Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fall 2015

Nov 2015. Doug and Joannie.
This trip turned out to be all about trying one more time.
It started with a tire being low on air before getting out of the driveway, to which the tire shop (when I got there) replied by ripping the camper top vents off getting the truck and camper into a bay. Tire repaired (?) vents replaced and sealed, we called it a day and determined to leave the following morning. Awakening to the same leaking tire in the driveway, I changed the tire, put the leaker on the spare carrier, and we left town.

We headed south toward warmer days and a full agenda. The Eureka Dunes turned out to be absolutely beautiful and a stunning location. I dressed Joannie up and marched her out onto the dunes for a photo shoot. She was a good sport and we had lot's of fun trying to be imaginative and creative ending up with some really nice and interesting shots. The next morning a hike up to the top of the dunes was in order, which are reputed to some of the highest in the U.S.

Milky Way over Eureka Dunes

I was sure the Big Pine road into Death Valley was supposed to be open but the road closed signs at the Eureka Dunes junction indicated otherwise. As we readied to leave the dunes the winds started picking up as per the forecast and during the drive back to the junction with the Big Pine road, the check engine light came on. I assumed it was because it needed to go into regen cycle and I wasn't going fast enough/long enough. We ended up driving all the way around via Lone Pine during the initial stages of the upcoming wind storm and the CEL never cleared. Putting my handheld diagnostic computer on, it coded for exhaust gas temperature sensors (bad). Googling it on my phone, I concluded that it may throw my truck into limp mode. We made it up to our plateau campsite outside the park without incident though. That night the wind really came up but we stayed snug in the camper.

Day 4. We intended to go up to Ryolite ghost town then take the dirt road over the top of the Grapevine mountains and down Titus canyon. On the way from our camp up to daylight pass the truck went into limp mode, Shit! I spent a couple hours in a pullout disconnecting the electrical connectors and trying to loosen the sensors in the exhaust system. All in vain, especially without the correct wrench. Decision time. There was cell service here so I called the Napa in Pahrump to overnight the needed parts. I tried again to loosen the rusted-in sensors. Nope. Joannie and I discussed it and with all that had, and was still happening we decided to just go home where there was a better opportunity to work on the truck. It was a disconsolate drive back to Furnace Creek. But after an ice cream I felt I had just not tried hard enough so we determined to go on into Pahrump for the parts and the 17mm wrench needed, probably the only tool NOT in my traveling tool kit! Back up to our plateau camp in the still howling wind.

Day 5. Gathering all the good juju we could, we drove into Pahrump and they had received the parts. In addition to the sensors and wrench, I purchased a can of PB blaster and a can of freeze off. Hitting the sensors with the PB blaster, we headed toward Vegas. Coming down from mountain springs summit we pulled over to try to back out the sensors. Eureka! They both broke loose and I was able to change both sensors. We were less than 20 minutes at highway speed from Vegas so we drove 10 minutes back up the hill then turned around and with a good 20 minutes at speed, the DPF code cleared and all was well with the truck. We 'camped' at Sam's Town RV park stoked things were finally going our way. Then the text came to Joannie's phone. Our pet sitter sent a message that our old cat was not doing well. She kindly took poor LC back to her house. Again we debated going home. LC died warm and snug in her caretakers lap that evening.

Day 6. Recoup Day. Joannie spoke at length with Jody making arrangements for LC and was assured that Jody would handle everything and there was no reason to rush back now. So with that reassurance we just took the bus down to the strip and had lunch.

Day 7. Riding! Bootleg. Very nice day and had the bonus of meeting Jon and Kristin. After riding we headed for Goldstrike Pass road to camp and checkout the the route to do Motorcycle canyon. After driving up the road a ways, it seemed a little sketchy for the camper and had to back down to a turnaround point. That more or less eliminated Motorcycle canyon. Alternate plans were drawn up.

Day 8. So we found ourselves headed down to Willow Beach Marina. We intended to paddle upstream to Emerald Cave. Joannie and I blew up and prepped our Alpacka rafts and put in at the paddle boat launch site. Although the current is very slow in this section of river, (basically it's Lake Mojave) it was still current and a little tough paddling our rafts the 2 miles up to the cave. The cave, really just a grotto, catches the light just right to turn the water a beautiful emerald green. Arriving only 5 minutes before losing the light we got as many pictures as we could manage. As interesting as the cave is, the river gauger's trail clinging precariously to the cliff above the water is just as cool. On paddling /floating back downstream after visiting the cave a pair of Bald Eagles treated us to a display before alighting on the cliffs to the west. All in all a great day! After packing up the boats we had merely to drive up the hill to the wonderful Willow Beach campground. That evening was spent snapping some more night shots.

NOT Emerald Cave

Day 9. Valley of Fire. Beautiful natural sandstone sculptures reminiscent of Moab. Ancient petroglyphs and bighorn sheep. Our second visit but not our last.

Day 10. It was sadly time to start making our way home. Heading back toward Death Valley via Pahrump we detoured into Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The intent was to visit the Devils Hole unit of Death Valley N.P. Turns out there's a lot more to see. Amargosa Pup fish, the endangered Devils Hole Pup fish and gorgeous Crystal Spring. That night we were back on our plateau campsite outside Death Valley. A calm windless night, campfire and cocktails.

Devils hole

Crystal springs

Day 11. Today we finally visited Ryolite ghost town. Not terribly off the beaten path and frequently visited, interesting nonetheless. From there the false boomtown of Leadville and Titus canyon beckoned. Refusing to think of the possibility of not having a usable spare, off we went on the Titus canyon road. The road is really pretty easy even in the camper, but we still got funny looks from all the jeepers and other 4x4 users. Arriving at Leadville we stopped for a look around. Leadville never really produced much but was highly touted in the development days as the next big boomtown. Down canyon from Leadville we stopped to check out the petroglyphs. Our intent after exiting onto the east side road in Death Valley was to continue on to the Big Pine road and camp again at Eureka Dunes. Unfortunately the road was still closed at the Ubehebe crater cutoff. So back all the way around again we camped in Panamint Valley.



Go home day :(
Wind wind wind. The story of the day. We even got stopped in Lee Vining for 4 hours before being let back on the road. Then it was a convoy of trucks and RV's to deal with. We took the back way at Bridgeport and soon enough we had a nice fire going in the wood stove at home and looking through our pictures of LC. In the end, it was all worth making one more try.
Kobuk, Sitka and LC (Little Cat) 1995-ish

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