02 April 2016

Sandy Point

Death Valley National Park




It is a good day for a Desert Peaks Section hike. The national weather service had predicted low 40s overnight and I did not wake up in frost for once. Well, I did not expect frost because desert air is good, dry stuff, but in this case it actually is in the low 40s. We are expected at the start point right around sunrise, so we rise ourselves into the pleasant dawn light. After some breakfast and checks and a short drive, we gather for the ceremonial signing of the liability waiver and general summary of the day's activities. The short version is we will walk along a ridge, tag a small bump on the way out, then continue on to the main attraction high above the Eureka Valley sand dunes. We then walk along the road a short way and, picking a spot, strike out into the wilderness.

head of the group heading out
Roads and trails only go so far. Sometimes you just have to pick a direction and walk.

gentle climb
This is easy travel country. For now, anyway.

It is a long, gentle slope ahead of us. Elsewhere, the desert is covered in flowers. Here, they are few and far between, but bright and colorful when they come.

purple with yellow deep in the center
A sudden burst of purple.


deep orange that is nearly red
Sprigs of mallow are just now opening wide.

the group strolls on
We continue upward, with most not stopping for flowers.

looking back
Looks like we have come a long way.

deep red
The paintbrush up here is particularly red.

Apparently this route is described as a boring ridge. That must be because you can, for the most part, just wander up it with your hands in your pockets. There is no need to focus all your attention on the route ahead. This leaves the "climber" with little choice but to enjoy the views of snow topped mountains and unique desert valleys. It is not exactly a hardship.

nearby volcanic rocks
Snow topped mountains of the Sierra Nevada mountains coming into view.

We veer off to the side of the ridge to get up the first peak. It is an unnamed bump along the way that just happens to have the elevation marked on the map. It does gain a little extra view of the surrounding area.

Eureka Valley
Panorama of the Eureka Valley from the high point.

White Mountain
The snowy white top of the White Mountains, a little closer than the Sierras. Closer still, tomorrow's destination shows a different kind of white coloring at the very top.

stripes in the rock
Some of the stripes of this range are starting to show from this vantage point.

Sandy Point
Our destination for today rises to the south.

We check out the higher peak ahead briefly. It has some rocky areas to traverse. They do not look hard, but it may be good to choose a route wisely. Heading down again is easy as we backtrack toward the ridge line. Heading up on the far side of the saddle takes a while. At one point, there are a few looking back and exclaiming that we are not yet as far up again as we were. Hitting the rocks, there is one spot where we are on less stable ground.

Death Valley
To the east, Death Valley itself.

rocky outcrops
Strolling around the rocky outcrops on the way up.

little yellow orchid bunches
Tiny and with much detail for one last flower.

sand dunes
Eventually, the sand dunes at the foot of the mountain come into view.

And then, with just a little more work, we are there. We are standing on the top of the highest point for several miles. Eureka Valley is spread out below us to the west and Death Valley to the east. The peak is long and not too narrow with plenty of room for our somewhat large group to hang out and bask in the height. Of course, being on the peak just gives a chance to look out and get interested in climbing certain other peaks in the distance.

360 degrees
The full circle at the top of the mountain. (Click pictures to embiggen.)

Oriental Wash
The Oriental Wash brings a little bit of Nevada into Death Valley.

Last Chance Mountains
Further south along the Last Chance Mountains.

Death Valley
More of Death Valley. Somewhere down there are the more common areas of the park.

After not quite enough basking in the height, the group is ready to turn back. We generally retrace our steps, deviating only to wander a little way down the wrong ridge and to skip the extra little peak. Heading down ridges is not quite as easy as heading up them. All roads lead to the top, as it were, but on the way back, they split frequently for new destinations.




©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 7 Apr 2016

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