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Grapevine Mtns Ramble

Jan 2022

This was another great trip that I have Anthony to thank for piecing together. It was a thirty mile amble through the Grapevine Mountains in Death Valley boasting tons of ridge walking, a few summits, crazy wind, a mining ghost town, and spectacular narrows. I started by summiting Corkscrew Peak, and unique looking mountain dominating the Southern end of the range. I believe it is a DPS peak to boot. The first half of the day was incredibly windy. I was nearly blown off my feet by some of the gusts which must have been well above fifty miles an hour. I shuffled my feet and used my trekking pole to cautiously advance up the mountain’s ridge line. Eventually, I made it to the summit which was beautiful, but hard to enjoy given the conditions. From the top I could see Thimble Peak which appeared dauntingly far away — but in a few short hours, I would be on its prominent summit.

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Arch on the way to Corkscrew Peak

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View of Thimble Peak from the summit of Corkscrew

I headed along the ridge North of Corkscrew peak for several miles until it dropped down to Titus Canyon Road, a relatively famous, and very circuitous dirt road through the range. Unfortunately, a high ridgeline is the absolute worst place to be in a wind storm. I was beaten and battered by the elements for hours as I picked my way along to hopefully gentler conditions down at the road. While the wind did not cease, it did let up a bit when I made it to the road. I rambled along the road for several miles, happy to have a break from the mental taxation of route finding. Eventually, I found myself at Red Pass where I peeled off the road to summit Thimble Peak. The summit looks treacherous from afar, but as I drew closer an obvious line to the summit revealed itself. There was maybe one class two move, but overall it was a mellow approach. The summit views were striking and the wind a bit more bearable.

I regained the dirt road, and walked downhill for several miles to Leadfield, an old mining ghost town that was settled and abandoned all within the course of six months in the 1920’s. After puttering around the ruins for a bit, imagining a day in the life of a hopeful miner, I cracked on toward Fall Canyon. Begrudgingly, I left the easy going road in exchange for more off-trail hiking. A few broad washes, and some tighter canyons found me almost at Fall Canyon proper. I slept just shy of the canyon so as to properly enjoy it in the morning light.

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View of Corkscrew Peak from the summit of Thimble Peak

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This used to be the post office in Leadfield back in 1926

It did not disappoint, the canyon was extremely walkable, incredibly varied, and an all around treat to hike through. There were a few mellow sections of scrambling down minor dry falls, but nothing compared to other more treacherous canyons in the park like Slit or Monarch. I was dumped out on the East side of Death Valley where I hiked down a dirt road for a few miles and eventually hitched a couple rides back to the car. A nice German couple picked me up for the first stretch, and an older lady named Margery took me the rest of the way. We chatted about Mark Twain and his mining exploits out in Nevada, about Edison, and Ben Franklin too. She recommended I read some book she just finished on Edison, and I told her to read Franklin’s Autobiography. We’ll have some material to cover the next time she finds me thumbing in the desert. We rolled up on my car and she said “This conversation is so fun, I’m taking you with me!”. I almost obliged, but figured it best to get on to the next trip.

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Bighorn skull