Snow in Death Valley and Helter Skelter!!
We had a decent nights sleep and woke up Thursday morning knowing our visit to DV was soon coming to an end. We took advantage of the showers at the campground, then went back across the street to the cafe for breakfast. After filling our bellies with grease we set out for the Wildrose campground with Linda and Pepper.
We had a few stops planned for the day, the first being Aguereberry Point which was chilly but had amazing views! Poor Linda had to stay behind because she didn't want to chance it down another dirt road and I don't blame her.
On our way back to meet her from the point, we also stopped by the Eureka Mine which was really cool. Many of the buildings were still there and in decent condition - its a shame the park service just doesn't take the time to maintain these areas anymore.
We left the mine after much exploration and picked up Linda again on the road to Wildrose. We were thinking about spending the night there but we arrived much earlier than we had planned. We fought the wind and stopped to have lunch at the campground, then wend down the road to checkout the Charcoal Kilns. These structures were truly awesome!! We still haven't seen the Coke Ovens in Arizona, but I have a feeling the Charcoal Kilns put them to shame. This is also where we saw snow in DV and it was close enough to stand in - madness!
At this point we had to say our goodbyes to Linda and Pepper. The Tiger just couldn't make it through rest of our journey and with so much more to see we had to move on. They ventured north back toward Stovepipe Wells to exit on the paved road south; we headed south toward Ballarat. We picked up a dirt road that was fast and smooth, running right next to the Panamint Range and into town. My intention was to run the Pleasant Canyon trail and camp halfway, but with the unknown steering issue on the truck we decided a 7-rated trail was probably not a good idea. We took some pictures as we entered Ballarat and I'm afraid to say we didn't really get out of the truck - we were too freaked out by the strange folk sitting on the porch of the General Store.
By this time it was about 330p and we had a ways to go before getting to the next planned camping spot. As we got further south, the road became more and more rough, slowing our pace a bit. We entered the canyon with its high, beautiful walls and spring flowers everywhere! Finally!! There were also some interesting mine remnants, including huge vehicles that had been left behind.
Eventually we made our way back into the park and soon found Barker Ranch. Josh was not too excited to be there at the old Manson Family home, but I had wanted to visit ever since reading Helter Skelter in high school...twisted I guess but I like history what can I say? A chill was certainly in the air and the area was really creepy. I had to work up a bit of courage to go inside, but Josh was content staying out. I read through the guestbook and signed it, took a few pictures and got the hell out of there. I still cannot believe this cabin was available for overnight stays, but it seems to get visitors. Just about a month or so after our visit, the cabin mysteriously burned down so I am grateful even more now that we got to see it.
When we were done getting our creep on we continued down Goler Canyon. It was getting pretty late at this point and we wanted to make it over Mengle Pass to find a place to camp. The trail became more and more rough, with large boulders and spotting was necessary at a couple of spots. Finally we made it to Mengles Grave, at the highest point on the trail, but didn't stay too long. The downhill portion of the trail was much like the uphill so I hopped out again to help Josh guide the FJ down.
Once we cleared the boulders we came down into a beautiful meadow and saw the first cabin, Stella's Place, far off on our left. Hoping to stay there for the night we looked through the binoculars and saw that a truck was already parked there. We moved on down the trail to the next cabin, the Geologist's, but that was taken too! We did notice there was another Fj parked there and a guy was standing ourside waving at us so we decided to stop in to see if it was someone we knew. It wasn't, but it was a pleasure to meet Bob who was a regular in DV and had a lot of information to share.
By this time it was almost dark and we needed to continue down the road to try and find another camp - but Bob told us about a third cabin we didn't see - Russel's Place. He wasn't sure if it was occupied or not but the sun was setting and the next camp was 10 miles away so we gave Russel's a shot. Bob sent us off with a fantastic data book he had put together with the promise we would return it to the Geologists Cabin on our way out the next day.
Russel's Place was hidden around a hillside rucked back into a small canyon and lucky us - it was empty! We had just enough light left to get a sense of our surroundings and set up the tent. Josh was a little creeped out by the cabin but I thought it was fantastic! We started a fire in a portable pit that had been left there, made dinner and settled in for the night.