued. We stopped at the lower section and shot a few pictures. We felt odd carrying a camera in this place so decided to not be the “tourist” and just take it in minus the photographs.













We did shoot a few pics of the Hot Springs source and a few other cool things there.



 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

For more info look here….


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saline_Valley,_California

We made a decision to stay the night here as it would have been a very long trip out at night and we weren’t in the mood to be stuck and lost. We set up our camp spot near the upper springs. There are lower springs, upper springs, and top springs. The upper springs seemed to be where most of the young college age people were camped out. The lower springs were occupied by older folks, and the top springs were reserved for hikers and passers by. We did manage to spend a few hours in one of the upper hot tubs and wow is it incredible how warm the water is! They say around 107 degrees. I think we decided to call it a night when the hot tub turned into somewhat of a party. I think there were 17 people piled in by the time we exited. I have to say, we met some really funny and interesting people during those few hours. (In case you are wondering, we were wearing clothing but the bulk of a female dance group ages 20-25 from nor cal were not shy in the slightest.) What an experience! It was cold outside, roughly 40 degrees, but after soaking for a few hours we were extremely warm heading to bed. As the night progressed the rain once again began to fall, nothing like the night before, but enough to keep one of my eyes open for the majority of the night.





I want one of these..... Bad!







Our Camping spot....



My other hobby that I just didnt have time to enjoy on this trip was "Scale Adventure Crawling" our scale rigs





and at last the coordinates.......

 

Jrally

Adventurer
Glad to see you two are getting out and having calmer fun then chasing after rally cars every other weekend. Such a small world to run into more rally people on here, especially ones I know and have riden in a car with... Rim, crewing for Kevin K. years ago.
Great write up and adventure. My GF and I were talking about how cool it would be to make it out to Death Valley sometime, in the Celica. I'll have to pay more attention in April when I'm back up that way for HDT, places to go, adventures to be had.

-Jon
 

NorCalLC

Adventurer
Good trip report, keep it coming. Your new jeep is quite different from your old one, I remember being blown away by that photo of all the flex.
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Thanks for checking our story guys! We had an amazing time, Day 3 is where it got very interesting. Will post soon.

Glad to see you two are getting out and having calmer fun then chasing after rally cars every other weekend. Such a small world to run into more rally people on here, especially ones I know and have riden in a car with... Rim, crewing for Kevin K. years ago.
Great write up and adventure. My GF and I were talking about how cool it would be to make it out to Death Valley sometime, in the Celica. I'll have to pay more attention in April when I'm back up that way for HDT, places to go, adventures to be had.

-Jon
Thats awesome! Your celica would be cool out there, Perhaps more so when there is no snow on the passes :) Is that Kevin Kraack you are talking about?
We used to live rally, I mean LIVE rally. We finally slowed a few years ago, and found some other fun stuff to do. Keep having fun Jon!

Good trip report, keep it coming. Your new jeep is quite different from your old one, I remember being blown away by that photo of all the flex.

Thank you for the compliment. My jeep is different, I am different, it's like starting all over. I have fear now, and my jeep isn't ready yet! My old Jeep was fun, it did some pretty amazing things for a mall crawler. It's cool you remember that. Thanks again guys.

Scott G.
the gravel crew
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 3

Day 3
We managed to actually get some sleep which was good news especially after the previous night’s adventure. We were packed up and ready to hit the road by 8:30 am. A gentleman approached us and asked if we were practicing setting up and taking down our camp. We expressed the fact that we were hitting the road and heading out. He promptly responded with “You aren’t getting out of here today!” It appears that that small rain we felt last night at camp paled in comparison to the snow fall on both relative easily passages out of the valley. There were four ways out; two required ground clearance and better tires, the other two were “covered in snow”. We politely expressed our appreciation for his insight and expressed that we may just go do a little exploring. This meant we were going to try and get out anyway. As we were leaving the camping area we noticed a group of fairly well prepared vehicles and decided to stop and get a second opinion. I found the oldest (clothed) guy I could with a nice older bronco and asked his opinion. We told him we wanted to get to Scotty’s Castle and the Crater. He agreed that there would be some snow, but the pass we wanted to cross would probably be our best bet. So with just over half a tank of fuel left we set out on our journey. As we left the road to the springs and rejoined the 95 mile road we were greeted with more washboard and rocky terrain. We set out to make decent time and try to average 20-25 miles per hour.









 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 3 continued

It was about 10:30 am when we started to ascend the mountain from the canyon floor. The first evidence of snow appeared; as we traveled further we caught up to a 4x4 Toyota Tundra lifted on bigger tires. He was cutting a trail for us through the snow. As we climbed higher and higher the snow got deeper and deeper. Slowly the Tundra drove away from us on up through the mountain. This is where we started getting nervous. Snow is the one area I really know nothing about. I have pushed through some deep snow in the past but that was when I had some clearance and some decent tires. We were stock height on our humbling Bridgestones. The depth kept increasing and increasing till we saw evidence of the Toyota’s undercarriage and pumpkin dragging along.

Somehow I managed to screw up the camera settings for the next several shots.... :(








 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 3 continued

We kept pushing on rarely breaking the silence between me and the wife. We approached an uphill portion of the trail and broke traction. Luckily it was at a point where there was a flat area just big enough for our vehicle to pull off and be clear of the road. My wife got out and proceeded to stomp the ground making sure the area was not littered with any hidden hazards. We slowly moved the Jeep back and forth breaking a little more of the snow behind us with each reverse until we were clear of the main road. We decided to get out and walk the trail a little and determine if this was the worst of it. My poor wife took a mean spill while walking in the tracks of the Tundra. All I saw were her feet go in the air followed by that intense short scream usually accompanying this situation. She was ok, but quickly losing patience.



I think it was because she had a huge calculus exam on Tuesday that she was supposed to be studying for. The plan was to hit the Castle and the Crater then head home so she could study the whole day Monday before the exam. This snow was not part of her equation, even though we were warned! I proceeded to walk the trail for about a mile and discovered three spots that made me nervous. There were steep hills with corners at the bottom of them that would be catastrophic should we go sliding off. We decided to give it a go anyways and discovered some interesting things about this white fluffy stuff. There was a base of snow below the fresh powder that was very icy. Even when digging below the Toyota’s tread marks there was still a good 6” of icy snow before you hit dirt. That meant he was virtually floating on top. I decided we needed to carry some speed to try and float as well. We spent several minutes and valuable fuel resources trying to climb the first hill. It was strange, we would make it almost all the way to the top, have to stop, step on the gas and immediately go backwards down the hill with the wheels going forward. So forward equals reverse, interesting concept. Sliding tires don’t steer, so we had to put it in reverse and accelerate in effort to get control again. This was scary, as gravity plus reverse acceleration equals going downhill backwards much faster than comfortable. We give the first hill a final push and crested it at just the perfect speed to carry on. The snow was really deep by now; you could see exactly where our low clearance spots were on the Jeep by the drag evidence in the snow. What the hell were we thinking? We made it another quarter mile or so before the next big climb. I decided to carry as much speed as possible to insure the best result. We made it almost all the way to the top when the Jeep decided to slide off the road to the right and up against the bank. Another crappy situation that required accelerating in reverse downhill on icy snow. The shady spots are the worst as they were most slippery. We managed to get it back to the tracks and give it one final shot. I kept that perfect balance between acceleration and traction as long as I could. It just wasn’t meant to be. We slid off in the same spot again. This time it went “all bad” trying to back out of it. We ended up on the other side of the road up against the bank sideways in the road. We didn’t seem to have any traction in any gear or direction. I finally bounced along the edge in reverse going downhill until the front tire went up on a rock and gave us the traction to turn back on the trail. We reversed down to another flat spot to reassess our situation. My wife said the coolest words to me….. “I will be with you no matter what you decide to do, I will be there to reap the rewards if we make it, or suffer the consequences if we don’t.” I was so worried that she was on the verge of blowing a gasket, and very pleased to hear she was not planning my funeral.  Now we were just a few miles shy of the pavement, unable to push further, and low on fuel….. What to do? It was 90+ miles to pavement going the other direction (and part of that is the “road from hell”) we had just over a quarter tank, and could smell the asphalt at the top of the hill…..Damn! Choices are: wait for someone to come cut more road (probably wont work anyways), head the other direction, stop back at the place we camped and TRY to buy surplus gas from someone, or make a banzai run out with the fuel we had. After a few minutes we decided to head the other direction, as it could be a few days before someone came down this trail again. As luck would have it there were several well equipped guys heading up the trail after we descended to the bottom. Now again we had a decision to make. My wife’s calculations of fuel expressed we could just make it out the other direction, and we didn’t have the extra fuel to take another stab at breaking a snow trail. So we carried on back the direction we came. We stopped and warned lots of folks about the snow on the pass, but like us, it seemed as though everyone needed to see it for themselves. Five hours later we are back at the turn off for the Saline Springs camp. A quick 10-100 break and we made a decision to head out without begging for fuel. We had 65 miles to pavement, 20 of which was uphill, then 15-20 more down to Panamint springs to happily give $4.36 a gallon. That’s 80+ miles to the nearest gas station with 1/4 tank exactly. I was freaking out, my wife was very calm and collected, and just said don’t worry, we will be just fine. Normally I don’t just take her word, as she can be an optimist at times, but everything she said has been bang on thus far on the trip (we will be fine in the rain, tails on the coin, decision to hot tub with hot naked women ). So we pressed on. We risked some fuel resources as we approached the “Road from Hell” again and averaged about 60 across that section. After having been on this road at speed we were confident we could make up some time there. All the while I am watching the fuel economy meter in the overhead consol of the Jeep. I am constantly trying to figure the best speed and acceleration combination to deliver the best economy possible. This was all fine and dandy on the slight downhill and even level surfaces. All that went out the window when we began the ascent up the mountain with 1/8 tank left. We were plugging away, eyes still bugging out trying to avoid sharp rocks (still not in the mood to change tires). We made the water crossings and began to negotiate through some mud. We rounded a bend and there it was, the snow altitude. Just like hours earlier we began to drive single track surrounded by snow. As we climbed further and further the snow began getting deeper and deeper. I thought to myself, we are really screwed now. We have so little fuel it is barely registering, we have a lot of miles to go, and oh yeah, there is this steep ascent ahead that we had slid down on the way in…..



 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 3 continued

….. The snow was up to about 4 inches deep and just to the point where the mud tire tracks disappeared and we were on pure snow and ice. We rounded a corner and began the steep climb, this is where the proverbial **** hit the fan, half way up our steep climb we encounter another vehicle, stuck, slid half off the road with four occupants standing outside. This is not the place to stop. I was about to lose my mind with all that was concerning me. We managed to stop the Jeep and politely requested that it “stay” as though it was a pet we didn’t want to wander off. I was afraid it would break traction and slide down the hill even if empty of occupants and in park. As we approached the group in front of us we realized they were from the camp we had stayed at last night, not because they were in the buff but because they hadn’t the first clue about driving and had somehow managed to get a RWD Dodge rental this far up the road. Oh my God, this was not good. My wife had finally let the stress get to her; she took off up the hill to stop any downhill traveling folks from making the situation worse. I could hear my wife’s little screams no fewer than three times as I patiently helped these folks come up with a solution. I know she had fallen again and again… and again. I only hoped that the smoke would stop pouring from her ears by the time we saw each other again. We tried everything to get this POS going and up the hill. We made a rock road, we cut all the ice and snow away to get to dirt for traction, this damn SUV just wouldn’t do it. It would get going then crap out. It had traction control, so the power would get cut like a rev limiter when it broke traction. I was starting to fume a little bit. Their unbridled optimism left me with that feeling like I was going to puke in my mouth. I am thinking to myself, we are already way screwed before we stack these folks and their drama on our plate, what a day! It went really sideways when one of the gentlemen decided to back down a little bit. He had the front wheels turned all the way to lock with the brakes locked up sliding backwards toward my Jeep, I thought oh boy, here we go. I convinced him to let off the brake as to steer it to the dirt we uncovered and stop. I took that opportunity to back my Jeep ever so slowly down the hill. I’ll be damned if I am going to lose my rig to these people and their lack of driving skills. They would have slammed into it and pushed it right over the cliff. With my Jeep out of harm’s way (for the most part) I climbed the hill on foot once again to help. By this time they had decided the best course of action was to head back to camp, and leave with the caravan the next day. All they had to do was turn around. Well I had an idea for this. I asked if they bought the extra insurance (giggling, I couldn’t resist) which they confirmed then I asked if they would trust me on how to get it turned around safely. By now we had a bit of a relationship going so they agreed. I talked the driver into turning the wheels all the way and letting off the brake entirely allowing the rear of the car to hit the bank. Exactly when the rear of the vehicle hits the bank us other guys would push the front end downhill sliding on the ice. It spun right around and was facing downhill ready to split. The driver then locked up the brakes and slid right down toward my Jeep. Now I was going to blow a gasket!! I am screaming for him to release the brake and steer it away from my Jeep. He released them just in time steered clear of my Jeep and stopped just below some exposed dirt. One more heart attack this trip won’t hurt, right?

I am sorry to say I wasn't much in the mood to shoot pictures during this experience.... You will have to develop a mental picture for yourselves
:sombrero:

I was now free to head up the mountain road. Just as I suspected my Jeep wasn’t too happy starting this climb from the middle of the hill. That magic combination of momentum and traction pre incident was gone. I began to slide and come to a stop where their drama had transpired. I let off the brake and stayed off the gas pedal, and the Jeep began to fight for traction on its own in 4-low. It started to idle up the icy path with only minor steering input from me. This is pretty ego crushing as the Jeep seemed to do a better job without my interfering…..LOL. Wow, am I learning a lot as I go. As I crested the first hill I got a run at the second hill and passed my wife trying to apologize for my lack of interest in stopping to pick her up. She understood, and began the hike to catch up with me at the top. When I crested the next hill I stopped on the flat and awaited her arrival. She climbed back in the Jeep, soaked from her encounters with the snow, poor girl fell three more times as I had heard earlier. She expressed how she is always willing to help someone in need, but that group of people found their way to her last nerve in 30 seconds flat so she helped by making sure no one came down on us. I expressed my understanding of her position and my concern for her crashes with the snow. We carried on finally reaching the summit of 6500 feet just in time to see the low fuel light illuminate on the dash. Our adventure was no where near over yet, though we were thankful to have made the steep climb. As we began our descent we had very few moments that scared us, after what we had been through already today this was a walk in the park. Never mind that we had 15 miles to the pavement and at least another 15 to the gas station and the low fuel light on.



 

gabepari

Explorer
YO SCOTTY!!

WHAT..... IS..... UP?????

Hey man, gimme a call sometime. It's been waaaayyy too long. We need to get all the rally geeks together, sit around the fire, and now that we are all getting fat and old, talk about how good we WERE :elkgrin:

It's weird how we all keep bumping into each other :bike_rider:

Gabe
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 3 continued

I managed to gather speed, and then throw it in neutral and coast as far as possible. We did this for the next 15 miles all the way to the main road. Once we came to the junction we were doing 45MPH and rolling in neutral, we looked both ways and blew the stop sign onto the main road. There was a 1-2 mile slight incline we absolutely had to make before the big downhill into Panamint Springs. We made the crest and began to coast down the hill in neutral. I was keeping an eye on the economy on the over head consol and realized we were only getting 21mpg max while coasting, but we could get 41mpg if it was in OD. Seems as though this Jeep stays at 2500 RPM when coasting in neutral as to make an easier transition back to gear where the Jeep would run about 1200 while coasting in OD. Go figure I was wasting my time trying to coast in neutral. We came barreling down the 190 toward Panamint Springs, I didn’t want to take any chances that there would be an uphill section that would lead to our demise. Finally we came across the road that led to Darwin Falls and were less than a mile to the gas station. She barely began to sputter as we accelerated ever so slightly up into the gas station parking lot. It was funny how we scoffed at the $4.36 a gallon prices on the way out, and now couldn’t get our money out fast enough and were happy to pay any amount to make it out of there.











 

Recce01

Adventurer
YO SCOTTY!!

WHAT..... IS..... UP?????

Hey man, gimme a call sometime. It's been waaaayyy too long. We need to get all the rally geeks together, sit around the fire, and now that we are all getting fat and old, talk about how good we WERE :elkgrin:

It's weird how we all keep bumping into each other :bike_rider:

Gabe
Holy Crap! It's Gabe!! Man, I heard you were in this sand box a while ago :) We need to hook up! :smiley_drive:
 
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