The Pre-backpack, part II
A sampling of Death Valley sights
Saturday, April 3
As it turned out, we had a decently quiet night in the Stovepipe Wells campground. There was no late-hour partying (at least around us), and the two big RVs next to us stayed silent. We got up just as twilight began to build in the east. We wanted to be up and ready to view and hike the Stovepipe Wells Sand Dunes in the early morning light.
The slowly growing light gave us our first real look at the sea of RVs around us.
After a quick breakfast and pack-up, we drove a few minutes down highway 190 to a pullout nearest to the Stovepipe Wells sand dunes. Access to the dunes is quite simple -- just walk through a few hundred yards of desert shrubbery and onto the sand. We decided to aim for the highest of dunes, which was about a mile or so distant.
It was fortunately a quiet morning wind-wise (it is very common in Death Valley to have breezy or windy conditions), so we didn't have to worry about blowing sand getting into our eyes and all of our gear. The downside to this was that the dunes themselves were criss-crossed with the tracks of many visitors, somewhat marring the scene. It would not be until the next windstorm that the dunes would get reshaped back to smooth, untouched sandy slopes.
It was still early, so there were only a few other people about -- mostly photographer types with tripods and remote releases. We made our way along the ridgecrests of interconnecting dunes, taking in the warm stillness of the morning (it was in the low 20s C already). Off in the distance, almost directly above the highest dune ahead, was the pointy little finger of Thimble Peak -- the very point where we had been about 12 hours before!
It took us about forty minutes of casual wandering to make our way to the highest point of the highest dune. The hoped-for sunrise light was muted by high clouds, but soft effect of them was still quite nice. The pictures show a somewhat softer take on the normally hard-edged early morning desert light scenes.
Atop the highest dune, we got yet another wonderful 360-degree Death Valley view. We could see way into northern Death Valley from here, with the the large wall of the Grapevine Mountains bordering it to the northeast (including, of course, our peak from yesterday: Thimble Peak). Our view to the south was somewhat limited, being blocked by the bulk of nearby Tucki Mountain in the Panamint Range.
After a short break, we headed downslope and meandered our way back to the parking area.