Death Valley has been on my short list for a long time. I’ve always wanted to go and explore it, but the chance just never really came up for me. We drove through on the highway on the way to Flagstaff in May, and it really got me excited to go and spend more then a few hours driving through. Well, a group from Southern California was going in October, and I jumped at the chance to go with a group for our first trip down there, but there was one more problem. The cruiser had blown a head gasket a few weeks before and although I’ve been driving it, it’s losing water constantly and there was no way I was going to risk a trip to such a remote place, with a sketchy engine. So what can we do… borrow mom’s car of course. So, we traded cars with my parents for a few days, and loaded up the 4runner and the trailer. While we lost a lot of style points without the FJ40, the air conditioning and being able to talk instead of yell at each other while driving was a nice change.
Southern California Overland Trail Association (SCOTA) was leaving from Southern CA, and we were coming down from Grass Valley, so we had to leave about 3am to get to the meet point at the same time as them. As dawn broke over the Eastern Sierras, I couldn’t help but think about how excited I was to finally get to check off a box on my bucket list of places to explore.
Mono County and the Eastern Sierras are amazing in the fall. If you’ve never seen the colors of the area, it’s worth a trip on 395 just to see the trees turn in the fall.
Penny wondering what the hell we are up to this time…
As we entered the area, we were greated by two F15s screaming down the road right in front of us… this is going to be a cool weekend…
We finally got to our meet point.. and no one else was there. Oh crap, did we miss them? Are they headed up without us? Are they not here yet? Oh crap. Now what. Well, a few minutes up the road, we finally heard back on the radio from one of the members of the group and found them parked up on a bluff waiting for the rest of the group. Whew.. OK. We aired down, reorganized and hung out waiting for the LA group to get there. The convoy showed up a few minutes later and we all made introductions and started out on our way up to Cerro Gordo.
Up and up we went, the valley below growing smaller as we climbed the mountains. The trailer was loaded with extra fuel, and way too much crap that we never need, but bring anyway. First gear, low range and it was still lugging a bit as we went up to 8000ft.
Penny is in her happy place.
The town of Cerro Gordo did not disappoint. What an amazingly preserved little ghost town. The caretaker showed us around, and we were in awe of how much stuff we still intact from the town’s history. After the tour, we started to descend into the park, and ended up going down a rocky canyon. It was a bit more of a challenge for the soccer mom 4runner, but nothing major, just had to pay attention to tire placement a little more then normal.
After the road down from Cerro Gordo, we entered a lot of gravel roads, well graded and made some good time. Stopped for a bit to check out the amazing views, the desert had to offer, and then made our way to our camp the first night.
Just a bit dusty…
Keeping our distance from the vehicles in front of us.. the dust was crazy.
Great first day! As we settled in around the campfire, I was tired from being awake since 3am, and having got very little sleep, but I was also excited to see what tomorrow would bring. So far I was just in awe of the place, and it’s beauty