Our final morning at Death Valley National Park dawned with the sun pushing away the shadows from this vast place. It was Tuesday morning, February 28, and we’d have to start back to San Diego by noon at the latest. The following afternoon, Sean and I would fly home to Chicago.
The previous night as we found our campsite, everything was a rich black. In the morning as we looked out of our tents into the sunrise, we found the foothills of the Cottonwood mountains, where our camp was nestled, gloriously lit up. As were the quickly departing clouds. Although other parts of the valley had felt the drop of rain overnight, our tiny corner of it hadn’t.
Mosaic Canyon follows a fault almost two miles into Tucki Mountain. Actually, the canyon continues farther into the mountain, but at 1.8 miles, an insurmountable fifty-foot dry fall marks the end of a really great hike. Mosaic Canyon is a testament to the power of water written in beautiful stone.
Andrew, Sean, and I arrived at the parking area for Mosaic Canyon at about a quarter to four on February 27. We had traveled some eighty miles from our campsite on Harry Wade Road far near the southern end of Death Valley. Now in the foothills of Tucki Mountain above Stovepipe Wells, we were ready for our final adventure of our final full day in Death Valley National Park.
By 5pm on Sunday, February 26, Sean, Andrew, and I were back in the Jeep and driving south through the northern part of Death Valley. The task at hand: finding a place to rest our heads for the night. The immensity of Death Valley was more apparent for us on this drive than it had been throughout the rest of our time in the Park. It was fifty-seven miles from Ubehebe Crater to the Park Headquarters at Furnace Creek. And our intention was to continue south well beyond Furnace Creek.
After breaking camp in Panamint Valley, Andrew, Sean, and I drove to Death Valley proper, over a pass through the Cottonwood Mountains of the Panamint Range. It was 3pm on February 25 by the time we reached Stovepipe Wells in the shadow of Tucki Mountain. We’d been in Death Valley National Park for twenty-four hours already, but had yet to check-in, as it were, and inquire about backcountry camping or register as visitors.
Amargosa Range and Death Valley
We passed the campground, which, situated on the desert floor, sort of looked like an RV parking lot with tents. Seeing it, we were very glad to be camping in the backcountry. Already, the solitude it afforded had infected us and made us glad.
The desert was cold when I woke up and emerged from my tent into the pre-dawn glow at the edges of the Panamint Valley. It was just after 6am on Saturday, February 25, and the temperature must have been in the low forties at least.
On Thursday, February 23, Sean and I began our Death Valley National Park adventure by boarding a flight from Chicago O’Hare to San Diego. It had been a long week for me, with a major meeting that I had literally staged ending some three hours before our flight, and getting away to the desert to clear my head was just profoundly inviting.
All too soon, the day of our departure from Dry Tortugas National Park had arrived. It was the morning of November 16, 2016, and when we Chicagoans returned to camp from our walk to see the sunrise, the Detroiters were already up and seeing to breakfast. We began to load up our gear. Even though the ferry didn’t leave until 3pm, we were obliged to load our camping supplies onto the boat as soon as that morning’s passengers disembarked. We’d be transformed into day trippers for our remaining hours on Garden Key.