Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dante's View, Zabriskie Point, Keane Wonder Mine, and Titus Canyon

No vacation is ever complete without a glitch, and on our way into Death Valley going uphill, the right front brake of our rented Ford Explorer started squealing loudly.

We stopped at the service station in Furnace Creek, who told us the rotor was scored. We hadn't even hit any steep downhills when the brakes started acting up.

So the next morning we went to the visitor center and called Hertz on the payphone, since we have Cingular and if you want to use your cell phone in Death Valley, you need to have Verizon.

Hertz was willing to bring us a new car from their nearest office (Las Vegas) but apparently they couldn't drive out without having a street address for the visitor center and campground.

It's not like there's any confusion driving to Furnace Creek, it's the only real settlement in Death Valley and it's at the junction of Highway 190 and Badwater Road. Still, they insisted they couldn't dispatch a tow truck without a street address.

I asked the rangers what address they used for the visitor center and they asked me who wanted to know. I said Hertz and they said when people insist on an address we usually just make one up, just tell them 101 Highway 190. The Hertz guy could see Furnace Creek on the map but still he didn't want to dispatch a vehicle without a street address.

The Hertz guy finally found an address for the post office in Death Valley and used that. We had to spend some time convincing him that a 2-wheel drive minivan was not an acceptable trade for a 4-wheel drive Ford Explorer, and finally he found us an acceptable car. We were then connected to the tow truck driver, who had been to Death Valley once that week already and who not only knew where Furnace Creek was, he knew where the campground was too and and just had us give him the number of our campsite. We agreed to meet him there in three hours.

We drove to Dante's View which is almost 6,000 feet high, directly above Badwater. We hiked along the edge of the cliffs admiring the view. We drove back toward our campground, stopping at Zabriskie Point to catch the early evening sun, then back to camp to wait for the tow truck. We traded the Ford Explorer with 25,000 miles on it for a Ford Expedition with 4,000 miles and settled in for the evening.

The next day we attempted a hike we've never tried before because it's been too hot. The trail to the Keane Wonder Mine rises 1500 feet in a little over a mile, it's steep and strenuous and too difficult a trail to attempt in 100+ degree heat.

This time temps were in the low 70's so we decided to try it. The steep climb yielded panoramic views of the valley.

After the hike we drove out of the park to Beatty, Nevada to the start of the one-way road that winds its way back into the park and down to Titus Canyon.

Titus Canyon winds its way down toward the valley floor past abandoned mines and petroglyphs. The most dramatic part of the drive is the final stretch through the canyon narrows, with cliffs on both sides rising vertically over 500 feet above the canyon floor.

It was windy again when we got back to our camp, and in our absence several tents had blown down, including a tent identical to ours, but we were happy to find our tent still standing, even if it was filled with sand. We were tired enough that we managed to sleep well through the dirt and sand that blew into our eyes, nose, ears and mouth during the night.

The wind was irritating, but looking up at the awesome beauty of the night sky it always seems worth it.

- Kathleen


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