For our final morning in Death Valley, we needed to finish matching up some deleted scenes from Return of the Jedi in 20 Mule Team Canyon. And we were successful. The scene is a series of shots showing Luke Skywalker constructing his lightsaber in a cave. It took us 3 trips to 20 Mule Team on 3 different days to find the exact location. But we did it. The cave is now gone, probably collapsed on purpose by the park service for safety reasons. But we found the exact spot, which you will see later in my photos.
Today we had quite a sad experience while out hiking. We decided to hike Forbidden Canyon, which is a name that I have assigned to an undisclosed canyon on Tucki Mountain. Up until our hike, the majority of this canyon had only been seen by a few canyoneers. That changed today when we became the first known hikers to successfully bypass the titanic dry fall near the mouth of the canyon. We ended up being able to hike a full 3 miles into the canyon. It is a beautiful wide open canyon that ends for hikers at a 2nd major dry fall. We bypassed the 2nd dry fall but decided not to drop back into the canyon as the route was steep and full of loose rocks and bad footing. Our sad moment came at the base of the 2nd major dry fall when we came across a recently deceased Kit fox. It looked like it had only been dead a few hours or overnight at most. The Kit fox appears to have slipped off the dry fall for some unknown reason. It was a very sad sight and sobering reminder to be careful around dry falls. Today was 17 miles RT and was possibly my final hike in DV for 2013.
For our family day today we all hiked Lower Foundry Canyon. It was just about the right length for everyone and we all enjoyed the narrows toward the end of the hike. This was Stefan’s 4th and final hike and tomorrow is my final epic hike of the trip. For that, we are going to attempt to become the first group of hikers to ever get into Trellis Canyon West past the titanic dry fall located close to the mouth of the canyon. It’s gonna be a long hike up there of about 6 miles just to find out if we can pull it off. In the evening today, we also spent 2 hours searching high and low in 20 Mule Team Canyon for the location of a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi. We think we have found it and will go back before the trip is over to do photos.
Today we headed up Rock Nettle Canyon to check out the red narrows of the 2nd side canyon. And we were all very impressed. The best narrows are in two sections with just amazing red colors. We had perfect lighting in the late morning. We hiked the 2nd side canyon to its head and then headed back into the narrows to eat lunch and enjoy the setting. A very nice hike and day. This felt like an easy day compared to our other hikes, which was just what we needed. For our remaining two days, we will do one epic hike and one easy day. Congrats again to Kauri on discovering such a great place.
Today for our family day we headed out into the Owlsheads for a hike to an unpublished location. There will be no trip report for this day. But I am going to share one photograph. This was taken at Dart Crash Site, which is located somewhere in the Owlshead Mountains. On the way back, we got a flat tire and thus have to change up a few hikes on our remaining 3 days. In the morning, I stopped by Golden Canyon and successfully matched up another Star Wars location. I also looked around 20 Mule Team Canyon but could not find the location of the deleted cave scene from the Return of the Jedi Blu-Ray. But we will keep looking.
Today we did another epic hike of 15+ miles RT. And I’m feeling it tonight. We did an incredible hike out to Cottonball Marsh Canyon and then the side canyon which leads to the newly discovered natural bridge on Tucki Mountain. We had to overcome two major dry falls in the canyon in order to reach the spectacular new natural bridge. A name for this bridge will be assigned in the next week or so and will be published in my upcoming report, along with the info on who discovered it and more details. Thanks to Kauri for scouting out the first of the two bypasses on her earlier trip, thus paving the way for my group to be successful. This was a very beautiful canyon from beginning to end.
For our family day, we tried to get to Marble Canyon, but the road was so bad we had to turn back. As an alternative, we went ahead and hiked Canyon 1 (see Day 1 and maps on my blog if you don’t know what I mean by Canyon 1) since it was in the same general area. Canyon 1 was not as interesting as Canyon 3, but was still worth visiting. It had a neat gorge section with a series of dry falls, and then a nice section later on with colorful wall patterns. I guess I will also try to hit Canyon 2 on this trip to group 1-3 together all into one report. One thing that was very interesting was that I found a truck parked at the parking area for Canyon 3 today. I can only assume that somebody read my Day 1 update and then came out to hike Canyon 3 to see what secrets it holds. Because there would be no other reason to park in that spot and these canyons are all undocumented and not typical hiking areas.
I also dropped by the FCVC today and was impressed with the new exhibits. They were very well done. Some of my pictures are in use there which was neat to see. It is a privilege to be a part of the new Visitor Center even in a small way.
Today we hiked out to the major canyon between Echo & Slit with one goal. We wanted to get past the boulder blockade that has stopped all previous hiking groups one mile into the canyon. And we did it! With the help of sheepranch, he was able to get us all up and over the boulder blockade. We ended up successfully hiking the entire canyon up to the head and then we looped back to Hole-In-the-Wall via Slit Canyon. This is considered a first ascent of this canyon and major accomplishment, as no group has ever documented covering this entire canyon before. All in the group agreed that the most appropriate name for this canyon was Rockfall Canyon, as the endless rockfalls and boulders are the defining feature of the canyon. Tomorrow is a day off for family activities.
My trip highlight was expected to be Slab Canyon, a canyon I stumbled across and named after finding it on Google Earth. It was amazing! We literally spent 3 hours walking through narrows. The reason we spent so long in there is that we had to do 4 bypasses. This canyon is non-stop dry falls, small climbs, and polished narrows. I hiked it at the beginning of the trip because it was 19.3 miles RT. And I knew that later in the trip I might be too tired to do it, and I didn’t want to miss it. I’ve got 300 photos to choose from, but how do you choose when there are endless narrows? These 4 pictures I’m sharing are almost like teasers. This will be a fun report to write later. What an excellent canyon! I will provide a map to find it with my report. I will also explain why I named it Slab Canyon.
I will use this space to post live updates from Death Valley during our February 2013 trip, which began today. We are staying at Furnace Creek this time, which has excellent WiFi. Updates will be daily except in the case where I am overnight backpacking or too tired from long hikes. Since WiFi is excellent, I will try to share at least 3 pictures each day. Many more will be shared in my Trip Reports later.
Death Valley February 2013 Trip
Day 1– Canyon 3
Today we arrived in the park at 1:30pm and headed out to an area I have nicknamed the Ten Canyons Region. To kick off our trip, we wanted to do a short hike into an undocumented canyon. So we decided on Canyon 3, which is just the way I have numbered all of these unnamed canyons that stretch from Cottonwood Canyon wash to Lemoigne Canyon. More on that later in my upcoming report. Canyon 3 is located directly off of Cottonwood Road prior to reaching the drop into the Cottonwood Canyon wash. I had somewhat low expectations going into this hike, but I was pleasantly surprised. The canyon was very interesting… starting out with conglomerate rock narrows and dead-ending at a 20 foot dry fall about 1/2 mile into the canyon. But my friend Tobin found a bypass to get past the dry fall, while I climbed the dry fall. Past the dry fall, we were stunned to walk through a gorge with polished narrows and dry falls (all climbable by those with some minor skills). Then we discovered something interesting which we will be reporting to the park service but not publishing publicly. Finally, the hike ended at a spectacular 40 foot dry fall in the best section of narrows. So a great start to the trip and choice of an undocumented canyon. And this day will always be remembered since it was the first hike I ever took with my son in Death Valley.