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Death Valley Deep Dive 2024
In my never ending search into weird artifacts of Death Valley's past, I had heard a rumor that their used to be Camp Ground off of North Highway between Daylight Pass and Titus Canyon.  It was reportedly called Midway Well and was in operation in at least the 1970's.  I asked around a bit among NPS Staff, but unsurprisingly no one had heard of it. 

So I dug out the old 1960 USGS and found Midway Well listed on the map as well as a short spur road off the North Hwy.  Of course I went to see if there was any trace.
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A time-period correct Coke bottle in the dune.
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The ghost of the old road just barely visible.
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For the most part the signs of a past life here mostly include old broken glass and the ghost of old firepits like this one.
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And a few signs of old trails through the Mesquite bushes.
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There we go!  That's what I was hoping for.  That picnic table has been out in the elements here for probably 60yrs.
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Grader tooth on the table because of course. 
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Really cool campsite preserved in time. 
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Random gratutious shot of the Panamints as I drove back south that day. 
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I'd love to hear if anyone remember staying there or has any old photos!
Check out my travel blog: www.pocketsfullofdust.com
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Cool find! Yup, thems were good ol’ days. I camped at Mesquite Springs campground on my honeymoon in 1974, in my parent’s VW camper van.
DAW
~When You Live in Nevada, "just down the road" is anywhere in the line of sight within the curvature of the earth.
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I was out there in 91 or 92. There used to be a well casing, visible from the pavement, that was a good landmark. And there's an old spring further out, shows on your old map. It was dry. We (my 5 yr old daughter and I) did not camp though. Nice light in your pix
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You can barely see the table in GE. You can also follow an old alignment of the North Highway for many miles as well.
DAW
~When You Live in Nevada, "just down the road" is anywhere in the line of sight within the curvature of the earth.
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I took a little sidequest that ended up bearing no fruit, but I thought that I would share anyway. 

I had spotted a small drylake on satellite that was surrounded by black volcanic rock (great for petroglyphs) and decided I had to at least take a look.  Nearby was the remnants of the old Grapevine Ranger's Station, so I looped that in as well. 

The old Grapevine Ranger's Station is on my 1960 USGS maps but not on my 1980 maps.  So I'm assuming it was moved somewhere in the late 60's or 70's. 

As you can see there's not much left.  A nice flat spot with foundations here for a building or parking
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Some old pipe and various junk.  If we cleaned up camp as well as the old monument staff did we'd be arrested.  Lol. 
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The old road out of the former Ranger's station going up to the spring that supplied it with water.
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Not as wet as it used to be, but there was some water and greener life further down the wash.
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Up-wash from the spring there was a nice tight little canyon that I wandered up. 
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After a couple of nice tight turns I hit this grotto/dryfall.  It definitely could have been climbed but this canyon was a sidequest within a sidequest. 
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I climbed a different drainage and came out into this wide wash/dry-lake.
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I then proceeded over the hill on the right in above photo to get to the dry-lake that was my target. 
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Cute place but absolutely zero signs of life, habitation, travel, or even so much as burro passing through.  Other than the 1937 benchmark on the south corner or the lake. 
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I decided to hit Mesquite BM since I was there. 

This is not the benchmark and I have no idea what it signifies.  BM is up the hill to the right.
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Nice view of Mesquite Springs Campground and the northern end of the Cottonwoods.
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Looking south towards Tucki and SPW.
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Interesting piece of the old infrastructure but I struck out on anything older.
Check out my travel blog: www.pocketsfullofdust.com
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I have been continuing my exploration and mapping of an undisclosed area of Death Valley trying to get a clearer picture of ancient habitation in the area.  Apologies for weird cropping and blacked out horizons, but this place needs to be kept under wraps. 


One of the first things I found on this trip in was this structure that I'm going to call a geoglyph or a rock alignment.  Usually I just classify these as “rock circles” because they're too vague of purpose to determine if they were used as the base for a temporary structure or as just a basic form of rock alignment.  With the addition of the center scrapped clean and mounded in the middle, this qualifies more as bonafide rock alignment or a geoglyph.
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It's really hard to say how much of the rocks around it were originally making the walls higher or if they are exactly where they belong as part of the geoglyph.
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A bit further down the same ridge I found this small double petroglyph.  Petroglyphs are few and far between out here.  I'm unsure if there's any meaning to their distribution, though some seem to show a pattern. 
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This area is littered with trails.  So it was especially odd to find this little glyph in the middle of nothing out here.  No trails or anything else at all anywhere nearby. 
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It appears to have quite some age to it as well. 
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There are so many low-walled hunting blinds out here that I have literally stopped counting.  Or photographing them. 
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Some are a bit more odd though.  For instance they rarely use a large stone that was already part of the landscape.  Likely because the odds are low that there's already a rock exactly where you want to hunt. 
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It's also rare for there to be a petroglyph at a hunting blind. 
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As small as simple as this one may be…
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This one is odd.  Not really tall enough to be a hunting blind and some of the stones are sunk/partially buried in the ground.  Strange zig-zag pattern as well.  Another rock alignment?
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Very circular blind, which is also unusual. 
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Small glyph.
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That is oddly dropped into whatever this is.  Collapsed blind?  Just natural rock scatter?
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Several random dots pecked out of the other side. 
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This is very interesting.  This is the highest point of this part of the ridge.  The walls here are taller and more robust than most circles you see.  I have also never seen this exaggerated opening/doorway on any rock circles before.  As this is pushing the limits on how tiny a house can be (I could lay in it but only if my feet hung out the “doorway”) I would almost guess that this was some kind of shrine or spiritual place.  By now it was pouring rain and photography was getting more difficult.  Lol. 
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This is also one of only 2 places in my last 3 hikes up here that I have found lithic scatter. 
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A little ways further down the ridgeline from the house/shrine I found the largest pictograph panel that I have found yet in this area.  I have to question whether it was positioned to face the nearby spring or if it was just carved in situ, coincidentally pointed that way. 

Either way it is covered in glyphs.
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You can see there are at least 2 distinct stages of patina in the carvings and possibly 3.  The carving is also rather complex and seems almost cohesive. 
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I always have to stop and ask if this represents a map.  Or the journey from somewhere else.  The layering of older and newer carvings adds to the mystery. 
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The hilltop closest to this set of petroglyphs was absolutely covered in cairns.  Which is unusual in & of itself.
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Not very far away I found another large panel, but this one is very old.  I don't think I've ever seen this style of circles and lines packed so tightly together before.  Not in DV and definitely not in this area. 
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With a bonus strange little section wrapping around the edge. 
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This is another oddity to the area.  A large rock placed horizontally with small rocks stacked under it to make it level, almost like a tiny table.  When I saw the first I thought was just coincidence.  This is the 3rd or 4th. 
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Two of the design elements here I would see again later:  the “eyes” and the small 90deg corner.
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Side of the neighboring rock.
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This is an odd rock circle.  I'm fairly certain that the creosote wasn't there when it was made.  It is very deep and built up on the downslope so that the top is fairly level. 
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I almost tripped over this one or I would never have seen it.  It's the only petroglyph on a light colored rick I've seen out here yet.  And the “eyes” again. 
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And here is a return of the 90deg little corner design.  And also… there's wifi?? 
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The majority of these larger rocks are have the carvings facing away from the trail and generally pointed towards a spring.  There is no real way to tell if that's coincidence or design. 
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This very old little glyph is along one of the larger trails in the area.  The only glyph I have found yet on a low trail, although I'm sure there are others.  But certainly nothing on the magnitude of Sauerkraut Trail. 
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I ended up naming this particular ridge “Cairnage Ridge”.  Haha.  It was covered in dozens if not hundreds of very large cairns, many of which had fallen over with the passing of time.  (Excuse the lack of photographic proof here, but it was very easy to glean the location from this ridge.)  The ridge overlooks a particularly nice spring in a tight canyon.  The perfect place for an ambush if you could herd the sheep up canyon.  I have read about this practice and there's actually a quote from John Muir who witnessed this among Coso Tribes:  “...to build rows of dummy hunters out of stone, along ridge-tops which they wished to prevent sheep from crossing.  And without discrediting the sagacity of the game, these dummies were found effective; for a few live Indians moving excitedly among them, they could hardly be distinguished at a little distance from men, by anyone not in on the secret.”


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The rest of this glyph is lost.
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One of the larger glyphs in this part of the search area. 
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With a bonus on the side.  There are 4 or 5 rocks out here with a large/complex glyph on the front and a single circle off on one side. 
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This is either a larger rock alignment or two conjoined hunting blinds that randomly connect to cleared circle.  Lol.  My money is on a rock alignments.  You have the S-shaped tail of the larger rocks and the cleared circle surrounded by smaller rocks. 
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Guessing that used to be a taller wall. 
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This circle also appears to have a purposeful opening.  This is only the second site in the area with lithic scatter.
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I lifted up the sole white rock in the middle of the circle to see if any offerings were left under it.  All I found was this tiny baby scorpion, maybe 1/4in long.  I hope I haven't offended the scorpion spirit….
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Odd tall cairn with an enclosed circle. 
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Another rock circle.  Is the one stone in the middle on purpose or something that fell in later.  I didn't look under this one for larger scorpions.
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This has a clearly chipped out sphere at the top and I think something was drawn out underneath it but I can't make it out now.  There was also a small carving on the side. 
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Very large hunting blind. 
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That sums up 2 full days hiking out here.  Hundred of cairns, hundreds of hunting blinds, maybe a dozen rock circles, 4 or 5 rock alignments, and a smattering of petroglyphs.  I'm sure there is much more to discover out here.  I have no idea the actual extent of the site yet.

I was talking to a friend the other day and they said “If there were all these people out here doing all this, where were they living and sleeping?”  Interesting thought.  There are several lower, softer benches that are much flatter and much more conducive to setting up a camp than where the hunting was done here.  I have scoured maybe a dozen of those likely sites and found nothing of interest.  It's possible that the most comfortable locations were in the washes near the springs and all evidence of those habitation sites have since washed away.  But it is an interesting piece of the puzzle that is missing.
Check out my travel blog: www.pocketsfullofdust.com
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Nice stuff. Good photos.
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I'm glad you posted the pictures from both trips, the "fruitless" one and the other. And I really appreciate the quote from John Muir; it helped me understand what might have been going on with all the strange rocks. Your trip reports gladden my mornings, thank you. As Kipling wrote, "Good hunting!"
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Wow, really neat stuff. That dry lake you visited is formed by the Northern Death Valley fault, one of the largest in California! Last major earthquake in the area was probably about 2,000-2,200 years ago, so if those cairns are anywhere between Furnace Creek and Last Chance Canyon, it's not unreasonable to say they are at least that old and possibly toppled by said earthquake.
Check me out on YouTube @ BetterGeology! https://www.youtube.com/c/BetterGeology

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