Upon the conclusion of part 2 of our Death Valley 2013 trip, we spent some time recovering by relaxing on the beaches of Malibu and Santa Monica. Now that we have returned home, in the coming weeks we will be posting some brand new trip reports from both our Feb 2013 and Apr 2013 trips. There are still a few holdover reports from the Feb trip and there are 3 new reports coming from the Apr trip. These reports will be coming out slowly, so be patient. We want to do the best job possible with them since our hiking in Death Valley is finished for 2013. But a new report will be released every week or two. Here is what is coming up:
Death Valley’s Natural Bridges (new special feature report with info on all 8 major natural bridges)
Rockfall Canyon (Echo/Slit)
Lower Foundry Canyon
Dry Bone MSC
new Owlsheads loop hike (two canyons likely to be named Wind Caves Canyon and Owlshead Slot Canyon)
For my final Death Valley hike of 2013, I decided to try to hike to Moonlight Bridge. My trip seemed to be perfectly timed, as Kauri (a well known Death Valley hiker) only discovered the bridge last week. Had she discovered it next week instead, I would have had to wait nearly a year to (hopefully) see it in person. It is quite difficult to find as there are a maze of side canyons, junctions, and ridges everywhere in the vicinity. I’m not going to say anymore about it until I put together my trip report later and ask Kauri what kind of information I can include.
Today I went out and hiked the two canyons in the Owlsheads which are located between Quartz Canyon and Sand Canyon. I needed to hike these two canyons to complete my quest to see all of the major canyons that drain to the east along Harry Wade Road. These both proved to be interesting canyons with lots of typical Owlsheads scenery– narrow sections, large oddly shaped boulders of decomposing granite, windswept shapes and patterns, and many tortoise burrows. I saw lots of blooming rock nettle in both canyons and also found surprising evidence of Bighorn sheep in the northern canyon. On my way out of the northern canyon, I was stunned to find a 100 foot slot through Owlshead rock. A few years ago, it was reported to the park service that a hiker had discovered an Owlshead slot canyon in the general area of Quartz Canyon. But the information was lost and so the slot canyon was never found by anyone else. I have a strong feeling that what I found is the legendary and elusive Owlshead Slot Canyon. The southern canyon was neat because it opens up into the giant basin (or plain) that stretches all the way south into Quartz Canyon. I will choose canyon names later for identifying these two previously undocumented canyons.
We did it! I’m still not sure how because that was a grueling and very challenging 25 miles RT that we just did over the past 2 days to fully explore Dry Bone MSC. We backpacked in up the notoriously rocky Dry Bone Fan on Monday afternoon in the stifling 93F heat. About 1/2 mile from the mouth of Dry Bone Canyon we set up camp and the howling wind came in and kept us up all night. Today, we woke up and hiked all the way to our targeted stopping point high up Dry Bone MSC. A few of the many highlights– two sets of narrows, some striped rocks reminiscent of Marble Cyn’s 4th Narrows, some amazingly sculpted chutes, 1 major dry fall, dramatic views of White Top Mtn, an incredible rockslide in the middle of the canyon, and a pretty grove of Joshua trees at our stopping point. Dry Bone MSC delivered and was well worth the 3 years of waiting to get there. I’m pretty wiped out after the 2 days of backpacking, so I’m not sure what else I can do here except to search for the newly discovered 8th major natural bridge. Buckwheat Sand Dunes will have to wait, as the wind is not letting up and that hike just won’t work with this wind. But it was a great privilege to be part of the first documented group (along with my friends Fred & Debbie) to ever hike Dry Bone MSC.
Plans are in the works for my Death Valley 2013 trip to be resumed shortly. I had not actually intended to return to the park until 2014, but a break in my schedule and a break in the hot April weather will allow me to hopefully complete a few of the hikes that I did not get to back in February. I also hope to visit one very important newly discovered and just announced location named Moonlight Bridge, which was found by well known Death Valley hiker Kauri. If I can make it out to Kauri’s new bridge, then I would actually become the only person in park history to see all 8 of the major natural bridges in the park. I was thinking about when I return home to possibly create a new exclusive page that chronicles all 8 of the major natural bridges in the park in one place. Other destinations I hope to get to include Dry Bone MSC, a loop of the Owlsheads canyons between Quartz & Sand, and the Buckwheat Sand Dunes. Watch this space for live updates from Death Valley National Park starting in the next few days. (As a side note, my unfinished trip reports from our February 2013 trip including Rockfall Canyon and Lower Foundry Canyon will be delayed until the conclusion of this follow-up trip.)
The latest report to emerge from my late Winter 2013 trip is the report for Rock Nettle Canyon. It is currently listed on the site as report #110 if you would like to check it out. Rock Nettle’s Red Slot Canyon truly is one of the most beautiful areas of slot narrows in the entire park. I hope you enjoy the report and there is still more to come.