Monday, February 1, 2010

It Works!

I finally got the trailer completed enough to go on a journey, do some camping, drive on dirt, and check out the rest of the new things, like generator, battery charger, lighting, insulation, propane heater, and bed. Like it says in the title for this post, "It Works!"
Since it is the middle of winter, I decided to head south. I haven't been to Death Valley before now, so it seemed like a good place for this season. It is a four hour highway drive from my home, so it was a good test of towing the trailer with a moderate load in it. I was carrying enough gear to comfortably camp for 5 days. Since Willa is working and doesn't get weekends, it was just me and Monty.

I stopped along the way to visit relatives in the Las Vegas area. After the visit, I headed west to Pahrump. From Pahrump, I headed into Death Valley National Park via Hell's Gate. It was late when I arrived, so I decided to pull over at the information kiosk and stay there for the rest of the night. It was cold and clear outside, with an incredible star show this far from the city lights.

The bed was extremely comfortable. The 6 inches of foam were more than adequate. When I awoke, I decided to cook up some oatmeal on the little 1 burner backpack stove sitting on the front counter. After cleaning up, I stepped outside and took a picture of the surrounding hills and the trailer.

Since I just pulled over in a turnout, I didn't unload any of the gear inside. I snapped another picture of the inside of the trailer, showing the cooler, large roughneck tote, and generator all loaded up.

I was really enjoying the views of the multi-colored hills and mountains as I drove down into the valley. I came to a loop road for 20 Mule Team canyon and decided to drive up it and get some photos with the trailer on dirt road. The trailer and Jeep handled driving on the dirt road fine.

After finishing the loop, I headed for Furnace Creek Ranch. Since I was new to the area, I elected to camp in the Park Campground there. I found a nice little site for my camp between two big RV's pulling Jeeps. It had a mound of sand with a large mesquite bush growing in it, creating a small little campsite among all the pull-through sites around it.

After setting up the trailer, one of the curious neighbors came over to get acquainted. He asked if I was going to sleep in a tent, and when I answered that I was going to sleep inside my trailer he asked for a tour. It ended up being a guided tour for four of the neighbors. They were pretty impressed how everything was finished and how much "stuff" I carried along on the trip.

By staying in the park campground at Furnace Creek Ranch I was able to go out and tour some of the back country roads around the valley. I visited the Ghost town of Ryolite first. It was interesting. Like most ghost towns in the west, It had a very colorful past, with wild men and fast women playing a role in its history. One of the most interesting buildings was the bottle house, with walls made up of adult beverage bottles set in concrete.

The Ryolite Jail was a very sturdy one, built of adobe with metal bars and doors that have held up over the ages.

It was a short drive from Ryolite to the road down Titus canyon. This is considered a 2 wheel drive high clearance road. It is "corrugated" for the first 1/2 of the road, with heavy washboard until you reach the pass going down into the canyon. It is very scenic, and goes through the ghost town of Leadfield. According to the park service literature, the town of Leadfield boomed from nothing to a good sized town in 1926 after finding large lead deposits in the area. Within a year, the mines played out, and Leadfield became a ghost town. There are only a few shacks and several mines. After leaving leaving Leadfield, you come across Indian petroglyphs on the canyon walls. A bit further, the canyon narrows and the walls become very interesting.

The next morning, I drove to an area called "Racetrack". Racetrack is down a 27 mile road that is heavily corrugated. Just before you come to the end of the bumpy road, you come to Teapot Junction, which is a place where tourists leave their teapots attached to the signpost


Most of the teapots have messages scribbled on them with markers, including the owners names and the dates they were hung from the sign.

After 27 bone-jittering miles, you finally arrive at a very ordinary looking dry lake with a couple of parking pullout. I was told to go to the furthest pullout, where I would find many rocks that mysteriously slide across the dry lake bed. After walking a 50 yards from the Jeep, I noticed the first rock, with a well defined skid mark behind it. As I walked the mile or so across the lake bed, there were many more. My neighbor in the campground suggested a reasonable explanation. He said there are two facts at play: 1) The lake bed is clay, which is incredibly slick when the rains wet it. In fact the road is impassable after a rain. And, 2) The area is famous for major windstorms.
So, his theory is that the lake gets wet, the winds blow hard, and the rocks slide across the surface. It seems incredible to see rocks that some weigh close to 50 lbs. being blown along the lake bed. Lacking a more plausible explanation, I'll have to accept his explanation.

On the way home, I made a quick stop at Scotty's castle. Since I plan to return to Death Valley with Willa, I didn't do a tour this time. I just snapped a few pictures, and then headed for camp.

The next day was pack up and travel day. I enjoyed a fine breakfast, said goodbye's to the neighbors, and then packed up for the journey home. It was nice to be able to toss all the gear into the totes and just slide them under the bed of the trailer. Plenty of room for all this gear, and more.

Towing the loaded trailer with the Jeep at highway speeds averages just below 14 mpg. Without the trailer, I typically get just under 16 mpg at the same speeds. The Jeep tows the trailer easily, holding speeds above 50 on all the passes, and averaging 65 on the freeways. I'm happy about the choice of this small little trailer with a nice bed and not much else built-in. It will be a fun time doing further testing.

Happy Trails!


I woke fairly early, and cooked some oatmeal on my small backpacking stove set on the front counter. After a quick breakfast and cleanup, I stepped outside the trailer and took a picture of the surrounding area.