Saturday, December 19, 2020

Escape from Death Valley

 Fish Canyon ebird list

We have long driven past the Slate Range on our way to Death Valley, or the Argus, or the Panamints.  It was time now time to explore the Slates. Knowing nothing about the Slates, yes the range is less than an hour from the house, sad, but true, the first part of the adventure was going to be online reading.  And our go to first stop is DVPlants for anything in the Trona area.  He has a wide range of hikes he has done and is a reliable source.  And reliable is an absolute must when you getting far off the beaten path.  We found a number of interesting adventures and it seemed we could do a theme -- Escape from Death Valley, the history of the 49ers.  Oh my.  Our first adventure would be:  Fish Canyon

Fish Canyon is in there somewhere

To put the history briefly, William Lewis Manly joined a group of 49ers including the Bennett's in Utah and the Bennett party proceeded to make a series of poor decisions that lead to getting themselves lost in the Great Basin. They compounded their errors in Death Valley as their information was inaccurate and their motivation in decision making seemed to be greed and speed.  Manly gave his word he would stick with the party when they left Utah, and back then honor meant something.   He stuck with them and then after they reached the point of exhaustion and near starvation, he  rescued them.  Manly and John Rogers walked 250 miles from Death Valley to near Los Angeles finding a route, getting supplies, and then going back to bring the rest of the party to safety.  Wowers!   And a fun couple of facts 1)  they are the party that named Death Valley when one turned back at the top of the Panamints and said "goodbye Death Valley".  Hmmm.  Wasn't that thoughty.  And fun fact 2)  turns out that they really suffered when they left the Ridgecrest area and headed south through the Mojave Desert and Antelope Valley due to a lack of water.  They survived on moisture in puddles from a recent storm.  

So, knowing good planning is essential and a backup is all important, we reached out to 4X friends who like to hike and went for it.  What could possibly go wrong?  Nothing, it was a lovely day.   We drove up into the Slates and did a hike through Fish Canyon, named for Father Fish, one of the 49ers who died of thirst and exhaustion on January 13, 1850.  There was a handmade marker for Father Fish and while we looked for it, we did not find it.  Bummer.  We did find all the other markers put in place by the Trona Chapter of the Escape Trail (ET) Conference.  

Looking out into the Panamint Valley

Rachel is explaining the importance of ancient packrat nests

Schott's Pygmycedar.  What a cool plant name.

One of the many groups all trying to get out of Death Valley

Monument to a more modern preacher

This is the Silent Sepulcher, which apparently had water during the escape

Upper dry waterfall

Bob is going all Spiderman

Love those rocks

Looking for the Father Fish grave marker

In there somewhere on the windrows of sand is the Fish grave marker

Rachel explaining how horses are put together

Manly Peak

Isham Canyon ebird list

For our second escape from Death Valley hike we did Isham Canyon

William Isham is another 49er that died of thirst trying to escape from Death Valley.  I guess if you die in the Slates from thirst, you get a canyon named after you.  Note to self, bring extra water.  I read that Father Fish was covered with rocks.  William Isham didn't get that luxury and the parties that passed by could do nothing to bury his body.  So, naturally, we want to go there.  

These days Isham Canyon is a famous rock crawler 4X4 vehicle stretch of road.  Not for me thanks.  You can check out a video here:  Rock crawling in Isham

We walked up the road and back down a lovely canyon.  There is more to explore in this area, so we will be back.  

Isham Canyon is in there.

This is Isham Canyon Road

Looks like that rock crunches vehicles

Yep, still the road


More road

Bob is showing us how much up there is on this obstacle

BJ has to go into 4 wheel drive mode

This is the nice part of the road, but a wee bit steep

The start of the canyon we headed back on

Trying to imitate Rachel

One final obstacle before we are out of the canyon

Our third bit of Escape from Death Valley exploration was Goler Canyon in the Panamint Mountains.  It is perhaps most famous as the place they captured Charlie Mansion.  We did a couple of short hikes, but mostly we drove and looked.  What a gorgeous canyon.  We found so many things we'd like to spend more time exploring.  From the history view point there is some debate on where Manly brought the '49er families out of Death Valley through the Panamints. Goler Canyon is one of the possibilities.

California barrel cactus

The marker at Mengel Pass

Striped Butte in Butte Valley

What is left after a 2009 fire at the Barker Ranch, the capture site of Charles Manson

Cabins at the Lotus Mine

The Lotus Mine Road.  We walked it.

The Briggs Mine.  It has eaten Manly Falls which is another of the possible escape routes.

And since we were passing through the small community of Trona on our way home after sunset, we took a quick detour to look at the Christmas lights. These folks do it up right!