This was our fourth trip to Death Valley. Our main objectives this trip were to see some sights not yet seen, revisit some sites we had seen, and do some hiking. We did all of that. We also got to take a ride in a small, 4-seater airplane, which was totally unexpected and the highlight of our trip. To bypass the story and jump straight to the photos, click here.
Here’s how it happened:
On our way in to Death Valley from Ridgecrest (where we stayed the night before, at Motel 6), the plan was to have breakfast at our usual place, the Ranch House Cafe in Olancha. To our initial disappointment, though, it was closed. We decided against risking the sketchy-looking cafe down the road and headed in to the valley to eat at the restaurant at Panamint Springs. Just before we were wrapping things up there, Tim Cassell, co-owner of Panamint Springs Resort just happened to be with his family at the table next to us, and cursorx overheard him talking about taking some people up in his plane. Of course, cursorx couldn’t help but mention how awesome that sounded, and Tim proceeded to offer us a ride as well, at our own risk, of course. We took him up on it. We also met Tim’s wife, Marsha, and several of their sons (they have 5), who help to run the place. They were all really nice folks. While we have never stayed at Panamint Springs, we plan on it for our next visit, and highly recommend it to others.
After our plane ride, we headed back down the road a mile or two to check out one of the previously unseen sights, Darwin Falls. A turn-off from Highway 190 just west of Panamint Springs takes you down a 2.5 mile dirt road to a small parking lot at the trailhead. A short and fairly uneventful 1-mile hike takes you to a totally unexpected sight…an active waterfall in the desert. We encountered a few folks on the trail, but since we got a late start in the afternoon, we were the last ones to hike in and got to enjoy the waterfall on our own as the sun went down.
The next day, we decided to check out Desolation Canyon…another location not yet seen. We started to venture in and spent some time exploring the outskirts, but the sun was blazing, and we really wanted to hike Mosaic Canyon, so we cut the exploration short and headed back across the park. We got to the trailhead at Mosaic Canyon at 3pm and headed in, cursorx lugging the tripod in hopes of capturing the canyon at sunset and dusk. We had done part of this hike on a previous trip, but I was intent on finishing it this time. We spent almost two hours hiking up the canyon, scrambling up and over boulders. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a firm believer of having my feet square on solid ground, so parts of this hike were a challenge, but I made it all the way. We turned back a bit after the sun set, and we were, once again, the last ones on the trail. Lucky we remembered our headlamps.
On our last day in the park, we checked out Dante’s View, a spot we’ve enjoyed in the past, and shot the sand dunes from the side of the road in the late afternoon before heading to Lone Pine.
We stayed the night there and made another unexpected detour after breakfast the next morning through the Alabama Hills before heading home.
We also stopped at Red Rock Canyon State Park off of Hwy 14, but the visitor center and a couple of the roads in the park were closed and the map of the park posted on the kiosk outside was crude at best, so we decided to postpone this last leg of the trip until we could get better information.
You can check out all of the photos from our trip here.