The time has come to move on. Part of my reason for sitting still in Pahrump for the past two weeks was to give the weather time to warm up in northern Nevada, so that I could avoid most of California and its higher prices on my way to Oregon. But with 10 days left in the month, the 10-day forecast still showed lows in the 30s and a chance of snow all along my intended route. With the trailer’s temporary permit expiring May 1, I’m out of time to wait. I had to get moving.
So today I committed to a completely different route, entering California and heading north through more temperate areas. I committed to this in style, crossing Death Valley to get there, this time with the van, trailer, and the entire rig instead of just my apocalypse motorcycle.
Before I left, I turned on my security camera inside the trailer. This would be my first drive for the trailer since I built it out, and I wanted to keep an eye on what’s inside to make sure things weren’t falling all over the place getting smashed. This is the view with the trailer completely closed up. Its night vision gives me a great view of what’s going on even though it’s dark. I’m quite happy with it. I’m even happier that absolutely nothing came loose or fell over on today’s journey, not even a couple of loose items on the shelves.
The drive out to Furnace Creek was familiar, since that’s how I came back to Pahrump on the motorcycle last weekend. But I did take the opportunity to stop at Zabriskie Point, an overlook I’d missed last time. There’s a gentle paved path up to the top, and many hiking trails going off in various directions. I find that I can only take so many pictures of the desert before it all starts looking the same, but this was definitely worth the stop.
Soon after I pulled over at a picnic area and pulled up a piece of shade for my lunch. It also gave Lister a chance to get out and explore. He was getting increasingly cranky about not being included in my excursions so far. I’m beginning to think I need to buy him a leash so I can take him places like this. Anyway, I had no need to pay sky-high prices for lunch, since I just stocked up on groceries. A nice salad mix made for a light but filling and healthy lunch.
I drove for a while, then stopped at the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. This is what I always imagined a desert looked like, yet it’s the first desert I’ve seen that’s actually sandy, not rocky like the places I’ve been staying over the winter. I took a short walk, but not too long. Despite good ventilation, I didn’t want to leave Lister inside the van very long without the air conditioner running.
In this crowd, I have the small one!
I don’t have many pictures from the rest of the drive. The mountain passes on the west side of Death Valley turned out to be much steeper and higher than on the east and south sides I’d traveled before. The speed limit was 55, but there was no way I could maintain anywhere near that speed, between the inclines and the frequent sharp turns I had to slow down for. I took it slowly, let people pass any chance I could, and didn’t push the van any harder than I had to. It handled it like a champ.
One thing I didn’t realize was that I drove right past Rainbow Canyon, better known as “Star Wars Canyon” to aviation enthusiasts. This is where military pilots come to practice flying through the canyon at low altitude, as though avoiding enemy radar and missiles. They call it Star Wars Canyon because it resembles the trench run on the Death Star. I remember passing Father Crowley Overlook, where the canyon rim is a short walk away, but I didn’t know this was the place at the time. My first clue was later on, crossing the Panamint Valley and seeing a single jet fighter flying low overhead. This wasn’t Star Wars Canyon, but it was the adjacent “Jedi Transition” immediately afterward.
Google’s travel time estimate assumed that I was doing at least 55 the whole way, so it ended up taking me twice as long to get to my overnight stop than it said I would. I’m thankful for my flexible work schedule, which allowed me to catch up on what I’d planned to do in the middle of the afternoon when I had no signal in Death Valley.
My destination was the Coso Junction rest area, which had reports across multiple travel apps of allowing overnight parking. It was a decent enough place, but it was small. Even in the late afternoon, I would’ve already been surrounded by parked and idling trucks. That’s not an enjoyable place to be, nor safe for Lister to go out and explore. Freeroam showed me that the Fossil Falls BLM Campground was just 10 minutes down the road. The cost was $6/night, which was worth it in itself to not have to sleep next to idling trucks. I decided to take a drive to investigate.
The mission was a complete success! There are 11 campsites, all spread pretty far apart. You can see other campers, but they’re far enough away that you can’t hear your conversations. Only four of these sites allow RVs or trailers. Fortunately, one of them was wide open, big enough for a huge Class A (bus-sized) motorhome. I won’t even need to back in or out of here — I just drove around in a big circle and parked where I wanted to. The site has a fire ring and a picnic table, and there’s a vault toilet a short walk away.
This pile of pumice sits on the edge of my campsite, a remnant of the past volcanic activity here. Similar piles scatter the landscape, dividing most campsites from each other. Even though I’ve been out in the desert for months now, it’s still quite a different environment from what I’m used to.
I could comfortably stay here a few days (the usual BLM 14-day limit applies), but I need to keep moving. I’m actually heading the wrong direction, south, at the moment in order to get around the mountains where the cold and snow are still hanging tough in late April. I could stick to main roads, but Highway 178 cuts a corner through Sequoia National Forest, which is quite tempting. This time, I’m going to see what the elevation changes are like before I go.