Death Valley NP, California – Small accident

The yellow-beige Golden Rock Canyon is getting more and more colourful to the end and there is no excuse to miss the view to the yellow-brown striped hills and the Red Cathedral named cliff. Take on of the tracks leading uphill to the right. That comes to 2.5 miles / 4 km altogether. A bit north of the visitor center a short walk invites to find out about borax mining in the end of the 19th century and to take some photos of the old tools. Another short hike (3/4 mile / 1 km) at Salt Creek is worthwhile. Peculiarity here is the tiny pupfish not known much about. The fresh water fish from the once huge lake was slowly isolated during evaporation and forced back into small reserves where they had to get used to the increasing salt content and the extreme temperature differences. The gill animals are here maximum 2 in / 5 cm long, frantically dash through the shallow water, and probably become less than one year old. They have to drink their surrounding water not to die of thirst since the saltwater constantly withdraws their bodies’ liquid.

Titus Canyon can be driven in one-way traffic with a 4-wheel drive, but it’s a long and somewhat boring detour to get there. It is sportier to hike in. In the very north of the park lies Ubehebe Crater that suffered a steam explosion 1000 to 3000 years ago and flung water and debris out. Today it forms a neatly striped crater with a diameter of nearly half a mile where you can climb down.

A notorious tire eating 28 mi / 45 km washboard track brings us south to our tomorrow’s destination. There is remarkable oncoming traffic in the evening. It’s not always easy to get out of the way since the grader ploughed an edge to both sides of the road. No problem for a Unimog, we crawl uphill to make way for an oncoming pick-up with camper cabin. The pick-up driver on his part also climbs up the slope with his right wheels, suddenly accelerates, and turns too early back onto the road. His cabin starts tilting to the left and hits Arminius. The other driver stops, and we jump out. His cabin top edge brushed against our cab, fortunately just from the middle of our cabin on. So he missed our first window, and the kitchen window is deeper. A remarkable scratch stretches alongside. The left rear edge reinforcement has got glass fibre damage and has to be repaired to seal the surface. All in all it got off lightly, but still unpleasant. Of course, there is nothing to see at the pick-up. The driver apologizes; he has forgotten that he has the cabin on top. He hands over his insurance details. We will see how American insurances handle those things, we have no experience.

In the end of the gravel road is the Homestake Dry Camp, a tiny primitive campground without water, but free of charge. It is neither mentioned in the official park map nor in the campground list. It shows up only on the off-road map and only on inquiry we get to know which sites are open respectively closed for the winter. Even some roads are closed for ice and snow – this is Death Valley, one of the world’s hottest places.

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