Tag Archives: Hiking
Kaleidoscope Canyon is located in the southern Black Mountains, just a few short miles from the Ashford Mill ruins. A relatively unknown canyon that is rarely visited by the tens of thousands of visitors that flock to Death Valley every year to enjoy its marvelous beauty and vast landscape. Previous to my visit in December of 2012 I had only read about this canyon from a couple of sources on the internet, a client of mine; a professional photographer had requested this location to do a shoot so I finally had a reason to visit this canyon and see it with my own two eyes.
Since the exact location of the canyon has been kept under wraps up until this point I will honor that, and continue to do so. The map above provides you with a good jumping off point and parking area if you decide to venture out to this remote location in search of Kaleidoscope Canyon. From here you are looking at about 2.5 mile hike with an elevation gain of roughly 1,280 feet. Allow yourself between 2-3 hours to make the hike in depending on your hiking experience.
I hope that you enjoyed the beauty and color of Kaleidoscope Canyon. View the gallery below for all of my photos of the canyon.
Death Valley Jim, the 34 year old explorer, historian, and author will attempt his biggest challenge ever as he attempts to cross Death Valley National Park beginning at the northern most boundary and ending at the southern most boundary of the park. The start date is set for January 1st, 2013, and it is expected that it will take 15 days and nights to traverse the entire 150+ miles of the park. January temperatures in Death Valley range from the mid 30′s at night to the low 80′s during the day.
The planning stages are early at this point. A route map will be made available in the coming weeks that will detail the terrain in which Death Valley Jim will travel. During the expedition the public will be able to watch his progress via a SPOT navigation map which will detail his location at any time during the expedition.
With limited sources of water being available in the park, water drop points will be placed in undisclosed locations prior to the trek. This eliminates the need haul enough water for half a months journey.
Watch it all unfold at the website that has been set up for this expedition: www.mojavedesertadventure.com
From Bakersfield – Take Hwy. 178 fifty-seven miles northeast through the Kern River canyon and past Lake Isabella – continue through the communities of Mtn. Mesa and South Lake. Slow down at the T-intersection of Hwy 178 and Sierra Way as the preserve is 1.1 miles beyond this point. On the left is a large sign for Audubon California’s Kern River Preserve. You are almost here. Turn left and drive down the dirt road.
From the Mojave Desert – The preserve is located approximately 30 miles from Hwy 14. From Hwy. 14 take Hwy. 178 west through Walker Pass – Canebrake – Onyx and almost through Weldon. The preserve is 0.6 miles beyond the South Fork Elementary School and only 100 yards past Kelso Valley Road at Hwy. 178 milepost 57.00 (white paddle sign on side of road). On the right is a large sign for Audubon California’s Kern River Preserve, you are almost here. Turn right and drive down the dirt road.
Audubon Kern River Preserve is a little different from most of the locations that I report on. For one it isn’t in the desert, two it isn’t a ghost town or revolve around mining. The Preserve is a beautiful riparian forest that is filled with wildlife, and plant life. 110 species of birds have been found nesting on the preserve including the endangered Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo. 49 species of mammals have been found on the preserve including the Grey Fox, Coyote, Black Bear, Long-tailed Weasel, Badger, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, and numerous specials of mice, bats, skunks, and rabbits. For a full list of wildlife you can download the wildlife checklist from the preserve’s website.
During the spring months the preserve is a hot bed for wildflowers. Specifically you will find wild roses (Rosa woodsii), papery, prickly poppy (Argemone munita), common sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica), among others.
There is one main trail that leads through the preserve, it is roughly one mile in length.There is no real difficulty, most of the land is flat and the trail is highly visible.
Picnic tables and restroom facilities are available. Donations are accepted, but not required.
The Steam Wells Petroglyphs are located within the Golden Valley Wilderness boundaries near the Rand Mining District. From highway 395 take Trona Road for 1.3 miles. Turn right on RM1444, and follow for 4 miles. At the 4 mile mark you will see the trail head on the left. There is a small parking area to the right. It is recommended that you have at the minimum a high clearance 2WD to make the drive.
From the trail head the hike to the petroglyphs is roughly 1 mile. Most of the hike will be up hill, but not at a drastic incline. There are no specific markers on the trail that point out the exact location of the petroglyphs, but once you reach a wooden fence guard continue to your right. You will see a basaltic outcropping. Climb to the top of the outcropping (roughly 100 feet), here is where you will find the Steam Wells Petroglyphs.
Sadly a number of the petroglyphs have been chipped out by vandals and thieves. Others have had modern people deface them by scratching in the rocks directly beside them. If you are a regular visitor to my site I would hope that I don’t need to remind you to leave everything as you found it, but I’ll mention it anyway just in case! These early man pieces of art can never be replaced, please respect them so that future generations may enjoy them as well.
The petroglyphs at Steam Wells are believed to date back close to 1,000 years when the Kawaiisu occupied this territory. It is known that the Kawaiisu made these particular style of petroglyphs near permanent water sources.
Once you’ve visited the petroglyphs head back down to the fence guard, and continue up the small canyon. Here you will find the ruins from an old stone cabin, a collapsed mine, and one of many steam wells in the area. This area was mined in the 1930′s, the steam wells had been made to help power these activities. The steam wells have all been sealed off, however they are known to leak a bit, releasing a rather pungent stench.
All and all, this is a worthy trip. You can expect to spend a couple of hours at the minimum exploring the area. Once you are finished here, head back to the highway and visit Randsburg, Johannesburg, or Red Mountain. These three semi-ghosts towns offer much to explore.
The Rainbow Basin and Owl Canyon areas both can be easily accessed from the city of Barstow. Start at Irwin Street and follow for 5.9 miles. Turn left on Fossil Bed Road and drive for 2.9 miles. Turn right on Rainbow Basin, from here you can follow Rainbow Basin in a 4-mile loop for the scenic drive. To access the Owl Canyon hike follow Rainbow Basin for .3 miles, turn right on Owl Canyon Road. Follow Owl Canyon Road for 1.6 miles through the camp ground until the road ends. The trail head begins at the end of the pavement.
First we’ll cover the 4-mile loop at Rainbow Basin. Rainbow Basin has a diverse landscape of hills, canyons and washes. The area is also known for the fossils of mastodons, pronghorns, camels and three-toed horses. The BLM lists the Rainbow Basin as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Please keep that in mind while visiting, and stick strictly to the rule of leave nothing but foot prints. During this drive there are plenty of places to pull off to do some hiking and photography. The basin reminded me of Artist Palette in Death Valley, I’d go as far to say that I found Rainbow Basin far more beautiful and intriguing.
The Owl Canyon Hike begins at the Owl Canyon Camping area. It is a 4 mile round trip hike, and described as moderately difficult. Essentially the Own Canyon Hike covers the eastern portion of Rainbow Basin. You will come across some awesome rock formations, colors, and plant life during your hike.
Close to the half mile point of the hike there will be a cave/tunnel on the right side of the trail. You can follow this short tunnel to the other side where a short trail will take you up the canyon a short piece. I decided to climb the rocky mountain side at the end of this short side trail, and was rewarded with an amazing view of the valley. If you have ability to do the climb, I highly recommend it!
Back on the main trail the canyon will begin to narrow, and some areas become a little more difficult with some scrambling. At around the one mile point you encounter the most difficult part of the trail. You will have to climb the wall of an 8 foot dry waterfall. I believe this is the point that most people turn around and head back. If you continue up the trail, it eventually will open back up again before the trail comes to an end.
Allow yourself 2-3 hours for the entire round trip hike for ultimate enjoyment.
China Ranch is located a few miles outside of Tecopa, CA. From Tecopa follow the Old Spanish Trail Highway east until you’re on the outskirts of town, turn right on Furnace Creek Road and follow it for 1.8 miles. Turn right on China Ranch Road, and follow it for 1.5 miles until you arrive at this oasis in the desert.
I’m not going to focus this article on China Ranch as we didn’t spend much time at the Ranch. The parking lot for the Gift Shop is the location of the trail head that we decided to hike. Our original intention was to hike the Amargosa River Trail which I had found information on via the BLM website. It turned out there are multiple hikes available from this same trail head, most of the trails are unmarked except for some rocks stacked on top of each other. It’s rather easy to start on one trail and end up on a different trail without any knowledge of having done so. Interesting enough the China Ranch website lists six different tails, the Amargosa River Trail is not one of them. Upon returning home with the assistance of Google maps I was able to find what I believe to be the route that we took, which was following along the route of China Ranch Road which has not been maintained or used for many years (and in many places doesn’t even resemble a road).
Despite the trail confusion this is a wonderful area to hike and explore, the terrain you find here is a rarity in the desert. You’ll find areas where the Amargosa River flows above ground, as well as marshes, and salt flats. There are many canyons along the route which make for excellent side trips (but plan to have to do some rock climbing if you decide to venture into the side canyons). Parts of the various trails run along the grade to the old Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, you will find many of the old ties discarded along the way.
If you decide to try to follow the old China Ranch Road route that we took, expect about a 2.5 mile hike in each direction. I’d rate this hike as moderate as a number of places that you have to climb some rather rugged terrain, and cross the river and marshes. It took us close to 5 hours to complete which included a short half mile side trip into one of the canyons.
Once you arrive back at the China Ranch Park lot, be sure to stop into the gift shop for an awesome Date Shake!
If you’re looking to hike in this area, I highly suggest you to check out the China Ranch website to decide which trail is best for you.