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Little Bridge, Crack, Brimstone, but not Corkscrew
Arrived in Death Valley Sunday Feb 26 after a night's delay in Las Vegas - the pass to Pahrump was closed and traffic turned around. It was a cold and windy week in the park, but I'm looking back with fondness for the things I was still able to do. Plan A was for my son and I to climb Corkscrew, as an overnight (camping partway there) since last time I couldn't make the whole climb. As soon as I arrived, I could tell that wasn't going to happen:
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Evening in Texas Springs was pleasant. I jinxed myself with my previous comments about the campground being quiet; there was a large group having fun playing cornhole and being a bit boisterous, but to their credit, they were quieter after supper and no noise problems at night. I'd already selected a site some distance away. I enjoy walking up the hills around Texas Springs at sunset to catch interesting colors and highlights.
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Monday then. Little Bridge was on my list for a re-visit, with the addition of exploring the side canyon on the right as you trudge up the hill. It had three major forks and was enjoyable. I found tracks in the sandy parts and thought maybe someone else had been here recently, but with further scrutiny, the tracks were shorter and rounder than most shoes, and at one part there were many of them.

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Since I doubt there were hordes of people in this waste, I'm thinking maybe burros, as there were some small puddles left from the rains. Didn't see any scat.
There were fossils, both real and fake:
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Also one that I thought might be plant fossils, except that I didn't see any veins in the shapes.
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On the leftmost fork I found a dryfall that I might have tackled with more time; I was curious how close to Little Bridge's canyon it would take me, but wasn't up for the gamble.
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When I came back to the mess of ridges that form the approach to Little Bridge, I picked one that turned out to be wrong, taking me way up but without any connection to the main wash. I trudged back down a minor wash, contemplating my next move and wondering how far I'd have to go back down to find the right way, when voila! There was a hiker on the ridge next to me, heading up. He said he thought it was the correct one, but where he was I couldn't get to, as it was over 20 feet almost straight up. Okay, but now I at least knew. I continued down to a spot where I could ascend the ridge and took it up to the canyon mouth, happy to be there but a little concerned as it was well after lunchtime already, with still the canyon to go up - and it's a steep one.

Ate a quick lunch and hoofed up the gravel as best I could, with stops for interesting features such as this one, which made me think of the entrance to the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings (that's for you, Kauri!).
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Made it up to Little Bridge, which looked as sturdy as ever. The last time I was here I hung around, admired the bridge from all angles, and even took a nap on a flat boulder nearby. Today I was worried about reaching my car before sunset, so it was hi and goodbye and I was on my way down.

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More amazing rock colors and bends in evening light.
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More fossils as well, similar to the ones in Bighorn Gorge.
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I saw several instances of what looked like recent rockfalls, either from winter or all the rainstorms.
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Now the amusing part - the gentleman I met before, who was on the correct ridge, finally caught up with me as I was almost out of the canyon. I'd been wondering what happened to him. He had hiked up much quicker than I did and missed the arch on the right that his trail guide mentioned. Consequently, he thought that Little Bridge was the "arch", so he kept going and going until he hit a dryfall that finally stopped him. I confirmed for him that yes, that was Little Bridge, and that the arch is hard to spot going up and almost impossible to see going down.

He went back up the ridge to return - I think maybe he was running late for something - and I decided to walk down the gravel wash that the trail guide describes as easier to follow but longer. That it certainly was. As confusing as the ridges are, I don't think I would ever go up this wash to get to Little Bridge; it would use up all my energy and leave nothing for the canyon. I did beat the sunset by about 40 minutes, happily so.

I've got to go paint a wall, but there'll be more.
Wow corckscrew in the snow is really a sight to behold.

You got some beautiful light!
Are those fossils in the second photo maybe crinoids?
Wow, that does look like the “entrance to the mines of Moria”! Nice!!
Link to my DV trip reports, and map of named places in DV (official and unofficial):
Love your images and trip reports.
Life begins in Death Valley
(2023-03-11, 07:24 PM)Bluegreen kayak Wrote: Ate a quick lunch and hoofed up the gravel as best I could, with stops for interesting features such as this one, which made me think of the entrance to the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings (that's for you, Kauri!). 

This is why you gotta keep the Elvish word for "friend" ready at all times when hiking.   Mellon (MELL-on). I've tried it myself several times on similar features, but no luck so far...
Tuesday morning the Panamints greeted me with their best imitation of Alpenglow in Switzerland:
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Since yesterday had been arduous, I picked something easier (read:flatter) this morning, a mini-canyon I learned about from Steve Hall's old site, a place he called the Crack. It's mostly low red sandstone walls and conglomerate, some narrows, and an amazing variety of rocks. It has enough forks that you could take a scout troop in there and each scout could have their own piece of the canyon to camp in. My only problem starting out was the discovery that I didn't have my notes on the location with me, whoops. I remembered just two clues. North of Furnace Creek on 190, park near the last low dark hill on the right and hike past it. Secondly, aim for the lowest point on the next line of low hills. The parking spot turned out to be about 9-10 miles from the visitor center, and off I went with fingers crossed.

This was the hill I trudged past to begin with.
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If you can spot it, here is the next line of low hills where I'm aiming toward the lowest point. Interestingly, that's the same clue we use in Boundary Waters when we're looking for a portage on the other side of the lake, the lowest spot in the treeline. Here it is above the larger bush in the center of the picture.

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Found this runaway on my approach. It's the third time I've found balloons in this area; maybe something in the wind pattern brings them here?

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And happy day, there it was, the entrance I was hoping to see (on the right). The white rock on the hillside might help as a landmark also.

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This is how it begins, nothing dramatic.

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The Crack has charming short slots, minor dryfalls, and lots of interesting features in its walls.

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One of the Crack's many forks.
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This rock appeared to proclaim its initials are Mh...or YW, depending on your viewpoint.
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Exiting the Crack, I noticed this hole in the wall. When I used my flashlight, I could see about 8 feet down, and then it turned a corner. The opening was only about 18 inches, and it got more narrow further in.
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One last look at the sandstone ribs in the Crack. This was my fourth visit to it, and I have never seen anyone else there.
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Amusing point as I walked back at sunset again; when I started out, I marked a foothill on Tucki as my landmark to where the van was parked. On the way back, with the sun directly behind the mountain, I could not make out anything over there, it was all darkness due to the setting sun behind it. I didn't really need it - the road was in front of me, but another time might be different.
(2023-03-11, 10:34 PM)Brice Wrote:
(2023-03-11, 07:24 PM)Bluegreen kayak Wrote: Ate a quick lunch and hoofed up the gravel as best I could, with stops for interesting features such as this one, which made me think of the entrance to the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings (that's for you, Kauri!). 

This is why you gotta keep the Elvish word for "friend" ready at all times when hiking.   Mellon (MELL-on). I've tried it myself several times on similar features, but no luck so far...

Maybe, but given how that turned out in the movie...
(2023-03-11, 07:49 PM)Daymoth Wrote: Wow corckscrew in the snow is really a sight to behold.

You got some beautiful light!
Are those fossils in the second photo maybe crinoids?

Crinoids, the animals that look like plants? That would be a good find. I'll keep that in mind next time and maybe take a closer picture, thanks!
Earlier in the week, I bought the second edition of Geology Underfoot in Death Valley, now with color pictures and updates including the 2020 Ridgecrest earthquake. In it I read about Ventifact Ridge and decided to check it out. It's the ridge located just west of the entrance to Artists Drive, something I've passed numerous times without really noticing it.

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Pulled onto the side of the road and walked up easily. The top apparently is a dead ringer for the surface of Mars, which the book demonstrated with pictures.
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Many interesting rocks, mostly basalt. This one has grooves from wind-blown sand.
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More long grooves etched into a rock.
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My favorites were ones like this that looked like a sponge but felt hard as rock.
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Rhyolite with a sand-blasted knife edge.
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And a basalt knife-edge.
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It took less than an hour to explore this, but I found it fascinating. While I was up there, the wind kicked up a bit and I could feel and hear the sand hitting my jacket - had to turn away to protect my face.
Friday I tried a canyon from one Kauri's trip reports, Brimstone, and I enjoyed it a lot. I parked about the 11 mile marker on Badwater Road, where the road for Devil's Golf Course begins, and hiked up the wash toward the Black Mountains. Kauri's report has a marvelous panoramic photo with an arrow to the canyon, so I felt pretty sure about where I was headed. Mine is a bit washed out, but the entrance is on the right side of the black triangular hill, not hard to find.
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Came across this piece of wood on the way up.
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Brimstone showed some nice colors right from the start.
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Then I arrived at a dryfall that was a bit higher than I can handle. The rock on the right with the scatter on it, above my pack and sticks, looked like the only way up. It was a bit intimidating and I'm still surprised that I climbed it, but I did. Spent the rest of the hike trying not to think about going back down - how hard can down be, anyway?
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Here's a view from the top of the dryfall; the bypass looks more vertical in this shot (and it sure felt that way going up).
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A short walk then to the fork; I went left at first.
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I stopped at this gorgeous spot because I was running out of time, but it's so intriguing what might be around the corner.
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The right fork was delightful as well, but I'm slow and the clock was ticking, so I ruefully turned around again.
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Beautiful setting sun illuminating the canyon walls as I walk - wait, the sun is setting? - hurry out.
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Successfully got down the dryfall with one glitch - I had forgotten to bring a rope which I could have used to lower my pack before descending. I improvised by hooking one of the pack side straps to my trek pole handle and managed to lower it at least halfway before dropping it. Must remember next time.

Going in and up, I followed the gravelly wash in the center and south of the entrance, but coming back out and down I took to the wonderful desert pavement on the north side of the wash, which helped me make better time getting back. I mention this because when I come back here (as I intend), I'm going up this way too. There were shelves near the canyon mouth which made it easy to climb up to the pavement.
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Found another piece of wood going out. Where the heck did they come from?
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And although I didn't beat the setting sun, there was enough twilight that I didn't have to pull out my flashlight.
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