The tough thing about exploring is that for every amazing thing you find, like a Jamul Kiln, sometimes you find things that are just there. They're not bad, they're not good, they're just there. Take for example the Cottonwood Kilns. They are part of California's gold rush history, and were constructed in 1873 to provide charcoal for the smelters at the nearby Cerro Gordo Mine.
If you play your cards right, you can follow the previous posts from a snowy 11,000 foot peak (Telescope Peak), past some unique structures (the Charcoal Kilns and Eureka Mine), through an ancient canyon with cracked granite blocks (Mosaic Canyon) down to rolling sand dunes (Mesquite Flat) all within a day. That alone should make Death Valley a “must-do” in anyone’s book – I personally can’t think of another place world-wide where you can traverse such a variety of terrain in a day or less. Granted, if you’re going to do all of those things in a day, you’re going to need to get an early start, and move quick, but it is indeed possible.
Some people climb mountains for the challenge; some people climb mountains because they have a burning desire to be atop high places; some people climb mountains for the physical activity; and some people climb mountains just because they’re there. There’s a million reasons why people climb mountains, and if you run into people on the trail, it’s always interesting to hear why people are there, what they are doing, and if they are lost, help them out by giving them directions and encouragement. One of the most honest reasons I’ve heard for climbing a mountain was on Wildrose Peak by a transplanted Frenchman named Bernard who was living in Los Angeles. Wildrose Peak, incidentally, is the small sister of Rogers, Bennett, and Telescope in the Panamint Range of Death Valley, clocking in at 9,064 feet. On that trip, I had been on a climbing tear – I had powered up Whitney in winter conditions on Saturday, and bagged Telescope, Bennett, and Rogers on Sunday. It was now a Monday, and rather than take it easy – I decided to climb Wildrose Peak.
Back in the near-distant past, after dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I decided that I wanted to climb Telescope Peak. At that point, I didn’t know much about Death Valley other than what I had read and researched. I know that this was truly a long time ago, perhaps during part of the dark ages, because I had gleaned most of my information from actual books and paper maps. I left after work for the desert, and by the time I reached Emigrant Canyon Road within the park, it was very late. As my car glided over the curvy pavement like a giant bat, my eyes drooped slightly. Suddenly, my high beams caught a glimpse of something grey, brown and large on the road. Automatically, my foot hit the brake before I could say “Blue Moon”. My SUV skidded on its antilock brakes for a split-second before coming to rest.