By Denis & Sandi Inman
Tuesday evening, the expedition leader neglected to get a consensus on our departure time so we didn’t leave Ridgecrest until almost 6:30. We don’t know where the winds blew the California Wildfire Smoke, but we enjoyed almost entirely clear blue skies for the last couple of days. For our first trail on Wednesday, we drove up Quarry Road out of Trona to see if we could possibly find the trail across Manley Pass. It was a nice ride with awesome panoramas from the top, but it became clear that the trail we were looking for was in “wilderness” so closed off to motorized vehicles.
Once back down, we headed over Slate Range Crossing and dropped down into Ballarat. Driving on Indian Ranch Road, we went past the entrances to several trails on our way to Jail Canyon. The trail was well worth the drive and now we can cross that one off our list of “Trails We’ve Never Been On”. Just prior to reaching Indian Ranch Road our attention was drawn to the sound of afterburners above us. A couple of F-18s were having a very intense dog fight throughout the Panamint Valley and crossing only about 100′ over our heads. We could see the pilots in their cockpits. We waved, but they were too busy to wave back.
When our heart rhythms had returned to normal after the breath-taking airshow, our next stop was in Wildrose Canyon. After turning right onto Charcoal Kiln Road, we came across a gopher snake sunning himself in the road. It took several minutes for us to convince him that he wasn’t in a good location and he should find a spot with less vehicular traffic to catch some late season rays. There was quite a crowd at the Charcoal Kilns and after a quick stop, we continued on to Mahagony Flat Campground.
Just past the Wildrose Campground, we negotiated Rattlesnake Gulch on our way to Aguereberry Point. It is a sort of Dante’s View in the Panamint Range on the West side of Death Valley. When we had returned to Emigrant Canyon Road, our off-road trail riding was over for the me, Jeremy & Deanna, and Vic & Janice, but we still had to spend the best part of the next couple of hours driving back to Pahrump, arriving home at about 4:00 PM. Would we do it all again? Of course, but there are lots of other trails out there. Let’s give it another year.