Day 24: Death Valley, CA to Big Bear, CA

Sunday 10/2

With a long stretch of desert between us and Big Bear, we broke camp as quickly as we could and were rolling by 8:15. This hardly sounds impressive, but considering the fact that we regularly departed around 10:00 after going through the identical motions, we were congratulating ourselves. Clearly, we had sped up the packing process, but we didn’t feel like we had moved much faster. Looking back on it now, I’m mildly perplexed. Did we leave a filled tent behind? Did Simon pack his own gear? Did one of us skip a routine two-hour morning dump?

We dropped down the mountain on an easy dirt road.

Turning east onto Highway 190, we headed towards Panamint Springs. The overlook above the valley was well worth the stop.

We made our first gas stop of the day in Panamint springs. Simon made sure my jacket stayed warm — never mind the fact that the morning was already hot — while we aired up the tires for the pavement.

We continued south on Panamint Valley Road to Trona Wildrose Road. The farther south we went the more offroading areas we saw. Owing to its distance from urban centers, there were relatively few people making use of the incredibly vast area.

The first place we came across after leaving Panamint Springs was the mining town of Trona*. To say it had seen better days would be to insult the memory of better days.

Searles Valley Minerals is still a prominent feature in the town and as long as it’s there, the town will never completely die out — it’ll just keep playing on as a B movie badly in need of an ending.

A well kept rest area/company propaganda kiosk happened to be right across from the facility.

Public facilities ordinarily suffer from too much use and not enough maintenance, but not this cinder block beauty.

It got so little traffic that a smattering of cobweb was the filthiest thing to be found. Speaking about traffic, Simon thought it was awesome that he was the perfect height to stroll in and out of the stalls (when my camera wasn’t leashed to the bike, it was leashed to my pants…).

Since it was just uncomfortably hot and not deadly hot, we took a side excursion to the Trona Pinnacles. These tufa spires were formed underwater a long time ago and while they aren’t exactly breathtaking (the tallest one is only 140 feet), they were visually intriguing due to their isolation in the flat, dry lake bed.

After Trona the next stop was Kramer Junction, where Highways 395 and 58 meet. There are facilities on all four corners and on the weekends it’s an intersection bustling with truckers and travellers. We ate our lunch in the only patch of shade we could find. The wind was gusting, and enough stuff blew into our soda that it looked like someone flicked cigarette ashes in it. On any other day we would’ve been disgusted and tossed out the soda, but after weeks of living in the dirt we looked at it and decided it wasn’t all that bad, especially if we closed our eyes before taking a swig. My greatest take-away from this trip is that you can adjust to absolutely anything.

We finished our day with the climb into Big Bear City at 6750 ft. In about an hour we had gone from summer heat to winter chill.

To celebrate our last night on the road, we splurged on a room at the Motel 6. We still had some travel food so we fired up the JetBoil and made dinner. A small can of Pringle chips accompanied me through Death Valley — I was expecting to see crumbs when I opened the can, but much to my surprise I found this:

The Pringles were the perfect metaphor for Simon: Beaten but not broken. What survivors!

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* “Trona” is Native American for “Visually, Fiscally, Geographically, Seasonally and Generally Disadvantaged.”

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Day 24 overview: 239 miles

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    • Sux Warrior
    • December 11th, 2011

    You should have convinced the Metamucil people to sponsor this trek.

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