TRIP REPORT: Panamint Valley Days Run
My friend Anton Morec and I headed off to the PVD run via Reno on Wednesday, November 8th, 2006. After a delightful overnight with friends in Reno, we drove to the PVD campgrounds on Slate Range Road south of the settlement of Panamint Springs. We set up our tent home as dark was falling, and met old friends weGÇÖd seen there last year. No other Ed4 members made the trip to my knowledge, however we did see friends with whom I had wheeled and camped with in Hollister previously (Chuck and Linda Mobraton and their children in their modified Land Rover Discovery, and Barry Stergion with his son in his white TJ with its 37GÇ¥ tires and Dana 60 axles).
Friday morning we departed on the Full Defense Mine run. We worked our way up the canyonGÇÖs rock gardens and nooned at the mine. We explored within the mine, walking between the mine tram car rails, and shot photos at the GÇ£EXPLOSIVES - KEEP OFFGÇ¥ door. DonGÇÖt know why they didnGÇÖt write keep OUT , but it says keep OFF! The untimbered hardrock tunnels go forever into the mountain. Ladders led up to other levels of the mine where one could exit onto the slope above the main entrance. I did not go up as my artificial knee did not want me to have to climb down the steep slope of the hillside after exiting the upper levels.
On leaving the mine, our group leader offered us the option of returning to camp, or trying the very challenging Cummings Cutoff trail just down the road from the mine. Of course, I jumped in and tried it. It cost me three damaged plastic beauty fenders on my Rubicon Tomb Raider. My rear right one is tied in place with rope presently, and both the front right and rear left are battle damaged. I got sideways in a slot at a waterfall, and with sand on the bottom and my front lockers on, could not keep the front from sliding sideways into the side rock wall. Backing up then damaged my rear left area. Oh well, I guess it could not stay undamaged forever. With good spotting by our team leader, I got through the run. WHEW!!!!! I have done the Rubicon Trail run twice without damaging my Jeep, and NOTHING on the Rubicon Trail run was as difficult as the waterfall obstacles in the Cummins Cutoff run.
As we finished the Cummins Cutoff, a group of Jeeps were going up the canyon to Lookout Point to watch the sun set. We, with the OK from our trail leader, left and joined that group. The view from Lookout Point was spectacular. Mines were all over the mountain top as well as along the valley floor thousands of feet right below us. Near where we parked were a number of surprisingly well preserved rock walls of residential structures built by the miners who had worked the mines.
After the sunset run, Anton and I opted for a restaurant meal in Panamint Springs. We enjoyed both the steak dinner and Jessica, the waitress! We got back to the campgrounds well after dark, tired, but thrilled by the wonders we had observed. Talk went on late into the night around the campfires!
Early at night, the stars were bright and multitudinous. If only I knew more constellations! Desert skies show zillions of stars we never get to see in the cities in which we live. Late at night, the three quarter moon shined so brightly that you could almost read that magazine you should have taken with you as you answered the call of nature. The winds blew in earnest in the night and early mornings. And it was cold. Very cold in the mornings. About ten oGÇÖclock the winds died away and it became nice and warm (about 75 degrees) during the rest of the days.
Bright and early Saturday, we drove up the Pleasant Canyon loop run. While steep but not technically challenging, it was by far the most delightful of runs I have done in my two years of going to the Panamint Valley Days runs. We worked our way up a rocky canyon where we stopped at a well preserved major mining settlement whose name I cannot recall. Great photos! Lots of equipment, tunnels, and cabins to see. After this, we continued upwards until we encountered a thick and aromatic pinyon pine forest at about 6,000 feet elevation. The trail wound its way among the trees until we had climbed to the saddle at 7,160 foot Rogers Pass overlooking Death Valley to our east. We lunched on this ridge, and while we munched our sandwiches, nature favored us with a snowstorm in the desert. The snowflakes were more like snow specks, but they stuck to our clothing. I got photos of the snow on another travelerGÇÖs black sweater. Cool! Literally! (Get it?!)
My friend Anton drove the remainder of our dayGÇÖs trip, and as it was his first real wheeling, he was like a kid in a candy store. He negotiated several steep climbs and descents that took us to an overlook (Manley Lookout, 7478 Ft. ?) above Death Valley with a view of Striped Butte. The wind blew so hard, it seemed that someone would be lost to the 40MPH gusts. We next dropped down to and crossed an extremely dusty chaparral plain that looked right out of an old west cavalry movie. This led to a canyon descent with thick willow and tamarisk growth where a small stream flowed within it.
After awaiting the removal of an unfortunate Jeeper who had damaged his transfer case somewhere on the trail below us, we continued on to GÇ£Chickenwire CornerGÇ¥. This was a sharp, hair raising turn around the end of a rock escarpment with hundreds of feet of nothing below you if you went over. With your left side wheels of necessity (TRUST the spotter!!!!) up on a raised ledge of rock, your right front wheel in a deep hole, your Jeep tilted much to its its right with only about one foot of roadway between the right wheelsGÇÖ outsides and the dropoff, you tried desperately to keep your rig from jouncing into said hole and having control get away from you. The abyss called! It waited for you! You could FEEL it! Many dozens of rolls and hundreds of feet of drop awaited the unlucky.
Somehow, we all made it around Chicken Corner and across the pole bridge along the cliff that follows. Anton did a great job driving the Rubicon, Chickenwire Corner included! The descent then led us to a delightful Adopt a Cabin under a giant fig tree that was so well appointed and habitable it looked like a motel. This cabin, the Briggs Mine Cabin, had it all—stove, refrigerator, kitchen sink, shower, fancy outhouse, bathtub, horseshoe pit, water, an arbor with benches in the shade, beds with clean, useable mattresses for eight, displayed mining relics, etc, etc, etc. It was incredible, and anyone could use it cost free for up to four days at a time if it was unoccupied on oneGÇÖs arrival. All the proprietorGÇÖs sign asked is that one leave it as one finds it, clean and neat for the next person. My friends and I contemplate maybe trying to get a weekend at this beautiful place fairly soon.
Our return to the valley floor encampment was fun but uneventful except that we missed a steep descent down a ridge which short circuited about a dozen switchbacks in the long way route we had to take. I wanted to have gone down it like most of our group, but because the Jeep ahead of us was out of our sight quite a ways ahead of us and had dropped over it before we ever saw him do so, we were past it before our team leader announced it on the CB. BOO!!
Saturday night we enjoyed a prepared barbeque dinner that was tasty and satisfying. I sat all bundled up in the cold wind through the big raffle while Anton retired early with a pounding head and a toothache. Neither of us won anything.
Early Sunday AM, we struck camp and headed back up highway 395. The snow dusted saw-toothed eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains rises nearly vertically, and was spectacular as we journeyed north from Bishop along the flat valley floor. We stayed overnight in Minden, Nevada at a casino hotel, and had dinner with AntonGÇÖs brother who lives there. In the morning, we got Anton to a dentist who said he had cracked a tooth in two. With drugs for him, we traveled over the pass on Highway 88 where several inches of snow that had fallen during the night lay on the ground. We visited friends of ours in the Jackson area, then continued on through Stockton, and then on to Santa Clara where we arrived late Monday night. All in all it was a delightful trip. Anton really had a good time (despite his tooth pains), and says he is looking to buy one of the new four door Jeep JKs for next yearGÇÖs trip BACK TO THE PVDs!!!! Yahoooooo!