Gravel Foot Vision #2
Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz this means its 3 am. the process begins. Yee Haa! Heading to Death Valley + The Playa. It has been forever that I wanted to see the sliding rocks that don’t move. Hmmmm. Kinda crazy really. Head lights flash the windows. It’s time. We switch the gear from car to car and head out. Excitement builds. As dark slowly changes too light, formations along the horizon start to appear. Signs with names flash by. Red Mountain. Then we pass a familiar grind..Panamint City, if you keep quiet you can still hear the sound of souls stirring on the mountain, left. Death Valley entrance ahead, 7:25am. Turn right to Furnace Creek, 56 miles it says. Head to Stovepipe Wells, 28 miles. Imagine how many bodies are out here became a topic. We slow to a stop and the flashing lights read 20 minute delay, my ass go around! smiling. 8:19am heading toward Scotty’s Castle. Look, there’s Smoky the Bears ranger station and a sign that reads – Scott’s Castle road closed for 2 years. What!!! 2 years. WHAT COULD TAKE 2 YEARS? Oh well, you gotta see this crater, Ubehebe. 600 feet deep and half a mile across. Known as a Maar Volcano (created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water. The intense heat flashed the water into steam which expanded until the pressure was released as a tremendous explosion.) Pretty cool. Now I believe…. the surrounding plants around us look like aliens left behind just waiting for the designated time to take over our bodies. As we round the bend, finally the 20 mile dirt road Brett has been talking about. WASHBOARD!!!! you gotta be kiddin me? for 20 miles? Can you say Aleve? Then it starts.. how does washboard roads get their marvelous texture? My thoughts were of course made up while Brett laid down the facts, which I checked when he wasn’t looking. (Washboarding or corrugation of roads comprises a series of ripples, which occur with the passage of wheels rolling over unpaved roads at speeds sufficient to cause bouncing of the wheel on the initially unrippled surface.) 1/2 way in I realize that the Yucca’s are coming up across the ridge. Appears to be an army of them over the horizon as we gain in going up. 4300 ft. (It really looks like the Martin people from Ubehebe crater are coming). I knew I shouldn’t have peed in the crater. geez. So sensitive. The skies are incredibly blue and mountains sharp as a tac as we trudge along to Teakettle junction. WHAT is that? thinking out loud. A sign post dangling with teakettles, and I thought the crater was cool. Death Valley has a secret, I guess. (No water, extreme temps? Teakettles?) No one knows for sure why they are there but Lizzie + Estevan don’t care. 9.5 miles to campground. Will we be alone?
Way off in the distance a creature is moving along the Playa, human? The grandstands enlarge as we approach. Beautiful landscape. Rattled to bones we eye the site, its now 10:57am. Good time says my driver. Move, I gotta pee again. First to arrive, thats right, best site is ours. Elevation 3751. We set up camp. It is much appreciated the way the slight wind helps the flow of the tent. Back in the auto, we backtrack a few to the Playa, the time is upon us to witness this Phenomenon. Jets fly fast overhead, training or big brother? Stepping onto the dry lake bed, the air is crisp and clean with a little breeze and slight overcast skies above. Half way to movement the wind starts to howl. Aha! Now it makes a little sense. Rocks are everywhere a mile in. Some with slides and some without. Interesting and wrong in the same thought. Are people taking rocks? Seems that way. Can’t be a slide without a stone. Assholes! The slides are even damaged from human interaction. DO THEY NOT GET IT! Graffitied stones? Really? Disappointed as heck, but accomplished a life task. Was it the weather? Time of day? Too much walking about? HUMANS? Bummed but still cool to finally see.
Back to base camp, bodies get fueled up and we head further up to Lipencot Mine. 4×4 engaged. Pretty cool hike on top except for Wrong Way Willy’s directional skills. After a few hills and valleys, a jungle of desert, the cool old shit starts to appear. Old cars and trucks, rails to nowhere, openings to deep space and a tanker, all under the solid blue from above. Back at tent a question arises? Did you do this? Did you tie the rocks around the corners of the tent? NO. Holy shit did you stake down this corner? NO. Hmmmm someone’s been sleeping in my bed? Johnny? J/K It does appear that in our absence concerned campers helped us out by cementing the tent in its place. Shows us the other side Humans as well. Still weird.
Now the fun begins, a Chef’s Insight style dinner prepared by Brett. As the crackle of light between sticks ignites the fuel, the sound of chopping echoes through the valley. There goes the silence. The desert has such a peaceful demeanor. The heavy hum from the Phantom overhead fills the sky, what a fantastic view. I buzz the kitchen a few times and give placement to where we sit. Hey Brett “we’er gonna run out of light” need to get the Chimichuri Steak with red potatoes, onions, yams garlic plated for the final image….. tonight. O great I forgot the parsley. Bob says ”no big deal it doesn’t taste like anything anyways”.. hahaha. The cider vinegar? O well. We clean up dishes and kick it by the fire, supposed to get into the 30’s tonight. Weird the only living creature was a lizard. “Don’t say it Bob” We head for the tent. Gotta an early morning breakfast shoot. “I forgot he Jalepenos!” Next time Brett, it was fantastic the way it was. Now go to sleep.
Tap…Tap..tap taptaptaptap.. Its sprinkling. O great. WOW! The weather forecast was right on, it said 4:30am. “Well what time is it?” 4:30. Shouldn’t last long ,”thats what she said”. It stopped. Let’s get cooking. Did you hear the snoring from the other tents? Holy Crap it was like we had dueling banjos. The menu for this morning, breakfast hash and eggs, and it sounds delicious. The eye in the sky takes off and gives us a birds-eye view. The torch gets re kindled and the pan starts to heat. The Mise En Place is in order and the echoes of chopping is all thats heard again. Second comes chorizo, onions, ham, leeks and potatoes….the sizzling now takes the stage, hash me baby hash me. The 10 inch round is filled with ingredients. The smell is waking the sun. A little oil to sooth the pain. “hey, move the bottle a little, is looking like your dink. Trying to hold the camera still. “How many eggs you want?” Really, Im in Death Valley I get a choice of how many eggs? WOW Just WOW! Can’t beat this. 5am start to the cook. In the peace of the morning, its mesmerizing to view the movement of the steam created. I look over my shoulder to see God’s work at its finest. the contours or rock, the color, add a cloud, just perfect. Now all thats left is the coffee. Plate that bad boy I wanna get to the Lost Burro Mine. I add a little hot sauce and gaze out the picture window and take in today as only Brett and I can do at the moment.
Camp is broken and and packed up and we point the auto towards TeaKettle Junction where this time we make a right and head towards LBM. A few rolls of the tire and it appears the sign is gone for the turn, I guess we’ll have to feel out the way on this one. There it is and we are greeted by a sign that reads, “Thieves will be Prosecuted” I look over my shoulder. Never know who you might meet in the jungle. We enter the structure cluttered with all sorts of relics and signs and warnings. “David tried to kill me”. The sun dances off the ridges and creates magical shapes for all to see. We start elevation to the mine, breathing follows. KEEP OUT! is posted. Large timber, dark holes all around, some blocked, some not, but still kinda eery. The views from the perch are outrageous from where we’ve been. The drops start again as thought they are saying, “time to leave this place, your time has come to move on”. We head back to the truck and head out of town to the hanging kettles to enjoy 10 miles of washboarding. As we make our back to civilization we ask ourselves the same question we asked last time to DV…”how did the miners pick these spots?” Brett yells out….”I FORGOT THE ………” Oh well I say, next time. Bumpity bumpity we go. At elevation 4351ft we take a few snaps, say goodbye to the Yuccas and take one last long look at time standing still.
Bob + Brett