November 29,  2010

It's nice to get away, even when retired, and the desert area was one of the few places we could test out changes made to our new camper. Even though we had weeks to plan out this short foray to Southern California, there always seems to be a last minute rush. Our first destination was Lake Isabella, an old mining area in Kern Valley with a colorful history and a good days travel from the Bay Area. In past years we've made Red Rock Canyon, Rainbow Basin, or Afton our destination, but a change is always nice. Plus, Isabella is hundreds of feet lower and should make for a warmer campground. We took a chance on not reserving a spot, only to find they had closed all but a few campgrounds. With a little apprehension about finding a place, we leisurely looking over Kernville before settling into Camp 9 to find we had the whole place to ourselves!  From here 178 east quickly gets more deserty with sage brush and Joshua's making their appearance.

We had read about Marble Canyon, just a mile south of Stove pipe wells on a dirt road, and it did not disappoint us. Slot Canyon like, the smooth worn marble walls closed to a few feet just a quarter mile from the parking lot. We had also planned a hike into Falls Canyon, just north of Titus, but unfortunately we only got in a mile or so before having to turn around due to the waning light. A few years go, camping on the asphalt slabs near Furnace Creek almost ruined our taste for Death Valley, but Mesquite Springs is a pleasant campground set in an isolated arroyo in the northern part of the park. After our leisurely breakfast of corn beef and hash (camp food) was washed down by good strong coffee, we headed for Ubehebe Crater. When we were last here in the late 60's, it was 110 degrees and we didn't get far. This time with the temperatures around 50 we scampered right up the craters edge and onto little Hebe. With it's strange formations and soundless isolation, one could be on another planet. For those willing to venture out (often on dirt roads) Death Valley has weeks worth of entertainment often overlooked by the usual tourist. This takes a little investigative, but the computer can make that fun.

Our last campground was was a KOA near Lost Hills as nothing else was available. Fortunately we arrived too late to enjoy the surrounding scenery of Speedy Marts and truck stops. But it had hookups and hot showers, so it was a comfortable asphalt slab.