Some “‘splorin'”


“Let’s do some exploring,” we said the night before. So, Hal and I explored areas in and around Death Valley that we hadn’t seen before.

After breakfast at Gema’s Café in Beatty, which was excellent and not at all like the bad experience I had there last time, we stayed close to Beatty all day, starting with a road that was supposed to be Fluorspar Canyon Rd. One of the things I learned quickly was that in any place outside actual Death Valley National Park, you can forget about signage of any kind. We turned left on 95 just outside of town, found a dirt road, and hoped for the best.

It was a lovely overcast day, and at first, the road was easy, like a dirt superhighway. We climbed a bit and then found an old cabin near the mine for which the road is named.

 

We took photographs, enjoyed the stunning view, and then continued riding the road. It climbed a bit, then dropped down, and we thought we were on the right road that was supposed to rejoin 95 north of where we were staying. Somehow, we took a wrong turn and ended up going east through gravel that got deeper and deeper. We turned around because we still wanted to find the end of the loop.

Then we ended up on another track that turned out to be a wash that was even deeper gravel and an even steeper descent. That was okay, but then when it dead-ended into a narrow streambed that obviously wasn’t part of any road, we had to climb our way out of it. By that time, though, I was starting to enjoy getting practice in riding deep gravel.

Next we popped back out on 95 by going back the way we had come in, took it back through town, and found Pioneer Rd. It was supposed to be easy, but after a couple of miles, it got very un-maintained.

We found an old mine, got some photos, then took what we thought was the rest of the road (again, it was supposed to loop back to 95 farther up). It wasn’t. And again, we ended up in deep gravel and rocks, then when it became obvious this wasn’t part of the planned road (or even a road at all), we turned back.

We rode back to 95 and took it farther away from Beatty, going west. We actually found the other end of Pioneer Rd., but by then we were looking for a different route. We were supposed to find Phinney Canyon Rd., but I am not kidding when I say there was absolutely no road that was where that road was supposed to be. We were on pavement at this time, which I hate when I am on my dirt bike. So, since there wasn’t any turnoff where it was supposed to be, and we kept getting farther and farther away from Beatty, we modified the plan to go back, then turn in on the other end of Pioneer Rd. and find out where we should have turned to complete that loop. As I said, this was a day for exploring and learning some new roads!

The turn was obvious at a small settlement called “Springdale,” and we turned in. The big wide dirt road quickly narrowed and became rougher. I kept seeing lots of “horse apples” on the road and wondered why. Soon we found out. There was a big tank off to the right and dozens of donkeys hanging out there. Descendants of pack animals brought by those who worked in the myriad mines throughout the area, no doubt.

Once again, we found ourselves on narrow two-track in deep gravel. It was kind of fun by now and I was hoping we could actually ride this road through to the other end where we had come in before. At one point, I crested a rise and the road dropped down steeply in front of me. I came to an abrupt halt, and said “NO!” Visions of my spectacular crash (in a similar situation) out on Cherry Creek Rd. a couple of years ago, and maybe a little bit of tentative-ness from the car crash made me stop. I admit to walking my bike down that short descent. You know how it is, once you stop on something like that, it is very hard to get going again and ride down without freaking out. Oh well, as we used to say in mountain biking, “walk today, ride tomorrow.”

After that, it was easy, and I rode several places of deep sand without dropping my bike! I am admittedly not the best in deep sand, but I did well this time. Within a couple of miles, we were back at Pioneer Mine, only this time approaching it from the back. We saw that earlier we had totally taken the wrong road, but it was okay, all good in the name of exploring. We closed the loop as we rode the rest of Pioneer Rd. back to the 95 where we’d entered earlier in the day.

As we approached Beatty again from the north, we tried to find the Fluorspar Cyn. Rd. north entrance, but we never found it. We did find an old airplane that had crashed long ago, but now was covered with graffiti. All the expensive pieces have been removed, but the aircraft sits out in the hot desert sun, deteriorating little by little with each passing year.

By then, we were right by the hotel so we stopped to use the bathroom, but once we were off the bikes, we were kind of “done.” Besides, a dessert we’d seen on the menu of the Denny’s the night before was calling our names. A dessert that we so richly deserved, ice cream and an apple caramel crisp, and all manner of mmmmmmmm! Plus coffee.

That part of the day enjoyed, we then walked around Beatty, exploring the stagnant pools of the Amargosa River. We found millions of little black tadpoles, the placid green water was teeming with new life. I was fascinated, and we spent some time there, just looking and shooting photos.

When we walked back to the parking lot, we saw an actual Tesla automobile there recharging. I had joked earlier about the eight Tesla charging stations, and how unlikely it was to see even one Tesla there. I found out it wasn’t so unlikely!

That afternoon there was a beautiful black Model S, and to my surprise, the next morning I saw a dark silver Model S. I was actually thrilled, since I hope and think that Tesla will revolutionize automobile travel as we know it. Not to mention help to save the planet.

After our walk, Hal and I got into the Xterra and drove to Daylight Pass to shoot images of the mountains and wildflowers at sunset. We finally made it back to town long after the sun went down, and then had an enormous dinner at KC’s. It was excellent! By the time we walked back to the hotel, I was tired, but it was a good tired from another wonderful day in Beatty/Death Valley.

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