Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going Back To Yesterday

(c) Marvin Mateo 2014
More than a personal adventure, this trip to Panamint City was planned to celebrate a young man, his life, and his love of this area. He enjoyed coming here and I feel honored to have shared the same trail he walked on...I only wished that I had the pleasure of hiking with him.  

This is for Kevin...

4:00 AM, Friday morning, I wake up only having slept for a couple of hours.  The excitement of this trip kept me from sleeping a wink.  Still barely awake, I scramble whatever items I needed to pack up.  5:15 AM, Pack in tow, I'm out the door ready to drive to pick up my buddy Pete and meet our group at another friends home.

One last stop on the 15 for a quick breakfast and we're on our way to Death Valley

The drive to Death Valley flew by fast.  Good conversation, a few political and social issues were resolved during this drive - that will be left for another story.  We soon arrive at the Chris Wicht Campground where we meet the rest of our group.

All loaded up, we start our long hike to Panamint City.  Below would be our route from the trail head.

Map Route Courtesy of: G.A.

The trail to Panamint City is quite a tough trail.  The loose rock on the trail, the brush or as we dubbed it "The Hobbit Trail", was low and overgrown.  Don't expect this hike to be quick...this was one of the most difficult hikes I've ever done so far.

Aside from the brush and the rocks, we also climbed a couple water falls to get back to the trail. My buddy Pete reminded me in advance to bring water shoes because a good 60% of the hike would be in and out of water - he wasn't kidding.  Having water shoes helped my feet a lot and made the hike more enjoyable.  Even with trail runners that dry out quick, it was more comfortable to be in shoes that were meant to get wet.

Past the waterfalls, the trail levels for a bit until you reach the old truck...it's amazing to think that at one point there was a road here that led to the city.

We took a breather here to recover from the falls.  I took the time to take any debris out of my shoes to avoid any injury that could make my hike miserable.  After five minutes, we push on through knowing we still had quite a ways to go.

2.86 miles in, we take a lunch break after passing the more difficult ascents.  I only had a few snacks on this stop and decided to hike ahead.  I was getting cold, fatigued, and weak.  I felt that if I took too long of a break that this would work against me.  Not having enough sleep was slowly taking a toll and I could feel it.

A little over 2 miles to go per the groups calculations and we should be nearing the city.  

I must have been really slow at this point because my buddy Tom who was ahead of me disappeared from view.  My legs were really tired at this point and my pace slowed to a crawl.  So slow that Pete actually caught up to me.  The trail felt like it wouldn't end at this point.  I will admit that this trail kicked the crap out of me!

After walking what felt like hours, I hear Pete yelling up ahead "We're here!!!".  I must have caught my second wind because the excitement suddenly had my legs moving again.  Sadly, it was short lived.  Once you pass a couple turns on the canyon north east, the Panamint Smoke Stack comes in to view...don't be fooled, you will be staring at this brick tower for a while.  Something that seems so close can't come any closer.  My head down, endlessly staring at each footstep, at each rock, I muscle through.  Eating whatever I had inside my hipbelt pockets to help me get to camp.

Finally, I arrive at camp.  Dropping my pack immediately upon arriving, I crash on the dirt just to rest my legs for a bit.  Not wanting to move much further, I spot a site good enough where I can setup my shelter for the weekend.

Shelter set and gear exploded inside, I grab my food bag and head to the "Hilton".  The "Hilton" is a cabin used by hikers and scouts in the area. Most cabins in the area are actually stocked with food, fuel, sleeping bags, etc.  However, it is tradition and common courtesy that if you take something, you must replace it with something else.  

I enter the cabin and the group already had the fire going and drinks were available for all to partake.  It felt good to arrive at camp with enough daylight left to soak in the view and to be surrounded by friends, a drink, and a warm fire.  

Our stomachs full and our livers getting a work out...we share stories about the trail and our plans for the following day.  As the evening activities draw to a close, we all retreat to our tents to get some well-deserved rest.

The following morning, everyone was slow to rise...and what's the rush?  We were here for another full day.  I always enjoyed a base camp style trip...free to explore at your pace with no schedules.  

Several splinter groups explored the area throughout the day.  So many things to see and do.  For the adventurous, there are two peaks that you could actually bag in the area.  However, we all decided to just have a nice relaxing weekend.  We explored almost all the cabins and mines in the area.

What a day! I felt like a kid in Disneyland with all these areas to explore.  So much to see and not enough time.  After all the exploration, we all gather for one last night around the fire.  I had so much fun on this trip.  

I have to mention that this weekend was supposed to be a very cold weekend with the chance of rain and snow...none of which came about.  Kevin must have been looking out for us, we had the best weather...

The following morning, everyone seemed to wake up a little earlier this time.  By 9:30 AM, everyone was ready to move out.  

The hike back down to the cars was less painful compared to the hike up.  Oddly enough, there were portions of the trail I didn't even remember going through...I must have been staring at my feet for a while to have missed certain characteristics of the trail.

Once back at the parking lot, we all say our "goodbyes".  Sad to leave but back to reality we all must go. But before we go, Death Valley treats us with one last surprise...we never saw a Burro throughout the whole trip.  Well, we finally saw one on our way out.

This was another adventure to remember. A hard trail but full of rewards...I would want to go back here again.  

Before I go, I wanted to share a short video I created in memory of Kevin - we had the most beautiful sunset on our last night and I was lucky enough to capture it. So I hope you all like it.

Till the next adventure...see you on the trails.


  1. Great stuff my friend. Goosebumps. Can't believe you put this fantastic stuff together so fast.

  2. You have lots of talent my friend. Great pictures, video, and writing. Glad we made this trip together. Your being there and documenting the trip have added so much. I sincerely thank you.

  3. Thanks everyone :) I'm grateful that you guys actually think this stuff is worth reading! Still working on the video from the trip...that's taking a little longer than usual seeing as I've never spliced video before :/

  4. Great pictures, great times. It's nice to be able to live your adventures through your memories and writing. So nice to see that someone enjoys the outdoors as much as I used to. Keep on trekking and remember to leave only footprints, take only memories.

    1. Thank you :) My love for the outdoors was a recent development in life...I feel like I have a bit of catching up to do.

      Great advise...always leave no trace and always tread lightly.