25-May-2003 -- This would be the third of four successful confluence visits over Memorial Day weekend 2003. Following a challenging climb to 36-118, I proceeded east and into Death Valley. Southbound, there was construction at the Badwater parking area, so we were unable to stop at the lowest accessible spot in North America at -282'MSL.
This was also the most questionable confluence to make for the weekend. Turning north onto the West Road then west into Warm Spring Canyon was very slow going. More than about 10mph and the RV's (probably any vehicle's) ability to dampen out the washboard ruts was exceeded - so it was extremely slow going. We were surprised to see a vehicle coming the other way about half way to our destination - the Warm Spring Mine. The online road conditions and descriptions from the National Park Service website (and discussions with a Ranger at Stovepipe Wells) were fairly accurate. A high clearance vehicle should be able to make it to the mine - although it will be a very slow trip. A 4wd is definitely needed beyond the mine.
Stopping for the night allowed me to review the maps I printed from National Geographic's TOPO California - a great mapping program. I would only have six miles to go (one way) in the morning. Based upon the heat, I would get on my bike by 0600.
It was another uphill bike ride - slow going - but allowing ample opportunity to see the variety of desert life in the relatively cool morning in the middle of nowhere. Dozens of nearly foot-long lizards were observed sunning themselves in the road and scampering away as I approached. A little over 5 miles and I found the turnoff to the point at the western end of Warm Spring Canyon. It was time to hike the rest of the way since it would require far less effort than trying to bike up this road. After a mile hike and following the route I had uploaded to my GPS, I set off through the desert towards the confluence.
When I arrived, I discovered two rock cairns about 10 feet apart. I set up my other Garmins between them and agreed they were all fairly close.
Picture #1 is looking north from the spot. Picture #2 shows GPS positions. Picture #3 has my tripod shadow between the two rock cairns. Picture #4 faces east-southeast. Picture #5 is an attempt at a panoramic shot from the site.
Following the pictures, it was time to load up for the hike back. On the 4wd drive road, I picked up a few recently empty beer cans :( to pack out and a red bungee tie (which would eventually be placed in the geocache at 35-117)
It was only a matter of coasting downhill (almost 2000') and avoiding rocks that surely would have tossed me off my bike if I had hit one to get back. Going downhill is much easier - especially when it is getting very hot out. I was 30 minutes ahead of my planned timeline when I got back to the RV. Round trip was about 3.5 hours with nearly 200oz of fluid consumed (100oz & half of a 70oz Camelback water filled bladders + 32oz Gatorade) Did I mention the heat? How about the sun? Sunscreen is a must! After a shower and the slow drive out, we stopped at the Ashford Mill Ruins for lunch. We put our thermometer out and from the relative cool of our RV, watched the temperature rise to 114 deg F.
The most striking thing about this confluence besides the cool journey, was observing a tremendous number of lizards early in the morning on my trip - the area is so dry, you wonder how they can possibly survive.
This is another confluence you should plan to do early spring or late fall. Very, very remote. A challenging bike ride or 4wd required.