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Even though there was a bit too much high haze for my liking, washing things out a bit, it was still a superb view. We had an unobstructed 360-degree view of the northern part of Death Valley, and we could see all the way south into the distance towards the flat white lines of salt that we knew indicated where the lowest point in North America was located. It was a great vantage point to indicate the other points of interest we would soon be visiting: the Stovepipe Wells Dunes, Badwater, and Dante's View, among others. You really feel like you are on a 'real mountain' on Thimble Peak. It's a small summit, with the terrain dropping away steeply on all sides.
Thimble Peak's Summit
X marks the spot
Thimble's Marker
courtesy JInnes
courtesy PChen
Titanothere and Death Valley
Friends on the summit
Starting the descent
It was 6pm at this point. It had taken us exactly one hour to hike up the 1,000-feet and across the 1.6 miles (2.7km) of terrain. Quite fast - but we couldn't stay long. We had an hour of sunlight left, and in addition to wanting to make it back to the Jeep before sundown, we wanted to be able to see the remaining bit of the Titus Canyon road that we had yet to cover.

We therefore did not linger long on the summit - perhaps ten minutes at most - and turned to head down. We carefully downclimbed the scrambles on the steep upper ridge, picking up speed when we reached the more gentle, sagebrush-dotted slopes a few hundred feet below.
courtesy PChen
A bit of 3rd Class
Descending Thimble
Descending Thimble
Descending Thimble
Once at the col between Thimble Peak and the lower sub-summit to its northeast, I picked a more direct path that traversed sideways across the slopes below the route we had taken on the way up, angling somewhat more directly for Red Pass. Although the route was more direct, it was a bit more tiresome to walk quickly across steep slideslopes, so the elapsed time back to Red Pass was very similar to our ascent time - perhaps only 5 minutes faster.

We were now just minutes away from sunset, and the colors of the tawny desert landscape around us were muted, suffused with a gentle glow.
Thimble Peak
White and Red Pass
Red Pass from above
Click to view full-size with photo points
Climb to Thimble Peak (ascent only)
Start Time: 5:01p.m.
End Time: 6:02p.m.
Duration: 1h0m
Distance: 2.72 km (1.69 mi)
Average Speed: 2.7 km/hr (1.7 mph)
Start Elevation: 5253ft (1601m) *
Max Elevation: 6359ft (1938m) *
Min Elevation: 5244ft (1598m) *
End Elevation: 6359ft (1938m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 1346ft (410m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 283ft (86m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
We quickly packed our stuff back into the Jeep and headed off. It was all downhill now, from 5,300+ feet at the pass down to nearly sea level at the end of the road. The upper reaches had many tight twists and turns, and then the road settled down and ran down the center of a broad section of valley above Titus Canyon proper. It's here that we saw the remnants of the ghost town of Leadfield off to our left. Apparently the existance of the town owes itself to exaggerated and fraudulent claims made about gold in the nearby hills. It sprang into being in 1926 and was a functional town with a post office for only 1 year. Unfortunately, dusk was now upon us and we really didn't have any time to stop and poke around.
Titus Canyon Narrows
As dark continued to descend, we arrived at the main narrows of Titus Canyon. The Canyon walls narrow down to pretty much the width of one lane of road, and that width is occupied by the Titus Canyon Road. Perhaps this section is the main reason why this route is one way only!

For quite a distance, we drove the closest you can get to the automotive version of a slot canyon hike. A road-bed and two rock walls on either side, twisting and turning this way and that.
Titus Canyon Narrows
Eventually the narrows of Titus Canyon burst out onto a wide open bajada that gently sloped down towards the bottom of Death Valley. From here the road is two-way, ruler straight, a bit rocky, and kind of boring relative to the cool twisty canyon we had just been in.
Click to view full-size with photo points
Titus Canyon Road Drive
Start Time: 4:01p.m.
End Time: 7:50p.m.
Duration: 3h48m
Distance: 42.93 km (26.67 mi)
Average Speed: 11.3 km/hr (7.0 mph)
Start Elevation: 3397ft (1035m) *
Max Elevation: 5248ft (1600m) *
Min Elevation: 237ft (72m) *
End Elevation: 237ft (72m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2150ft (655m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 5230ft (1594m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
It was pretty much fully dark now, and time to find our resting spot for the night. I had wanted to avoid the busier and more impersonal of Death Valley's campgrounds, but time and logistics made me now skip my first choice, which had been the Mesquite Springs campground some tens of kilometres to the north. Distances between points of interest were so great in Death Vally that I felt it would be best if we camped close to our next destination - the dunes of Stovepipe Wells - which were perhaps 20 to 30km to the south of where we now were.

We arrived in the dark at the Stovepipe Wells complex (which consists of a gas station and convenience store, a motel, bar, and restaurant). There is a large 200+ site campground adjacent, and it seemed pretty near full, with large groups of noisy campers around big, bonfire-like campfires. The sites themselves are nothing to write home about - essentially this campground is like a large open gravel parking lot that has been partitioned into little squares. Our initial reaction was to recoil away from in distaste. This didn't seem like a particularly pleasant place for tents or for a quiet sleep (the campground was mostly filled with RVs and tent-trailers). Looking at our park map, we could see there was a much smaller tents-only basic-service campround some ways up highway 190 to the west, so we headed off to check that out. It was indeed a much nicer campsite, but unfortunately its ten sites were full. No luck here.

We decided that there was no use futzing around in the dark all night to find a campsite that we would be using for at most a total of 7 hours of sleeping. The campground at Stovepipe Wells was close to the dunes we wanted to visit at sunrise tomorrow, and they did seem to have a couple of spots left open. We returned and selected a patch of unoccupied gravel between two big RVs. Fortunately they seemed silent and with no generators running. We paid the $12 campground fee and set up our tents.

It was by now past 9pm, and we really didn't feel like cooking and eating while sitting in/on a gravel parking lot. So, we hoofed it over to the bar/restaurant at Stovepipe Wells to see if perhaps we could dine there. Unfortunately, things wind down there at 9pm, and dinner was no longer offered. Back to our campspot - dinner on the gravel it would have to be.
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