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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    169

    Default Death Valley Natl Park. 230 miles off road.

    My daughters and I went overlanding through Death Valley National Park for spring break. 3 nights. 230 miles off road with some pavement miles between off road sections. We took a general south to north route entering the park at the southern terminus of Harry Wade Road and exiting the park at Eureka Valley in the north. Sights visited: Ibex Dunes, Saratoga Springs, Death Valley proper, Rhyolite ghost town, Titus Canyon, Darwin Falls, Hunter Mountain, Hidden Valley, Racetrack Valley, Racetrack Playa, Ubehebe Crater, Eureka Valley, Eureka Dunes. This is not a full trip report with pics of all the sights. Just a few (crappy) pics of an off-road prepped XC70 in use. I wish I had pics or video of the most spectacular event, blasting through maybe 300 yards of the finest silt you've ever seen. They call it deep sand in the warnings, but it's actually super-fine powdery silt on a dry lake bed (Hidden Valley). I called to my kids to warn them, "Deep sand, I'm not stopping," and kept the hammer down until we were through. When we first hit the pit, the car slowed rapidly and pitched forward like I was braking. I thought we were screwed, but then, the weight shifted back to the rear, the rear wheels grabbed, and the car took off like a rocket ship. This all happened in about 2 seconds. And we were off to the races. Toward the end, we plunged into a deeper section, and the nose scooped the powdery soil and threw it up over the windshield blinding us momentarily. That would have been a brochure-worthy action shot. LOL The kids enjoyed the ride (meanwhile I was white knuckling it the whole time hoping we made it through). We were traveling alone, so it would have sucked to get stuck in one of the most remote valleys of the park.

    So, in chronological order...

    We didn't approach our first camp until well after dark. So, here we are crossing Death Valley with the navigator registering 279 ft below sea level.


    Sunrise at the first camp. I wanted my daughters to experience the sunrise in Death Valley, so I took them to a camp site that I stayed at in 2019 by myself when I wanted to get away one weekend and wake up in the middle of nowhere. This is a dispersed campsite along Trail Canyon Rd. about half way up the bajada on the west side of Death Valley. It's about 700 ft above the valley floor. I've backed the XC up on some rocks to level it. The camp site is on the sloped bajada, so it just wasn't going to be comfortable for my daughters to sleep in the back on such a big downhill slope. They got "Chateau Volvo" accomodations. I got a cot outside. Sunrise is coming from over the Amargosa Range on the opposite side of the valley.


    Expanded view of our camp and the sunrise from the west side of Death Valley.


    Day 2. Midday at the crest of Titus Canyon Rd. This spot is called Red Pass for obvious reasons (about 5,300 ft). You can see bits of the road that we traversed winding through the mountains on the right of the picture.


    Couple shots of the limestone walls of Titus Canyon.






    Sunrise at camp 2. Hunter Mountain Rd., about 7,000 ft. We're now in an alpine forest with overnight temps in the 30's. Yes, there's a lot more to Death Valley National Park than 130 deg F temps at Furnace Creek and altitudes below sea level. I didn't prepare for 30 deg temps., so I was a little cold overnight on a cot under the stars. I wasn't expecting to camp this high, but my planned campsite was occupied, so we had to continue on up the mountain until we found something.


    Morning, day 3. A nice view as we start to descend into Hidden Valley on Hunter Mountain Rd. The XC is still relatively clean as we haven't hit the sand trap, yet.


    A shot at Tea Kettle Junction. We just went through Hidden Valley and the warned-about deep sand. That was fun. We brought a lot of Hidden Valley back home with us.


    Lunch at the famous Racetrack Playa.


    Approaching Eureka Dunes. These dunes are impressive. Said to be the second highest in the US. Quite a site to behold as you approach the dunes via Eureka Valley Rd.


    Lastly, sunrise at our final camp at Eureka Dunes.


    Brett

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Virginia Beach
    Posts
    4,059

    Default

    Wow! What an awesome trip. Spectacular scenery. So glad you’re able to share these adventures with your daughters. Thank you for sharing the details, and yeah, I sure do like seeing the XC in that remote country. Glad it held up well for you. Cheers!
    Current Fleet:
    2016 Tundra Crewmax 4WD 1794
    2005 MB S600 (114K, Michelin AS3+, LiquiMoly 0W40)
    2005 MB SL600 (50K, Michelin AS4, Mobil 1 0W40)
    2004 V70R (six speed M66, Mobil 1 5W30)
    2002 V70-XC (275K, HPL Euro 0W30)
    2002 V70-T5 (216K, IPD bars, Bilsteins)
    2001 V70-T5 (120K, IPD downpipe, cat back and other mods)
    1932 Packard Sedan (straight 8, dual sidemounts, original paint and interior, Shell Rotella 15W40)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    169

    Default

    I was just noticing the dearth of people pics, so here are a few.

    And, I noticed I don't have any pics with me in it from this Death Valley trip, so I added a couple at the end from other outings.

    My daughters at Teakettle Junction.


    Again at Ubehebe Crater


    This is us helping to plant Joshua tree seedlings in Mojave National Preserve. The Cima Dome fire a couple years ago killed an estimated 1.3 million Joshua trees. In the desert, the Joshua tree forest grows very slowly, so the preserve is mounting a restoration project to jump start reforestation before climate change seriously affects the Joshua tree forest.


    We had a great little campsite nestled among the Joshua trees. You can see the trees right around the campsite are still alive, mostly green, but about 30 feet away, the entire forest is blighted as far as the eye can see. If you look in the background, the ground looks whitish. That is the view of the tops of all the dead Joshua trees stretching out as far as the eye can see. This background should be verdent green from all the trees' fronds, but it's all just white, dead trees.


    Here we are on our outing to Saline Valley. There's weird stuff (and weird people LOL) out in the remote desert. This is an odd piece of "art" (and I use that term loosely) on the way to Saline Valley Warm Springs camp.


    Cheers,
    Brett
    Last edited by Brett San Diego; 05-06-2022 at 07:09 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    169

    Default

    This was the big one I've been prepping for for 4 years. The XC performed flawlessly, which I'm obviously happy about.

    So far, the only issue I've had was on our last outing to Death Valley Natl. Park (Saline Valley). The transmission fluid overheated on the sustained 20 mile climb out of the valley. Fortunately, I saw the dash message and could stop and let things cool down. I've got a transmission cooler installed, so I checked it, and it was ice cold. My (expensive, fancy) thermostat was intermittently sticking and almost ruined my day. I got it replaced under warranty and put in a fluid temp gauge to monitor things. On this trip, I saw the highest temp (250 F) on a long straight section that was a slight-angle climb at speeds mostly 15-30 mph. I became concerned because we hit 250 right as a steep climb started, but the temp actually cooled down on the climb. Using the manual control, I kept the rpms up on the climb, and I guess the torque converter has better coupling/less fluid shear at higher rpm so less heat generation (?). But, anyway, it was nice to have the gauge and see we weren't in trouble on the climb.

    Brett

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Virginia Beach
    Posts
    4,059

    Default

    The gauge is a nice addition. Thought about doing a gauge, but it's even more work, and I apportion my efforts across several cars. I had a gauge on my 4 Runner (1990, 4WD, auto, 3.0 V-6, lifted) for just that reason - low speed operation with the converter unlocked creates tremendous heat. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on it.
    Current Fleet:
    2016 Tundra Crewmax 4WD 1794
    2005 MB S600 (114K, Michelin AS3+, LiquiMoly 0W40)
    2005 MB SL600 (50K, Michelin AS4, Mobil 1 0W40)
    2004 V70R (six speed M66, Mobil 1 5W30)
    2002 V70-XC (275K, HPL Euro 0W30)
    2002 V70-T5 (216K, IPD bars, Bilsteins)
    2001 V70-T5 (120K, IPD downpipe, cat back and other mods)
    1932 Packard Sedan (straight 8, dual sidemounts, original paint and interior, Shell Rotella 15W40)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    wi
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Kudos for your Joshua tree replanting. I spent a night in Joshua Tree National Park that was magical in its silence and brilliant stars.
    Transmission fluid temperature gauges should be standard equipment. They are more common on 3/4 ton trucks and saved the transmission of ours more than once when towing horse trailers over mountain passes in Colorado.

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