"An ill wind blows nobody good"
I can't remember the story but the title fits this little story of a hike in Death Valley.
I was making one of my nearly annual spring trips to Death Valley to spend 4 or 5 days. The weather report was good, with mostly sunny and warm and one windy afternoon. I'd been there when it was windy. It was uncomfortable but tolerable.
I headed out of the SF Bay area loaded (not that loaded) to hunker down and enjoy a few days of desert peak bagging and exploring.
It's an all day affair driving down the central valley through Bakersfield then through the south end of the Sierra over Walker Pass and on out into the desert. I got there at dusk, drove across Death Valley and over Daylight Pass to spend the night in the high Nevada desert.
A beautiful morning for the Brutes.
It was a beautiful morning as I drove over the pass into the valley with fresh rich light on the peaks and ranges. The air was totally still to the point that I considered the weather report to be maybe a little "overblown".
Being no stranger to this vast land of extremes I took my observation with a grain of salt and headed up the buttes taking my time for photos. Gaining elevation I noticed it was a bit hazy at the south end of the valley but that was fairly common. I was on the main butte towards late morning after taking lots of pics and enjoying the great views with flowers along the way. But gazing from this perch 3000 feet above Death Valley I noticed a disturbing front moving in from the southeast.
From whence it came?
I figured it was time to get on down. I took a few more shots on the descent as it enveloped the pass and the winds picked up around me. I decided to get off the ridge and take a shortcut down the north slope from the saddle. The gusts were getting so strong I was nearly blown off my feet on the steep crumbly terrain. Back on the road I had to walk a mile against the nasty blast on a 3 percent grade and it felt like hiking up hill! Finally into the vehicle was no consolation since the relentless gusts were rocking the van around like a small boat on choppy water. It was time to find shelter.
I drove into a nearby canyon for some respite and chilled to lunch, a nap and to ponder the rest of the day.
A lesson in faith
I just decided to pack in my "twenty mule team" plans and head for Owens Valley in hopes of clearer skies.
I drove back out of hazy inhospitable Death Valley towards Towne Pass hoping it was better in Panamint Valley. Cresting the pass revealed Panamint Valley to be even worse! You could barely see the Argus Mountains on the west side! This wasn't a good sign.
Beginning to feel a bit dismal about things my hope was that when I climbed out of Panamint Valley and over the Darwin Plateau I would see the beautiful peaks of the Eastern High Sierra stretching for miles in the distance. Getting to the crucial viewpoint revealed yet another hazy scene with the Sierra Range barely visible on the horizon.
By now I'm super bummed! Buying into the drama of the moment I was feeling victimized by Ma Nature who could obviously care less about my little plans for a beautiful trip.
Well, mizewell drive on down to the Alabama Hills and camp for the night hoping for clearer skies over the next few days. As I drove further down into Owens Valley I could make out the peaks better and the wind was milder. As I drove into Lone Pine it was a perfect evening, totally clear! Looking back to the hazy brown front hanging over the Darwin Plateau I was extremely glad to spend the next few peaceful days in beautiful weather below the snow-capped giants of the Eastern Sierra.
It was a lesson in faith!