Scenes from Death Valley


Alex at A. Point 3099 smallIn order to save time this morning, Hal and I had breakfast at the Denny’s in Beatty, NV. Despite the fact that they were out of a lot of food items (due to the somewhat remote location), it was an excellent choice. The cook is really good – my “poached hard” eggs were done to perfection. The objections I have to this particular restaurant are it is in the back of a casino, and it has no windows. That means you have to walk through all the ugly smells of cigarette smoke and cheap booze, and the noise from the slot machines and bad music to get there. I know this is done on purpose, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

After escaping from casino hell, we formulated our plan, which was to go back to Wildrose Road and explore the dirt roads we’d seen yesterday radiating from the main road. Once we got out there, we accidentally went past the first one we came to, so we proceeded to the second road. It turned out to be a great choice because it was the best of the two.

It is an easy dirt road, with a few tight, narrow places, which are interesting and fun. After those, we started to climb steeply to an overlook, which led to Aguereberry Point, named after Pete Aguereberry, who mined in the area from 1905 until he died in 1945. Later, we would find and explore his camp.

Aguereberry sign 3100 small

While up on top, we stopped, took photos of a scene that was every bit as spectacular as the Dante’s View overlook that I’d photographed a couple of years ago. This view is on the other side of the main “floor” of Death Valley, so we were looking at it from the west this time. It is said that Pete Aguereberry built this road to the overlook so he could share the amazing view with others. I am so grateful that he did. We spent some time there, but then went up higher by riding some steep exposed switchbacks to get to the highest point.

The view was even better, and we hiked a short trail to the farthest point north. It hung over the valley toward Stovepipe Wells. The minerals in the valley below shimmered white in the sun and we gazed in awe at another spectacular view that included interesting geographic features and formations. I took lots of photographs so I could later show my sixth grade students when I got home.

Me looking down 3113 small

After drinking it all in, we rode back down. We’d passed two mountain bikers on the way up, and when we pulled over to get Hal’s video camera running, the two cyclists stopped and talked to us. Husband and wife, they had camped at Wildrose campground, and this was their planned ride for today. They were in great shape, obviously, and I thought of my mountain bikes sitting idle at home. Sometimes I’d like to get one of those racks that attaches to a motorbike to carry bicycles. Anyway, the cyclists were very interesting to talk to. The man had done the CDT last year, and that got my mind spinning. I’d like to do it, too, but I think I’d take a moto!

Soon we found the mining camp, and left our bikes at the road because no motorized vehicles are allowed past the entrance. Aguereberry camp is where Pete lived and worked.

Homestead 3139 small

Above: Pete probably watched the sunset each evening from the front of his home. In the winter, he watched the storms roll in over the mountains. I am sure the beauty was worth all the hardship of living in such a remote place.

The buildings are in rough shape now, due mainly to people vandalizing things, but you can still get a sense of how it was when it was a working camp. We took lots of photos there, in and out of the buildings. It always amazes me how these people, who had a pretty rough life, were so passionate about Death Valley, how they loved it so much. I love it too, but I don’t know if I’d like living there through the heat of summer. There was no air conditioning, and people had to work constantly, no matter what the weather was. Apparently, Pete was fairly successful. Later in this trip, we would continue to see evidence of the love people have felt over the years for the seemingly desolate Death Valley.

While at the camp, Hal and I also walked farther up the road to where an abandoned car was parked, presumably Pete’s, deteriorating in the sun. Again I wondered why people have this need to destroy things. The car, I guessed it was a 1946 Buick, was deteriorating, but most of the damage was (sadly) human-caused.

Me and car 3186 small

It would have been nice to see it somewhat intact. Hal and I spent some time photographing it, and then when we walked back down the hill to where we had to park our bikes, we spent more time talking with the mountain biking couple.

Finally, we left that road and rode down to the other dirt road. It, however, wasn’t as long, or as interesting. The road was supposed to lead to the remains of a town called “Skidoo” that reached its heyday in about 1907.

Skidoo sign 3194 small

However, when we got there, we found that there was almost nothing left of it, just a few random pieces of rusting metal strewn around the desert.

Skidoo remains 3196 small

While we were there looking around and trying to get a sense of the place from the sign that showed an old photograph of the town, an SUV came blasting along the road, passing the town site and continuing west on a road that was supposed to end where we were. Being curious, and because the vehicle didn’t return, we got back on the bikes and decided to follow the road. Maybe it led back to the main road? Instead, we found ourselves on rough two-track that got narrower and more precarious. It hung on the side of the mountain with no barrier between the right wheel track and the drop-off. It was obviously not well traveled. After less than a mile, we found the end of the road – and the vehicle, the doors flung open, and no one in sight. It was really strange. The SUV was parked right in front of a gated mine entrance. I saw brightly-colored workout shoes lying on the floor of the front seat, but no humans anywhere. Suddenly, I got that tingly feeling of being where I shouldn’t be, and I said to Hal, “Let’s get out of here!” So we did.

As we descended, I kept looking in my rear-view as we rode fast toward the paved road. Once, I thought I saw the SUV behind us, negotiating the turns in a cloud of dust. We were flying along, and I had all kinds of crazy thoughts of the vehicle running us down for daring to follow it to the end of the road. You never know. Finally, after several minutes of riding hell-bent for leather, we reached pavement, and Hal pulled over to the side to start the video camera again. It wasn’t too long before the SUV roared past us. I cringed. At least they left us alone. I can’t imagine what was going on with them, and the whole episode was so strange.

After that, we relaxed and rode back down through Stovepipe Wells where, once again, it was super hot until we started to ride up Daylight Pass to return to Beatty. Today’s ride was only 145 miles or so, and we went to dinner (delicious) at Gema’s. After dinner, we decided to drive over to the local Family Dollar (my favorite place while on the road) to get some candy and other stuff that we needed.

Tomorrow is already our last riding day here. This trip is, as usual, is going by way too fast.

Next: A road on the floor of Death Valley


6 thoughts on “Scenes from Death Valley

  1. I’m near Las Vegas for the night. I just discovered Cherry Creek Nevada on my way to Mesa. It’s a ghost town that I’m sure you would love. We have many ghost towns and gold mines in Oregon. I think I’ve explored them all.

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