Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cave Rock Spring

Looking out to the Bullfrog Hills, camp at left, from the cave.
The eastern part of Death Valley National Park is an empty triangle jutting into the state of Nevada, and it is lovely for many reasons, but perhaps most of all for its isolation. Most of the roads in this Nevada Triangle are seldom travelled more than a few times a year, and wherever you go, your tire tracks are likely to be among the first in quite some time, even on busy weekends. If you camp out here, the closest people are likely to be in the ghost town of Rhyolite, which has several full time residents.

This spring is a bygone remnant of centuries of occupation by natives and prospectors, but most recently as hosting the workers of the Happy Hooligan Mine nearby. I didn't do any exploration of this mine on this trip, it was just too windy to persuade us to do an in-depth exploration, but that just leaves a reason to return. This corner of the park is so rarely visited that during this week of prolific flower blooms and incredible greenery throughout the region the road was in places completely overgrown with fresh sprouts, and at times we had to get out and find the road alignment out of the greenery. We set up camp after momentarily getting lost in the maze of roads below and found a naturally windproof cave in the cliff nearby and saw it as an opportunity to get out of said extreme winds for a while. We brought the stove and our chairs and enjoyed the solace and solitude of a peaceful evening surrounded by the fire-blackened cave walls used by centuries of people before us. 

Cave opening above the spring.
A night of apocalyptic wind gusts eventually dawned on freezing temperatures and an urge to further explore the spring area. We found a wealth of cans and junk, and signs of a society long since passed, with the ochre streaks dancing across the wall keeping watch over fallen walls and the empty acres of desolate land here in the high desert of Death Valley.

After satisfactorily examining the caves in the rock and the spring area, I climbed high above the canyon into a large amphitheater in search of more rock art and evidence of past occupation. The rock was loose, vegetation dense, and many rocks wet with spring water. I found no evidence of habitation, but plenty of evidence of perhaps a more elusive treasure: bighorn sheep.

The cave. About 11 feet square and tall.

Fallen walls and overgrowth.



These are nearly hidden by the bush growing out of the cliff.

PiƱon pine above the stream bed.

Looking out to the desolate wastes.

I believe this is miner's lettuce. The ground is covered in this above the spring.

Stone wall or hunting blind above the canyon.

Cascading spring water.

After a steep climb, I'm standing in the amphitheater looking around.

Looking down. The cave is around the corner from the cliff bottom, and
about 200 feet down.

Another cave in the amphitheater, probably 20 feet cubic. It was
full of bighorn sheep droppings!

On the way back down it was noticed that the spring cascade was frozen
into a sheet of ice and these small icicles. It was really cold that night!

Old tub below the spring has been filled up with flood debris.

This pipe runs with fresh, cold, tasty water!

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