Friday, December 9, 2011

Last Hurrah In Death Valley

Death Valley Last Day – 9/17/11 - Mosiac Canyon & Artist’s Palette – 3 Miles

We spent a peaceful, dry, comfortable cool/warm night.  I might or might not have heard a little snoring from a nearby tent.  We were in hiker heaven after summiting the big MW.  (Does anyone call it that or did I just make it up?)

We took a minute to cruise through the cozy little Lone Pine Camp- ground that we had occupied in the dark.  How’s this for a front porch view?

A hotel room in Las Vegas was waiting for us but first we had some unfinished business back in Death Valley, a hike and a scenic drive that we shaved from our itinerary earlier in the week.  We dropped off those infernal bear canisters at the Visitor Center, waved goodbye to Lone Pine, and headed east. 

First stop:  Mosaic Canyon, a popular little hike near the mirage of Stovepipe Wells.  Did we really feel like hiking after the last three days?  Answer:  Yes!  No elevation gain and no loaded backpacks maketh a cheerful hiker.  What a contrast this hot, short, easy walk was to just 24 hours earlier, the cold, steep, grueling summit day.  (Funny thing, though, in the canyon all of us complained of aching calves.) 

Mosaic Canyon is famous for its mosaic breccia and smooth marble walls.  It alternates from narrow slots to very wide open areas.  The guideline that I have learned still applied:  gradually walk up until you turn around and walk down.

Silky smooth walls

Carolyn walking up the narrow slot

Smooth rock and rough breccia flowing over it

A bit of scrambling was involved going up Mosaic Canyon until we hit this spot called Upper Dry Falls, a dead end – or was it?  Jeff’s GPS wanted to go further, but I did not.  So while he and Carolyn and Dolores climbed up a side wall, I began a leisurely backtrack.  The air was still, the sky was brilliant blue and I had the place to myself. 

I found a shady spot to lie down on a smooth marble slab and indulged in a little quiet meditation time (aka a siesta).  It’s good to pause and appreciate the fact that you may only be in this particular place one time in your life and say a prayer of thanks.  

I left behind a tiny cairn saying “I was here.”

Jeff in another narrow slot

After conquering Mosaic Canyon we drove along Highway 190, stopping to photograph the signs we had previously whizzed by on our way to trailheads.

Welcome, y’all!

Looks inviting, huh?

Our last hurrah in Death Valley was a cruise along Artist’s Drive and particularly Artist’s Palette, a mind-blowing area for which I cannot write an accurate description.  Here are some of Jeff’s fine photos:

We waved goodbye to Death Valley and drove for the final time to Las Vegas for a hotel room, a hot shower (second one in 9 days), a good meal and more furious packing to be ready for our flight back home the next day.  At the restaurant we celebrated Dolores’ birthday, congratulated ourselves on our summit success, and laughed long and loud at our mishaps.

By now my hiking and blog-reading friends are familiar with my mixed bag of emotions on these hiking trips:  a bit of moaning and whining mixed with a lot of awe and gratitude.  I need a little time between the experience and the writeup to digest the events, sift through the photos, and evaluate the experience through the 20/20 of hindsight.  The answer to the question, “Would you do it again?” is inevitably “YES.”  The physical discomfort (pain) and emotional rollercoaster (insanity) are temporary, but the memories are forever.

Here I am, safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined--how is it that this safe return brings such regret?  ~Peter Matthiessen
“I try to end each day saying, ‘I am glad I did,’ rather than, ‘I wish I had.’” ~Barbara J. McMorrow