A Dusty, Windy Thanksgiving (LR3 in Death Valley/Mojave Nat'l Preserve)

Shigeta

Member
All photos shot with Sony A7C, 24-105 F4

"Sorry [mom & dad]; we're not coming down for Thanksgiving this year."

The call to cancel our traditional Thanksgiving this year was short and sweet bitter, but with our careers and family plans ramping up, my girlfriend and I didn't know when we'd get another opportunity to take a week to escape to the wilderness over the holiday season.

Coincidentally, we had done enough shakedown weekends throughout Northern California in my recently-acquired 2006 Land Rover LR3 to feel prepared enough to head out for the week with minimal contact with the general public.

Leading up to the trip, I wanted to get a few projects knocked out—namely new front suspension bushings and some auxiliary lights. I also had a winch on order, but a few parts arrived late and I didn't have the time to get that fully installed before the trip.

We left from the SF Bay Area with a close friend and hauled over to the Eastern Sierras, then pivoted south. Our target for night one: Eureka Dunes in Death Valley.





Although I have a few lifetimes worth of experience on motorcycles, this is my first 4WD vehicle. It took me a while to build up the confidence that the suspension on a 7,000 lb vehicle would withstand (relatively) high speeds on the gnarly washboard roads that seemed to follow us everywhere.

As such, the southward drive into the Eureka Dunes camp was... slow-going. We snagged an isolated spot and set up camp for the night.



The sunlight peeking over the adjacent mountains lit up the Dunes with a soft light that one might only otherwise catch as the sun dips below the horizon.



Despite the gorgeous views, we packed up camp as we had a huge day ahead—Steel Pass through Dedeckera Canyon, over Lippencott Road, then camp at Homestake Camp near the famous "Racetrack."





The steps in Dedeckera Canyon looked gnarly, but the LR3 (and stock Tacoma!) breezed through after some careful planning. I made a lot of time for all the poser shots. :)









By the time we got to Saline Springs, we were in the mood to chill out the rest of the day. Considering the shorter daylight hours and unknown condition of Lippencott, we decided to set up camp and adjust our schedule the next day accordingly.



Epic views. Epic brews.





For the "Do you sit on your roof when no one is looking?" thread; the view was quite a bit better up here compared to sitting behind chest-height shrubbery.





The next day, we followed some burro tracks in the road and came upon these two.



Lippencott—as expected— was pretty tippy, but very manageable. With the extra weight on my roof, I was particularly concerned about the camber; I may rethink my weight distribution strategy.





After the trials of Lippencott, the Racetrack and Teakettle Junction awaited us.



 

Shigeta

Member
By this point, we had figured out that 40-50 mph was the LR3's sweet spot over the washboard. The great thing was that in most sections, we could see people's dust clouds for miles which gave up plenty of time to crawl & bump along at a courteous pace.



After Teakettle, we checked out Mesquite Springs before nope-ing out of there to find something a bit more... secluded.

We refueled and resupplied in Furnace Creek before heading to see if we could find a spot along Echo Canyon to call home for the night. After turning onto Echo Canyon, we were immediately stuck behind a few rental RV's and a Honda Fit who all seemed in over their head. After a couple hundred yards at crawling speed, the trail widened enough to pass them. After getting through the first few high-clearance obstacles, we came across a turnout in the road along a sheer face of the canyon which served as a wonderfully wind-protected camp site.



Our only plans for the last day in Death Valley was to drive down Titus Canyon. Since we had some spare time, we swung down to the salt flats (Badwater Basin).











By the time we finished Titus Canyon, a box truck had caught fire at the main junction where 190 turns south east. It must have happened just a few minutes before we got there as we were among the first to arrive to the blaze.



I took some shots of the Rover against the setting sun to help pass the time.



(You can see here that I didn't quite finish the winch install. The delayed control relocation kit meant I couldn't wire the thing up. In preparation, I had it fully installed otherwise as I suspected that the package would arrive late.)



Eventually more fire trucks from Beatty showed up.



...and eventually, the fire was out and we were once again on our way south to the Mojave National Preserve.

We chose Mid Hills as our camp, guided by our local buddy, to serve as a base camp and explore the north, east, south, and west sections of the preserve.
Over all his trips, he found the most wind-protected site within the Mid Hills ground—an important consideration when camping in the high desert.



After setting up, we headed over to Hole in the Wall which has an incredible "rings" hike.



There are a few boulders with lithographs if you look closely.



Ah, that's why they call it the "rings" hike...

 
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Shigeta

Member
The next day, we poked around the Rock House & Spring. On our way to the spring, we came across a rather curious family (?) of cows.





An abandoned mine along our route served as a good wind shelter for lunch.



After lunch, we tackled a good part of Mojave Road, hopping off when we got closer to camp.



When my girlfriend drives, it's a win/win! She gets seat time and I get to take pictures of the vehicle!









That night was brutal. Temps got down to 19° with wind chill from 20mph gusts. Still, we needed to eat dinner! Experimental Skottle pizzas were on the menu, with Mountain House meals as the backup in case the pizza failed. Happily, they passed muster.



The next day (Day... ??? Camping is great because I don't have to keep track of the days!) we explored the Death Valley Mine. Quite a few cool artifacts!











 

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Shigeta

Member
Lunch came soon enough. Since it was too cold to make breakfast in the morning, we made breakfast for lunch. Sort of.

The burritos were made with corned beef hash (the canned stuff!) and eggs, drizzled in avocado salsa.



On our way, we passed the recent burn areas.



Soon enough, we found more mines and more relics.







We explored until the sun was getting low, then headed back to camp to get a fire going.



Some of my favorite times with friends are had around freezing cold campfires.



...and the cold is just a little less awful with cochinita pibil tacos.



Our last day, we headed east towards Kelso Dunes via a pretty cool, steep trail. (I still need to lookup which road this was...)



Having seen enough sand for a year, we chose just to take our obligatory group photo at the dunes, then head out to the Lava Tubes.



On the road out, I nailed a pothole and blew the sidewall on my right rear tire. Luckily, a non-issue as I had tested the factory jacking implements before starting the trip. We were on our way within minutes.



The Lava Tubes were our last stop before heading over Soda Lake, then back to civilization for the slab home. We arrived about as late as you want to be to catch the cool sun beam—early afternoon in the winter. A bit later should be fine in the summer.



Soda Lake—an ancient lake bed—greeted us with miles of silty dust. The Traveller's Monument was an important "to-see" on our itinerary.









Our final stop before parting ways was a to-go dinner from Peggy Sue's.



Well, thanks for reading!

(Well, there wasn't much writing, but I hope you enjoyed the photos and are inspired to get out there!)
 

krick3tt

Adventurer
Looks like for most of your trip the winch was not really an issue. Especially since you were not alone. I find I use mine mostly to get others out of a bind but still nice to have on the vehicle. I rode dirt bikes for years but lots of falls and awkward spills really moved me toward 4 wheels. My '07 LR3 is really a great vehicle. Being able to roll the glass up to keep the dust out is also a plus.
Thanks for your photos, very inspiring viewing.
 

Idaho_Pakeha

Occasional Archaeologist
Great pics. I too have been over much of that ground but on various motorcycles (DV is a popular destination for us Idahoans in the winter). Just a question about the tire blowout. Was the tire damaged or did it just burp some air? I have changed more tires than i care to remember working out in our high desert over the last 20 years and I have a forensic interest in flat tires. Also, good on your girlfriend for withstanding that cold, my wife won't even consider it anymore.
 

Regcabguy

Expedition Leader
Fine blog aside from the peanut butter beer. Elvis liked pb and banana sandwiches so he might have appreciated it.:cool:
I have some friends who drove 50+ miles to the coast in the pnw baja region. Everybody got to ride in one of the guy's Rover. It was a pleasure to not get beat to death.
 

Shigeta

Member
Great pics. I too have been over much of that ground but on various motorcycles (DV is a popular destination for us Idahoans in the winter). Just a question about the tire blowout. Was the tire damaged or did it just burp some air? I have changed more tires than i care to remember working out in our high desert over the last 20 years and I have a forensic interest in flat tires. Also, good on your girlfriend for withstanding that cold, my wife won't even consider it anymore.
The tire actually blew its sidewall right under the sidewall tread blocks. We were curious as well and tried to fill it with air when we discovered the burst in the sidewall.

Fine blog aside from the peanut butter beer. Elvis liked pb and banana sandwiches so he might have appreciated it.:cool:
I have some friends who drove 50+ miles to the coast in the pnw baja region. Everybody got to ride in one of the guy's Rover. It was a pleasure to not get beat to death.
Haha, to each their own! I wouldn't mind a campsite peanut butter beer with Elvis.

I'm pretty impressed with how comfortable the suspension is, generally speaking. Washboards seem to be where the factory air suspension is weak, but I think most stock suspensions fall short on washboard surfaces. The "Baja" suspension setups seem to be king on those types of roads.
 
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