Driving in the wind to Saline Valley

The Long Way to Saline Valley 10.29.2015

The wind was still howling when we woke up and we were grateful that the damp dunes reduced the amount of blowing sand.

Our destination was Saline Valley and since the north road was still closed we drove back down to Big Pine then south to Lone Pine and the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center to check the weather report and road conditions (there is no cell service in Death Valley). From there we took CA 136 to CA 190 into Death Valley National Park and the south road to Saline Valley.

The first few miles of the road are crumbling potholed pavement followed by fast graded dirt to the amazing Joshua tree forest on Lee Flat, then steep and narrow over South Pass, and very narrow and windy down Grapevine Canyon.

We pulled over near South Pass to let a speeding black rental SUV with street tires go by. They stopped partway down Grapevine Canyon and four men with heavy foreign accents and only a tiny tourist brochure map asked for directions to to Racetrack Playa. We told them the Playa was closed because of the floods and we didn’t bother to tell them that their vehicle was not capable of getting there anyway. Next they asked for directions to Sequoia National Park but didn’t have a California map so we told them to turn around, go back to US 395 and make a left.

It was a long descent down the alluvial fan on the now washboard road to the valley floor. The wind was still blowing dust and the distance was deceiving as we passed Saline Lake and continued up the valley. Eventually we could see the green patch at Saline Valley Hot Springs and found our turn off 46 miles from CA 190. The 7 mile road to the springs was washed out and in the low evening light we could not see the drop offs.

We finally reached the lower spring where wild burros were ravaging someone’s camp. When we opened the camper we found the heavy shower grate, the dinette cushions and vegetables from inside the dinette locker had all bounced out onto the floor. Our attempt to block some wind by parking behind mesquite trees was unsuccessful and once inside the camper we ate dinner and climbed into our rocking bed.


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I write about my adventures and how I enable them with great gear and maintaining my health and fitness.