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Snow Plows In Death Valley


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#1 roadhound

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 03:31 PM

In another thread on this forum Keep the Show on the Road! and got sidetracked in a discussion about early roads in the vicinity of Death Valley. I had mentioned that I was heading in that direction in November and as typically is the case he was able to post some early maps of the area the piqued my interest.

This will be my 4th trip to Death Valley and I hope to do some exploring of early roads through the area. I may be somewhat limited in my explorations as I will be accompanying my son's Boy Scout Troop, however, should the opportunity for exploration arrive I want to be prepared.

My first trip to Death Valley was over 27 years ago traveling with my parents. That trip was special because it was the first time I was given the opportunity to drive on a family vacation plus I had graduated from a Kodak Instamatic camera to my then new Olympus OM-1 SLR. The picture quality improved dramatically although I still had a lot to learn about composition and exposure. I had also just finished Mr. Jensen's Earth-Space Science course and was looking forward to seeing the horsts, grabens, alluvial fans, and sand dunes that comprise the geology of the area.

My second trip to Death Valley was between Christmas and New Years 1985. I had reached a critical time in my life and needed to do a bit of soul searching. Death Valley was the perfect place to clear the mind. I spent a few days camping near Furnace Creek while I hiked various parts of the park during the day and froze in my sleeping bag at night.

The third trip was less than 5 years ago when I took my family on a spring break vacation to the desert. We expected temps in the mid-80 to low-90's but what we ended up with temps in the mid 60's and half a years worth of rain in one night. When the desert gets even a little bit of rain it comes to life and this trip was full of wind and wildflowers.

I will hold off on explaining why there are snow plows in Death Valley for now but if anyone wants to make a guess, share an experience about a trip to Death Valley that they have taken, or offer up some advice please post.

I am particularly interested in the road coming into the park from the west that goes through Wildrose Canyon.

Keep the Show on the Road's! 1941 Map of the Death Valley Area


A few pictures from my last trip to Death Valley









Roadhound

#2 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 04:57 PM

Roadhound,

Those photos can't be of Death Valley...they look out of this world! Spectacular!

Now I must look in my early maps and gudes to see what they have to say about roads into Death Valley. I have been there a few times, but never went off the main roads. It will be interesting to see what if anything is said in the road literature about the area before it was a National Monument (1933 I think).

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#3 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 08:47 PM

Yeh, how about sand plows?

The Automobile Blue Books and ACSC Tour Book from 1911 through 1926 don’t give notice to Death Valley. However the 1924 Rand McNally Auto Trails map at least shows the roads in the area. See images below and enlargements.

I am now kind of interested as to when it became a recognized tourist site. I believe it became a National Monument in 1933, and my early 1940 AAA Tour Books describe it well. I have the full run of the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) Touring Topics Magazine for three years in the second half of the 1920’s. Perhaps they will note the development of the valley as a touring location. Now all I have to do is find them!

The best maps I have seen are the old USGS Topos. I would start at Chico State, but UC Berkley has some too. I know Chico State has the 1927 update and I did spot Wild Rose Canyon on someone’s on line topo as I was browsing. I would do a search on the words Los Angeles County Library USGS Historic Topos (no quotes). That should get you to a site with links to historic California Topos. If you need assistance I am full of advice!

Of course there is a ton of modern stuff on Death Valley which would no doubt readily answer most questions...but where is the fun in that?


1924 Death Valley Map 1 from Rand McNally Auto Trails map


1924 Death Valley Map, section 2

Larger map 1

Larger map 2


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#4 roadhound

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 01:28 AM

QUOTE (Keep the Show on the Road! @ Oct 19 2007, 08:47 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Yeh, how about sand plows?

The Automobile Blue Books and ACSC Tour Book from 1911 through 1926 don’t give notice to Death Valley. However the 1924 Rand McNally Auto Trails map at least shows the roads in the area. See images below and enlargements.

I am now kind of interested as to when it became a recognized tourist site. I believe it became a National Monument in 1933, and my early 1940 AAA Tour Books describe it well. I have the full run of the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) Touring Topics Magazine for three years in the second half of the 1920’s. Perhaps they will note the development of the valley as a touring location. Now all I have to do is find them!

The best maps I have seen are the old USGS Topos. I would start at Chico State, but UC Berkley has some too. I know Chico State has the 1927 update and I did spot Wild Rose Canyon on someone’s on line topo as I was browsing. I would do a search on the words Los Angeles County Library USGS Historic Topos (no quotes). That should get you to a site with links to historic California Topos. If you need assistance I am full of advice!

Of course there is a ton of modern stuff on Death Valley which would no doubt readily answer most questions...but where is the fun in that?


1924 Death Valley Map 1 from Rand McNally Auto Trails map


1924 Death Valley Map, section 2

Larger map 1

Larger map 2
Keep the Show on the Road!


I seem to recall that Scotty's Castle was a popular destination in the early 1900's. If I remember the tour guide said that most guests came from Southern California by auto.

The one thing that look odd about the 1924 map is that the Panamint Valley is not identified. I don't have my Delorme in front of me but it should be about where the Pinto Range is identified on the 1924 map. Also, Ridgecrest and Trona do not yet exist. I will have to look at these maps more closely.

You're on the right track with the plow. Think wetter.

Roadhound

#5 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 05:48 PM

QUOTE (roadhound @ Oct 19 2007, 11:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I seem to recall that Scotty's Castle was a popular destination in the early 1900's. If I remember the tour guide said that most guests came from Southern California by auto.

The one thing that look odd about the 1924 map is that the Panamint Valley is not identified. I don't have my Delorme in front of me but it should be about where the Pinto Range is identified on the 1924 map. Also, Ridgecrest and Trona do not yet exist. I will have to look at these maps more closely.

You're on the right track with the plow. Think wetter.

Roadhound


Rick,

I looked on the web to find when Scotty’s Castle was built, According to the web, Johnson (Scotty’s benefactor) built the ranch in the late 1920’s. So it wouldn’t appear on a 1924 map.

As for snow plows in Death Valley....I can imagine several possibilities when you suggest ...think something wetter than sand.

Certainly those dry washes and playas occasionally run water across roads. What is a “snow plow” anyway?. They don’t run rotary plows in Death Valley...or do they? If by snow plow you mean a grader, then I’m game....mud, wet salt, dead fish, sage brush, or old prospectors!

I found the 1928 issues of Touring Topics. There is a lengthy article on Panamint City, with several photos (including the town, Surprise Canyon and The Narrows. The text appears to be a bit long on tall tales, reminiscences and the like, and short on contemporary (1928) details until the last two pages. The photos should be interesting if you know Panamint (I don’t) o rplan to go there. It was apparently long dead and abandoned by 1924.

I have posted the 1928 article and photos at www.pair.com/davepaul/americanroad/Panamint/

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#6 roadhound

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 08:07 PM

QUOTE (Keep the Show on the Road! @ Oct 20 2007, 05:48 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rick,

I looked on the web to find when Scotty’s Castle was built, According to the web, Johnson (Scotty’s benefactor) built the ranch in the late 1920’s. So it wouldn’t appear on a 1924 map.

As for snow plows in Death Valley....I can imagine several possibilities when you suggest ...think something wetter than sand.

Certainly those dry washes and playas occasionally run water across roads. What is a “snow plow” anyway?. They don’t run rotary plows in Death Valley...or do they? If by snow plow you mean a grader, then I’m game....mud, wet salt, dead fish, sage brush, or old prospectors!

I found the 1928 issues of Touring Topics. There is a lengthy article on Panamint City, with several photos (including the town, Surprise Canyon and The Narrows. The text appears to be a bit long on tall tales, reminiscences and the like, and short on contemporary (1928) details until the last two pages. The photos should be interesting if you know Panamint (I don’t) o rplan to go there. It was apparently long dead and abandoned by 1924.

I have posted the 1928 article and photos at www.pair.com/davepaul/americanroad/Panamint/

Keep the Show on the Road!


In my mind a snow plow is a vehicle, usually a truck, with on of those large steel blades attached to the front. I've lived my whole life in the relatively mild climate of California and the last time it snowed here was in 1976. There aren't a lot of snow plows to be seen here.

The last time I was in Death Valley significant rainstorm had followed us into the valley. We were staying at the motel in Stovepipe Wells and we could hear the rain hitting the tin roof most of the night. I woke up before the sun, peeked out the motel window, and could see stars. I could also see snow on top of the range to the west. I got up, got dressed, grabbed my camera gear, and filled my coffee mug at the front desk. As I was driving towards Furnace Creek, in the light just before dawn, one of those snowplows was clearing the roadway of a couple of inches worth of mud and some significant size boulders from the rains the night before.

The total precipation that night was 1/2 of an inch, almost half of Death Valley's total for the entire year.

Very timely on the Panamint City article. I am trying to convince my son that the trail through Surprise Canyon to Panamint City would be a good one for his troop to hike while there. The road to where Panamint City is can no longer be navigated by auto as large rocks have fallen blocking narrow canyons. Also, the National Park Service has blocked the trail a few miles from the entrance to Surprise Canyon in an attempt to prevent over ambitious off roaders from causing damage to the site. If all goes well maybe I can find the spot where the photo of the auto going through the narrow pass was taken.

Roadhound

#7 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 10:50 PM

Terrific!!! I am delighted that the old article found a use. I feel like it was worth the effort to collect the stuff!!! That was the 1928 story. Perhaps if I find the other years, there will be something else.

I must have some early thirties stuff as well, but it will be a discovery process.

Thanks a great deal for making these boxes of stuff useful!

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#8 roadhound

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 11:55 PM

The journey has has been completed, camping gear cleaned and put away, with only the processing of the many photos remaining to be done.

I was able to drive in on the original westward road into Death Valley, Wildrose Canyon Road. The road is a spectacular ride up the west side of the Panamint Range that does not require high clearance or 4 wheel drive. I wouldn't drive it with anything larger than a large pickup truck as it does have a number of winding switchbacks that could be difficult to negotiate.

A highlight of the drive in was on our descent down the east side heading toward Stovepipe Wells. Perched atop a road sign was a bobcat who quickly leaped down as we approached, much to quickly for me to get the camera out. I took it as a sign that it was going to be an exciting trip.

The planned hike up Surprise Canyon didn't occur as my son wasn't able to arrange for another driver to make the trip to the trailhead. Boy Scout rules also require 2 adults on a hike.

Instead the entire group (30+ scouts and adults, 6 vehicles) drove through Titus Canyon. The road starts in Nevada just west of Beatty and goes through a narrow slot canyon back into Death Valley. Along the way it winds through some spectacular scenery, over the aptly named Red Pass, pass the ghost town of Leadfield, and through the narrow gap in Titus Canyon.

Keep? Do you have any old maps that show the road through Leadfield? The Post Office was established there in 1926 and closed in 1927.

The aptly named Red Pass


Heading into Titus Canyon


A tight squeeze between the Walls of Titus Canyon


Our last night there was extremely exciting in a scary sort of way. The weather had been beautiful for the duration of our stay until about 7:00 PM on the last night. At first it was a slight wind that quickly increased in intensity picking up sand and dust. I estimate that there were gusts close to 50 mph. We all retreated to our tents and as I was lying there I could hear the wind building in the distance, sort of like a car approaching. As the sine wave increased in amplitude and volume it was quickly upon you trying to knock your tent over. After about 30 seconds the wind would decrease and it would be quiet for a minute until it would slowly build and repeat the cycle again, all night long.

My dome tent was slightly protected behind a tree but the scouts were out in the open with their tents situatuated broadside to the wind and by morning 2 of the tents were completely blown over and the other 5 had damage of one sort or another.

Any trip to Death Valley should not be taken lightly.

Roadhound

#9 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 08:12 PM

Rick,

I have been with my son (Friday – Sunday mid day) on a trip to pick up a pick-up for him in Boise. We have been without wifi, as I left the card for the laptop home by mistake. Drew headed home this afternoon and we went our separate ways about noon in Burns, Oregon. I have been traveling this afternoon along the backroads of Oregon (Burns, French Glen, Fields, Denio) where the gas and food stops are 100 miles apart.. I arrive in Winnemucca this evening and went ahead and bought a new wifi card for the laptop.

Looks like lots has been going on! I really liked your Death Valley post and was amazed at what I have missed in the past.

I may go east as far as Elko...or maybe stay here a day. I will go look at your posts from this summer, but give me your advice.

I am headed out for a bite to eat, and will check the forum when I return.

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#10 roadhound

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 08:46 PM

QUOTE (Keep the Show on the Road! @ Nov 25 2007, 08:12 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rick,

I have been with my son (Friday – Sunday mid day) on a trip to pick up a pick-up for him in Boise. We have been without wifi, as I left the card for the laptop home by mistake. Drew headed home this afternoon and we went our separate ways about noon in Burns, Oregon. I have been traveling this afternoon along the backroads of Oregon (Burns, French Glen, Fields, Denio) where the gas and food stops are 100 miles apart.. I arrive in Winnemucca this evening and went ahead and bought a new wifi card for the laptop.

Looks like lots has been going on! I really liked your Death Valley post and was amazed at what I have missed in the past.

I may go east as far as Elko...or maybe stay here a day. I will go look at your posts from this summer, but give me your advice.

I am headed out for a bite to eat, and will check the forum when I return.

Keep the Show on the Road!


Hey Keep,

The only real recomendation that I have for Winnemucca is to go west and check out the ghost town of Unionville. If I recall it should be less than an hour west and the road is nothing to worry about. We had to pass by Unionville as the need to repair a tire was more pressing at the time. In Winnemucca I only repaired a tire and drove through the town, I'll let you report back on anything interesting in the town.

If you do head toward Elko Carlin Canyon is worth the side trip as is Palisades. Both have good roads.

I can't speak much about Elko itself as we blew by it on our way to Wells. I have driven through the main part of town in the past and recall that there were some older buildings but can't recall any specifics. In Wells of course is 6th St. and Motel Row. Northeast of Wells is the remains of Metropolis. Some of the road to Metropolis is dirt and OK as long as it is dry.

Which way are you heading back home?

Good Luck!

Roadhound

#11 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 09:30 PM

QUOTE (roadhound @ Nov 25 2007, 05:46 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hey Keep,

The only real recomendation that I have for Winnemucca is to go west and check out the ghost town of Unionville. If I recall it should be less than an hour west and the road is nothing to worry about. We had to pass by Unionville as the need to repair a tire was more pressing at the time. In Winnemucca I only repaired a tire and drove through the town, I'll let you report back on anything interesting in the town.

If you do head toward Elko Carlin Canyon is worth the side trip as is Palisades. Both have good roads.

I can't speak much about Elko itself as we blew by it on our way to Wells. I have driven through the main part of town in the past and recall that there were some older buildings but can't recall any specifics. In Wells of course is 6th St. and Motel Row. Northeast of Wells is the remains of Metropolis. Some of the road to Metropolis is dirt and OK as long as it is dry.

Which way are you heading back home?

Good Luck!

Roadhound



Rick,

Thanks!! Those are useful tips!! I'll pull up the ole map software and scout some of those places out.

I have promised Sheila I will be home by Wednesday or Thursday. My curent plan is to explore along the road between here and Elko, then return via Lakeview, Bend, and Portland. My son lives in Bend, so I may spend a night there.

Keep the Show on the Road!




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