As often happens in the hours following a harrowing experience, morning broke atop Telescope Peak in Death Valley with utmost peace. The sun was out, it was a cool 49 degrees and one would never know that only hours before we had been in the midst of chaos. Over coffee and breakfast we discussed the drive down the mountain. We reviewed the several places that were likely to have washed out in the storm and so in the middle of the peaceful morning we dredged up a box full of worries.
Our little FJ handled the trip with ease as it turns out — with thanks due to Iron Man suspension and the good folks at ACC Toyota. The road was a mess — essentially gone in several places — and was actually closed 20 miles down at the junction with the highway. Turns out we were the only folks up there. We were worried about the rocky two track that made up the final 9 miles or so to the top, but the real trouble started when we hit the old paved road. In a half dozen or so places all that water that rolled off our tarp up top, gathered its mates and picked up speed as it fell down the mountain, washed across the road and filled it with sand, stones and tree parts. Some of the washouts were solid and just a matter of picking around and through the rocks, others were deep, wet sand. Gear, as we are learning over and over, matters.
We left Death Valley via CA HWY 190 which is scenic road laid out using the unusual approach of tying a chalk line to a condor. Or something at least similar judging from the hair pin turns hanging off the side of cliffs with no guard rail and the sudden and sustained free falls that heat your brakes to warping. It is a road built of necessity and only maintained for thrill as near as I can tell. If you can stomach it, it is great scenery.
Having survived to arrive at the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range we now, quite frustratingly, have to turn due south and ride for miles and miles with the mountains taunting us along the right side all the while, until we can find a pass through. We finally do so along Lake Isabella and the Walker Pass. Stunning beauty again as we wind our way up and through, but if you are at the wheel, you will find your hands weary from the tightness of your grip.
We decided to spend the night in town, just outside the park entrance, to shower up, sort gear, and eat a pizza. Turned out to be a fine evening with nothing whatsoever threatening or interesting to deal with. We awoke rested, but thoroughly untested.