Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

Why taking the road less traveled is worth it

Visibility Measured in Feet
 On September 21st J and L decided to head north out of the small town of Trona after visiting the Trona Pinnacles and drive to Panamint Springs on the way to Highway 395. Little did we know that the Trona-Wildrose Road was closed about fifteen miles north of the town due to massive flooding on July 22nd and July 28th respectively. Coming upon a road closure sign post with large dirt berms blockading the roadway showed the county of Inyo meant business on keeping the 150 to 200 vehicles which used the road each day.

Being researchers and explorers we simply slipped the Toyota FJ into four-wheel drive and pulled into the sandy desert bypassing the blockades. We were on a mission to get to Panamint Springs through the Panamint Valley and weren’t about to backtrack to Trona just because of some supposed washed out highway. The team does caution others to perhaps not follow our lead but with years of experience in the desert we try to be prepared for any conditions which we may encounter. Those preparations have paid off time and again as we leave the comfort of the pavement and head into the hinterlands.

 What J and L quickly saw ahead of them was a Hollywood version of a highway caught right after an end of the world film.

Where's the shoulder?
Hunks of asphalt missing, road cave-ins on either side of the roadway, buckled surfaces threatening the very existence of our powerful war horse, and the strangest sensation was there were no other vehicles to be seen. For nearly twenty miles we drove through this land of devastation without seeing another human or any sign of life for that matter. To even deepen the feeling of traveling through an apocalyptic period was the miles wide and thousand foot high sand storm directly to our east. The twirling and blowing dark sand seemed to follow us menacingly as we drove carefully and very slowly northward. But, again, being who we are we finally turned the FJ into the very desert that gave existence to the sandstorm so we could get better photographs.

The wind and fine sand were pounding us as we exited the vehicle and started snapping and filming.
It was awesome.

View from the Top

After a few minutes of being sandblasted it was time to retake our position inside the vehicle and finish the journey we had started an hour earlier. With visibility nearly zero at times we finally drove around the north barriers and entered onto State Route 190 and turned west toward Panamint Springs. 

A cold beer for J and a Coke for L at the Panamint Springs Resort was the perfect ending for an adventurous and exciting, though sometimes worrisome, travel through Panamint Valley. 

Tourists  at the resort were busy snapping photographs of the tall blowing sandstorms to the east and making comments like: “They look so dangerous.” “Look how they tower above the landscape for miles and miles.” “You would not catch me out there in the midst of it.”

Haboob - Arabic for blasting/drafting - first named in the Sudan

Oh, what they had missed by not traveling the road less traveled.

Looking east from Panamint Springs toward Death Valley

On a side note – according to the Inyo Register the cost to prepare the Trona-Wildrose road will be in the millions and the time to prepare it is undetermined due to the severity of the thunderstorms which wreaked havoc through-out many of the roads in Death Valley and surroundings desert locales. 

As always, stay careful and be prepared for the unexpected.

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