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| Debbie Miller | Trip Reports

2023 Trip Report - Trip Notes: Death Valley

Trip Notes: Death Valley and the East Mojave

December 2022 • By Jean Hansen

Saturday, December 24, 2022 We left home at 9:00 a.m., stopped for gas in Phelan, and drove north on Highway 395, stopping for gas at Kramer Junction and then again in Trona. From here, we drove north, intersecting with the road which leads into Death Valley, driving over Towne Pass. This is always a beautiful drive. We stopped at Stovepipe Wells for gas and then continued on to the road to Mesquite Springs campground. We had planned to camp there and the next day, hike the bighorn gorge. However, this was not to be; the park service had the road closed and barred off. We considered going around, but they are very vigilant and we’d have gotten caught, so we decided instead, to go south and do some sites in the East Mojave. We stopped in Shoshone for gas, then found a nice remote dirt road on which to camp. Good campsite.

Sunday, December 25, 2022 We left camp at 9:00 a.m. and drove south into Baker for more gas. Then we proceeded into the East Mojave on Kelbaker Road. It too, had road closed signs and was even gated, but we could see where people had been driving around the gate. However, we backed out and instead went into the East Mojave at Cima Road. Once we got back around to Kelbaker Road we saw why the road was closed; at 17 mile point, the road was totally washed out! The pavement was gone and the large metal drainage pipes which usually run underneath the road were laying to the side of the road, all twisted up. People had been driving in the dirt around the washout though, so we just followed their tracks. We went back up to Aikens Mine Road to:

  • East Mojave Lava Tube This is an old favorite for us and we never tire of seeing it. The first time we climbed down in, many years ago, there was a wooden ladder. This time, the ladder was steel and bolted into the side of the rock wall, thus making it safer. Otherwise, the lava tube was unchanged. We had to duck down low as we traversed the tube, before we came out underneath the “skylight.” We took a few pictures there, and then climbed out, returned to the truck and proceeded on to:
  • Aikens Wash This is another site to which we have been many times, but it never gets old. Here are petroglyphs strung along a rock face for at least ¼ mile and right in the middle of this area is an old collapsed lava tube with red pictographs painted inside. These are all abstract designs. We hiked from here to:
  • Aikens Wash Tinaja Here a wash narrows up to a nice tinaja with petroglyphs on both sides of the small canyon and up at the top of the tinaja. We returned to the truck and drove out Aikens Wash Road the way we came and down to camp at Indian Springs. As always, a spectacular campsite, where we had a very good happy hour!

Monday, December 26, 2022: We left camp at 8:45 a.m. and hiked from camp, up and around the waterfall to see:

  • Site #1 Here was a small “island” of rock which had nice petroglyphs all around it. We never tire of seeing it. Then we left, continuing on up the wash, seeing a few more scattered petroglyphs along the way. We were looking for the trail, but missed it, so just hiked cross-country to:
  • Freightwagon Site This is another one we’ve seen many times and which we love! Here were large, free-standing boulders with petroglyphs all around, a high rock face with petroglyphs, smaller, free-standing rocks with petroglyphs, a ground-level shelter with very faded pictographs and near the shelter, more petroglyphs, including a Mojave mask. When we left, we found the trail, which takes off very near the shelter. We successfully followed the trail all the way back to the main wash and made our way back down to the lower wash level.

We decided at this point to head for home, since we had seen all we wanted to see on this trip. We drove back out to Baker, got a burrito and headed home, arriving home at about 4:00 p.m. This was a great way to spend Christmas! ~ Jean