To wrap up my Feb 2014 trip, I ended things on a high note by hiking the undocumented major canyon between Red Wall Canyon and Palmer Canyon. I started by hiking the entire lower canyon and noting the two arches and gorge of massive boulders before getting stopped by a dry fall about 3/4 of a mile in. Then, I used a 2 hour long ridge bypass that I charted out at home to access the upper canyon. Once I got into the upper canyon, I hiked down until I reached another dry fall. I then turned around and hiked back up through some beautiful red narrows. I ran out of daylight before I could finish the last mile of the upper canyon. And there were more narrows to see.
Today I explored Fall Canyon’s 1st Side Canyon, which was a very difficult task. As some may know, the 1st Side Canyon is blocked immediately by a couple of dry falls as noted when hiking up Fall Canyon. As I was curious about this canyon, I decided to check it out. Details of the routes I used to get in and out will be provided in my report. Once in the Fall 1st Side Canyon, I hiked back down to look over the major dry falls near the bottom. Then, I hiked up both forks as far as I reasonably could to see what was there. The right fork has some nice slot narrows at the end. The left fork gets steeper and steeper with more and more boulders the farther a hiker goes. Eventually, I had enough so I turned back.
After exiting via Palmer Canyon and hiking out the Fall Canyon trail, I met two people from Canada who had hiked Fall Canyon today. They called out my name as they recognized me since they have used this site quite a bit. It was nice to meet you, Paulo and Cecelia. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.
I am happy to report that we made an important botany discovery in the park yesterday. This was a co-discovery between myself, Charlie, and Tobin, as we were all hiking together to explore the major canyon south of Nova Canyon. This is the canyon that has an early split in the canyon just above the mouth, with the right fork ultimately leading to some red-colored areas as noted on satellite imagery. Just before we entered the canyon, we were startled to discover an isolated population of Teddy Bear Cholla cactus growing. The Teddy Bear Chollas were spread out everywhere — on hillsides, in washes, and on banks above the washes. They were also incredibly tall, with many being 6 to 7 feet tall. The tallest Teddy Bear Cholla that we found measured a stunning 9 feet tall (see picture below). This was a significant discovery because these Teddy Bear Chollas (Cylindropuntia bigelovi) are actually growing about 100 miles north of their usual range. The park botanist has confirmed that this is the first recorded find of Teddy Bear Cholla in Inyo County so officially it is the furthest north garden of Teddy Bear Cholla. In view of this discovery, as co-discoverers we have assigned the informal name Teddy Bear Canyon to the canyon which contains the Teddy Bear Cholla garden at the mouth. So that means the major canyon south of Nova Canyon now has a designated name. (Previously listed as Nova Slots 5 & 6 in my Blog report on our hike.)
The big question now is how did an isolated population of Teddy Bear Chollas end up getting established and growing so vibrantly in Death Valley National Park? An educated guess might be that this cactus was transported to its remote location by a bird. This cactus doesn’t propagate well by seed as it is usually spread by one of its “joints” being broken off and taking root so we might guess that a joint somehow became attached to a bird and was dropped where the cactus are currently growing (just a guess as we are not sure how they got there). Park botanists will be visiting the location soon to take a survey and maybe at that time they can provide some more insight into how else this could be possible.
For today’s hike, we decided to wrap up our exploration of the area around Nova Canyon. We parked over on Hwy 190 and worked our way across to the wash of Nova Canyon. Following that we checked out four different smaller canyons in the general area, with the largest being the one I have labeled as Nova Slot 4. We didn’t find too many exciting slots within these areas, but we did see 9 Bighorn sheep. I also really liked the scenery within Nova Slot 4. Since I seem to be sharing mostly pictures of the slots, I will showcase a couple pictures taken in the two slots of Nova Slot 4 below.
Today we returned to our exploration of the canyons in between Nova Canyon and Nemo Canyon by doing a loop hike of what I have labeled as Nova Slots 5 & 6. This is the one canyon which will probably be assigned a different name later in view of something significant that we found in there that I will report on later (not a natural bridge, in case you were wondering). These were two very interesting canyons. There were three very nice slots in Nova Slot 5 and one great slot in Nova Slot 6. I thought the best way to showcase these two canyons in advance of my report was to simply share one picture taken in each of the four slots. By the way, I plan to wrap up my exploration of this area by covering Nova Slots 1-4 on another day of this trip. Maps will be provided later so that you can see exactly where we have been hiking. Keep in mind you can click on all pictures I am posting here on my Blog to see larger versions of them.
I finally made it out to the Buckwheat Sand Dunes today. We picked up a Jeep rental and headed out there for a family hike through the dunes. I was quite surprised to see just how beautiful these sand dunes were in person. This is a very pretty area and there seems to be as much sand as can be found in the Hidden Dunes. We were all very impressed and I got some great photographs to be shared later upon my return home. It was hard to choose which 4 photos to include in this brief trip update. The Buckwheat Dunes will likely end up being our trip highlight.
The centerpiece of this trip is opening up exploration of some of the additional undocumented canyons located in the general area of Nova Canyon and Nemo Canyon. This area has been virtually ignored by all other hikers and I was curious to see what could be found here. Thus, I labeled seven different short and long canyons that were of interest to me as Nova Slots 1-7, since that would allow me to keep track of my exploration of the area. On this day, we hiked Nova Slot 7 to check it out. We found a few interesting things, including some towering flat walls of conglomerate rock and something I am calling the Secret Passage. The Secret Passage actually starts out as a short very narrow side slot that appears to go nowhere. But it actually continues for a long, long time and ends up in its own little secret valley. The Secret Passage also provides a long bypass for the major dry fall in the main canyon. Nova Slot 7 is located farther away from the other 6 short and long canyons and thus had to be hiked separately. It also requires 4WD to reach the starting point. There is more of this area to come on this trip.
For our second day, we did a family hike out into the foothills of the Funeral Mountains located north of the route that leads into Indian Pass Canyon. I had spotted what appeared to be a one mile long crack in the foothills which looked to be continuous shallow narrows. And that’s exactly what we found when we got out there. One interesting thing about this hike was the layers of pure sandstone that were contained within the narrows of what I have nicknamed The Crack. It was an interesting place and we all enjoyed the hike.
We arrived in Death Valley for our February 2014 trip in the early afternoon on this day. Being that we had just a few hours of daylight left, we decided to head up to Ubehebe Crater to do a family hike on the trail that goes around the top of the crater. On my previous trips, I had only hiked down into the crater and up to Little Hebe Crater. So this was a fun hike which will allow me to better document Ubehebe Crater. It was a bit windy out and slightly cold, but Stefan seemed to enjoy being carried around on his backpack carrier.
About two weeks after completing the epic 17 hour 40 minute day hike of the Kalalau Trail, I have finished up my full trip report with an extended introduction and 115 photos. I think you will enjoy checking out this hike and the beautiful scenery which can be found on Kauai, Hawaii. This hike and trip inspired us to want to return to Hawaii this summer for some hiking on the Big Island. So we hope to be able to do that. Before that, though, we have plans to do our Spring trip to Death Valley. For now, the just finished trip report for the Kalalau Trail can be viewed at the link on the Introduction Page or by clicking here.