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Thread: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

  1. #1
    Richard K. Richard K.'s Avatar
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    Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    I will be in Death Valley early February, domiciled in Furnace Creek. My questions:

    Can I see Scotty's Castle AND the Racetrack in a one day trip (I'll start EARLY!)?

    Can I get to Saline Valley for a few hours and back in another long day? What route do I take?

    Do I need 4WD?

    Thank you!!
    When I was 16 I thought my father the stupidest man in the world; when I reached 21, I was astounded by how much he had learned in just 5 years!

    -appropriated from Mark Twain

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    Yes on the castle and the racetrack. It is a ways and you kind of feel like you are beating up a non-4x4 without high clearance due to sometimes severe and constant wash-boarding but the road is generally passable and you can see both plus the Ubehebe crater on the way. There is a cool mine with a tramway and a few buildings near the racetrack.

    I've done this drive many times in an Explorer with stiff shocks and never needed to use 4x4. All this can change in an hour; check with the park service since they put out daily listings of where you can go and what you should drive if you are going to do it. With this rain (24" and counting in the San Bernardino Mtns) the road might not be passable. Some parts of the road can turn into a clay-based mud that is impossible to drive through and even though it is "Death Valley" the quantities of water that can suddenly deluge a roadway are impressive.

    I've only approached the Saline Valley from Panama Springs (in and out) and, again, I never actually had to engage the 4X4 for more than about a minute but it was a slow, rocky crawl for a lot of miles. You really get tossed around no matter how slowly you go. I wouldn't attempt it without AT tires and high clearance. This is the road taken by the rescue ambulance in this WWII story:

    http://www.qnet.com/~carcomm/wreck29.htm

    I took two spares just in case. No way would I attempt that with a rental car. A 2x2 truck with a shovel and an assistant, maybe. I always take a moving blanket which does wonders under the back wheels when stuck in sand. I suggest you travel with someone in another vehicle since it can take a long, long time for help to come by.

    In my roughly ten trips to the Saline valley I've had to rescue/assist somebody twice. Once a guy in a 2x2 pickup saw the Panamint Dunes and tried to get there on a road that doesn't actually go there, driving down toward the visible dunes from the road into the Saline Valley. He eventually got wedged in a ravine. I saw his "help me!" note up on the "main" road and drove down to find him and pulled him out with a pull strap. The other time I came across a guy on a dirt bike, out of water and gas. I know it is possible to drive by the racetrack and go on to Saline Valley but I haven't actually done it so can't comment. That would be a long, long day if you were going to come back out again the same day.

    If you haven't been before, and only have three days or so, I think I wouldn't necessarily put the Saline Valley on my immediate "to do" list, though obviously I like it. There are so many other interesting places you can drive to that are passable, like Keeler, Darwin, Rhyolite, etc.

  3. #3

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    Hi Richard,
    I've done Scotty's Castle & Racetack in one day, the road to Racetrack Playa is a rough graded washboard with a few sandy spots where a rental car could get stuck.
    I drove a stock height 4wd Suburban, & didn't need to use 4wd. While we were shooting, to our amazement, another photog. drove up in a compact rental car.
    The key to driving in sand is maintaining momentum.
    As Kevin said, things change rapidly, check conditions before using any roads in DV.
    Real cameras are measured in inches...
    Not pixels.

    www.photocollective.org

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Crisp View Post

    If you haven't been before, and only have three days or so, I think I wouldn't necessarily put the Saline Valley on my immediate "to do" list, though obviously I like it. There are so many other interesting places you can drive to that are passable, like Keeler, Darwin, Rhyolite, etc.
    I agree with this. Excellent report.

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Crisp View Post
    With this rain (24" and counting in the San Bernardino Mtns) the road might not be passable. Some parts of the road can turn into a clay-based mud that is impossible to drive through and even though it is "Death Valley" the quantities of water that can suddenly deluge a roadway are impressive.
    .
    "Impressive" is understatement, today!

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    Titus Canyon on the way back from Rhyolite too. I like the Armagosa Dunes that are reasonably close to Rhyolite although when you drive in, you have to decide when it is sandy enough to park and walk. Frequently I see the vehicles of those who went a little too far.

    Twenty Mule Team Canyon is close to the hotel and very interesting. Greenwood Valley petroglyphs are a favorite but you have to hike about 1.5 miles in now. And of course you need to stand with all the other photographers at Zabriski Point just once.

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    I tried driving in one February from Ridgecrest and the road to Trona was buried under a mud flow. In the park it was obvious there had been water flowing recently 1 to 2 feet deep in the draws.

    NAOA has just reminded us that despite recent events this is going to be a dry winter.

  8. #8
    Richard K. Richard K.'s Avatar
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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    I am very appreciative of the replies thus far. Thank you. I guess I better not try to get to Saline Valley Road from the Racetrack, then! Has anyone done THAT?

    Can I get to Aguerreberry Point in a rental?
    When I was 16 I thought my father the stupidest man in the world; when I reached 21, I was astounded by how much he had learned in just 5 years!

    -appropriated from Mark Twain

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard K. View Post
    I am very appreciative of the replies thus far. Thank you. I guess I better not try to get to Saline Valley Road from the Racetrack, then! Has anyone done THAT?

    Can I get to Aguerreberry Point in a rental?
    Death Valley Phil does it with his Jeep Rubicon in good weather. Anytime we're on the racetrack road and some fool flies past us in a shiny sedan we always laugh and look at each other and say 'rental car'. I think Aguerreberry point is paved all the way up.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

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    Re: Need Death Valley Advice re Racetrack & Saline Valley

    I've seen lots and lots of rental cars do it. There is one narrow right hand turn that is in the shade and it climbs a bit. It can get icy in there and sometimes light snow lingers, otherwise it shouldn't be a problem. Even if you can't go on you can go back since it is downhill.

    Go slowly on the dirt roads, the danger is in the medium sized sharp rocks that can flip up and get the tire through the sidewall. Be sure to check out the mining camp on your right on the way in. I forget the name, Harris Camp or something like that.

    Dante's View (basically Agueberry Point from the other side of the valley) is well worth the trip. Biggest crowd I've seen at Agueberry was a Wisner workshop.

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