This is just a brief post to let everyone know that all of the newer format Death Valley reports (the ones with the green circular graphic next to them) have been converted over to the lighter color theme. Readability and the overall look of the reports has been vastly improved. This includes all newer format Non-DV hiking reports as well. In addition, all of the reports in the top left box on the main page (Introduction, DV Hiking Recommendations, Star Wars in Death Valley, etc.) have also been converted. As part of this, the DV Wildlife and Wildflowers Page has been completely redone from scratch. Be sure and check out that updated page, which contains wildlife and wildflower photographs from the park taken entirely on our trips. This evening, I also posted a brief Tree Searching update to my Hyperion Redwood page. In a couple of weeks, we will return with another brand new report covering the area we call Nemo Slot in the Panamint Mountains. Then, we will follow that up later with reports on Chalk Canyon and Tafoni Canyon. (Note: If any of the reports are still showing the old darker color theme still, simply hit the refresh button on your browser.)
The second part of the report covering our hike through the Smoke Tree Slots in the Owlshead Mountains has been released. This chronicles the second half of our journey and includes 112 photographs of Smoke Tree Slots #2 and 3. The new report can be found as report #145 on the main page or you can click on the link below. In addition, I have updated the Owlshead Mountains Special Report (located in the upper left box on the main page) to include the Smoke Tree Slots as 1 of the 14 highlights of the Owlshead Mountains. You will probably notice, too, that the site is being fully converted over to the newer eggshell white color scheme which I have been testing out lately. I have received some positive feedback and, for the most part, visitors to the site have found the readability to be improved. So, all newer reports will be converted over to this color scheme. (To see the new scheme, you may need to click the refresh button in your browser if you have previously loaded the old version. You can test this out on all of the reports located in the upper left box on the main page.) There are still three brand new reports which will be released in the coming weeks, including Chalk Canyon, Tafoni Canyon, and Nemo Slot.
Smoke Tree Slots #2 and 3 –
This morning we have released our brand new hiking report on the Smoke Tree Slots in the Owlshead Mountains. Discovering these three slot canyons turned out to be one of our lifetime hiking highlights in Death Valley. Because of the extent of the beauty found within the three slots, this report had to be broken up into two parts. Part 1 of the report contains 84 photographs and covers Smoke Tree Slot #1. Part 2 of the report will be released in about one week’s time and will showcase equally beautiful slot scenery. Enjoy the report and start making your plans now to visit the new highlight of the Owlshead Mountains. The new report is currently listed as report #144 on the main page.
Smoke Tree Slot #1 –
I am happy to report that today we have released our first brand new Death Valley hiking report for 2016. The report chronicles the amazing discovery we made of Double Bridge (a brand new major natural bridge within the park) and Squeeze Slot (likely the tightest slot canyon ever found in the park). Both are located in the same area and can be seen by way of a 5-mile RT hike which should take no more than 1/2 day which would include exploring around the area a bit on your own. The new report is currently listed as #125 on the site’s main page. You can also read it by clicking on the link below. We hope you enjoy it.
Double Bridge and Squeeze Slot –
UPDATE 1/15: I am temporarily trying out an alternate color scheme for this report to test out if readability is better. Please let me know if you have any thoughts about the two different color schemes and which one you think is better.
Just a brief post to let everyone know that a few adjustments were made to the Death Valley Natural Bridges database page, a link to which can be found in the top left box on the site’s main page. First, Corkscrew Bridge has been disqualified as a natural bridge and thus was removed from the database. Further study by myself and NPS staff members determined that Corkscrew Bridge was not a genuine natural bridge at all, but rather a section of canyon wall which collapsed and fell across to the other side, thus forming a sort of bridge to walk under. The formation previously known as Corkscrew Bridge is still being displayed on the page, however it is now being used as an example of a false natural bridge. Second, the new discovery made by myself and Tobin of Double Bridge on January 1, 2016 has been added to the database. So there are still 14 major natural bridges currently recognized within Death Valley National Park. Third, Kauri discovered several potential natural bridges in the years 2014 and 2015 including Turret Bridge and Crown Bridge. However, I have not had the time to hike out to these bridges to check them out and help figure out how they potentially fit into the database. While the database is a personal project of mine, it also receives important input from NPS staff members in Death Valley, so it is the closest thing that the park has to an official database. It will continue to be updated and maintained over the years to come.
On the fourth day, we joined our friend Charlie for a hike out into the Owlshead Mountains. Our goal was to search out an area which appeared to have three narrow canyons. And what an incredible day it turned out to be. The three areas we visited surpassed all of our expectations as the narrows were extremely beautiful and we found two towering slot canyons. This completely amazed us because never before had slot canyons like this been found in the Owlshead Mountains. I was personally in a state of disbelief as I hiked through them, because I couldn’t imagine that something like this could have been hidden somewhere within the range. This was definitely the trip highlight. Charlie mentioned that the slot canyons we found rivaled the best of Sidewinder Canyon. The three canyons with narrows and slots are all in close proximity to each other and can be seen together on a day hike. We are calling this area the Smoke Tree Slots. This report will have to be split into two parts since there is too much beauty to fit into one single report. A map will be included with the reports as this area will likely hold huge interest for hikers. Keep in mind that both Charlie and I have spent a lot of time hiking in the Owlshead Mountains and we both agreed that this was the best day we have ever had out there.
For the third day of our trip, we drove out of Saline Valley and into Panamint Valley. There was one more canyon which I had been wanting to explore within the area located between Nemo Canyon and Nova Canyon. This was an area which I have been calling Nemo Slot just for reference purposes. We hiked into the canyon and checked out the right fork first. Then we went up the left fork and did find a very impressive slot which at first glance did not look hopeful. However, the slot surprisingly went on for quite some time and made the hike worthwhile. It was a great day.
For the second day of our trip, we drove out to Saline Valley and hiked two very nice canyons. In the morning, we hiked Chalk Canyon. Chalk Canyon is a short hike of about 7 miles RT which features one slot and two forks of white narrows. The neat thing about this canyon is the vast white-colored rock and dirt which covers the canyon floor, walls, and hillsides, including within the narrows. For the afternoon hike, we headed further up the road and hiked into the south fork of Tafoni Canyon. Tafoni Canyon was found and recommended by a fellow hiker about a year ago. The south fork contained three sections of narrows, canyon walls, and hillsides covered with tafoni formations, and a magnificent polished stone grotto dry fall. We hope to get back to the area to explore the north fork on a future trip. One report each will be issued for Chalk Canyon and Tafoni Canyon.
We have just returned home from our January 1-5, 2016 Death Valley National Park trip and it was great to resume canyon hiking once again. The focus of this trip was to search out and photograph some undocumented slot canyons and canyons with nice narrows. And our efforts were very successful. In fact, this was the best DV trip that I have taken in years, in view of how things turned out on all of the hikes. Joining me on this trip was good friend Tobin, another Death Valley hiker with great experience in the park. As an overview, here is a list of our hikes.
- Double Bridge (new natural bridge and slot)
- Chalk Canyon (narrows and slot)
- Tafoni Canyon (narrows and formations – south fork only)
- Nemo Slot (narrows and slot)
- Smoke Tree Slots (narrows and slots)
- Squeeze Slot (extremely tight slot)
Because the new trip reports usually take me 2-4 weeks per report, I will be posting a brief overview of each day’s hiking here on this blog. For our first day, I had identified an area within the park which appeared to have a nice slot canyon and perhaps a natural bridge. Upon hiking out to the location, we were stunned to indeed find both. There was a previously undocumented double natural bridge located directly at the entrance to a nice slot canyon. It was quite a great start to our trip. Because the discovery was so special to us, we joined Kauri for a hike back out to see the double natural bridge on our final day in the park. On that second hike, we all explored around the area a little bit more and discovered an additional nearby slot canyon which has the tightest narrows I had ever seen or experienced in Death Valley. I was only able to squeeze and crawl my way through 2/3 of the slot, while Tobin made it farther and Kauri made it all the way through. For informal names, I am assigning the name Double Bridge to the new natural bridge, Double Bridge Slot to the slot behind the bridge, and Squeeze Slot to the extremely tight slot canyon. This will be my first report that will be released in the near future.