Panamint Valley Days

Thursday 11/13/09: We arrived at about 6:30pm in Panamint Valley after a seven hour drive. We took 178 through Lake Isabella. It was a slightly longer drive, but a more scenic twisty road. We got there after dark, and waited in the long safety inspection line. But the line moved quickly. We were surprised by the “lack” of inspection compared to other automotive events like auto crossing. We somehow managed to find Richard Beard and his friends Richard and Anton after dark amongst the hundreds of campers, as well as Laurel and her camo Bronco. Shortly after we arrived, Gary and Danã, the other prospective members arrived. We ate dinner at the Ruff Rock café, which the PVD people prepared for us. Then we set up camp in very heavy winds…a trying experience…stakes are necessary. Friday 11/14/09: We luckily all chose to take the same runs in the mornings. Among a convoy of about 40 vehicles for the Jail Canyon run were our YJ, Gary’s JK, RB’s TJ, Richard’s CJ, and Laurel’s camo Bronco. It’s quite amazing how long it takes to get a convoy of 40 started. By the time we were at the trail head the back of the convoy was hardly moving. While we were waiting for the convoy the move we had the opportunity to meet an interesting dog named Toby…but we like to call him the rock dog. He would hunt through his surroundings and find the perfect rock. After he had found said rock, he would bite it, roll it, push it, and play with it in any way he could find while making sounds like a monkey.

Jail canyon was a pretty mellow run, that took us up to an abandoned mine. Although the run was easy for our jeep, the CJ in our group sustained damage. We stopped for a bit to explore the mines, abandoned vehicles, and cabins. None of us were brave enough to go more than 100 ft into the mine. After one of us fell into the water on the ‘treacherous’ hike to the mine, we returned to our vehicles and went back to camp. The CJ was shortly thereafter put up for sale.

We ate lunch, and then Gary/Danà and we went on an easy sunset run to Lookout City. On the way there we were repeatedly buzzed by an F-16 who was showing off for our convoy… ‘free air show with the price of registration’ the trail leader told us. Once we got there the view was nice. Clouds obscured the view some, but not all. There was a village at the top in the form of ruins (the remains of lookout city). On the way back we got pretty annoyed because the people in front took off instead of waiting for those behind them. By the time we were on the road back to camp we could still se the headlights of those still on the trail. We returned to camp, ate, and took a slow drive down the highway to gas up at the overly priced gas station with a strangely empty convenience store in Panamint Springs, where one can also take a shower for a mere $3.00…less than one gallon of $3.99 gas.

Saturday 11/15/09: Once again we all chose to take the same trail…Pleasant canyon. We stopped in a strange little ghost town called Ballarat with an interesting fellow at the “gift shop”. About 20 ft into the run a Suzuki locked up its t-case. It eventually caught up with us later on. Pleasant Canyon itself was quite pleasant…water = mud and plants. We stopped briefly at a mine only to find the hissing sound we heard was our air line getting a hole melted into it by our exhaust. Good thing we didn’t really need to use our rear locker. The trail went up more and more, until we found ourselves strangely enough in the middle of a forest in Death Valley…imagine that. The person two cars in front of us did not wait and we got stopped at multiple forks in the road…feeling quite like Hansel and Gretel with no bread crumbs. When we contacted the trail leader on the CB and said we were at a fork…he said he didn’t know which fork so he couldn’t tell us where to goJ. Eventually we caught up with everyone else and proceeded up and down the ridgeline to a vista point where we ate lunch. We had a show there because one of our convoy decided to get a flat on a very steep downhill/off camber section of the trail, and had to tie his vehicle to the two jeeps behind him to change it.

After lunch we proceeded to Chicken Corner, so named, because the Jeep-and-a-foot wide corner is held together with chicken wire with a deep drop directly outside the passenger window (or driver’s window depending on the direction travelled). The previous day a lovely pink-camo Cherokee XJ rolled off the cliff at chicken corner. Right when we were approaching and rounding the corner, a crew was pulling the now convertible Cherokee out of the ravine. So as the passenger, one gets a nice up and close view of the chicken wire support system holding up a 4000lb vehicle. That was quite exhilarating. Luckily everyone survived including the person that had rolled the previous day. There were nice cabins at the bottom of the hill, that anyone can use…first come first serve, and a nasty outhouse, with a sign on the door that says “warning, toxic fumes.” The rest of the trail was pleasant with a few waterless waterfalls to drive down and a very steep descent to the valley floor.

We went back to camp and bought raffle tickets. We then ate a wonderful dinner provided by the Ruff Rock café, and proceeded to freeze our butts off for about 2 hours during the raffle. We didn’t win. R.B. won twice. Next time we’re bringing chairs…it is a big mistake not to.

Sunday 11/16/09: We packed up camp, ate, aired up, and left for a lovely 7 hour ride home.

All in all it was a fun trip: Dusty, cold, sunny, windy, but fun. Its great not having to worry about 60% of your meals…mostly ones you cook. We had to bring lunches though. Bring chairs. Bring tent stakes. Bring cash. Bring warm clothes. We will definitely consider going back next year to PVD 2010. And if the person whose car alarm went off 4 times Friday night/Saturday morning and twice more Saturday night/Sunday morning …waking up the entire camp at all hours of the night (and we mean all hours) is reading this, you’d better shut off your alarm the next time or a break-in will be the least of your vehicle’s problems!

Does anyone have somewere on line where i can post the photos?