One of the many things that I like about Death Valley National Park is its enormous expanse of open terrain. Its enormous swath of desert and mountain wilderness ensures that you will have solitude to appreciate the park's many amazing geologic features; and it also ensures that you will have the opportunity to have an adventure, and if you're lucky, the chance to discover things that have been lost. For example, earlier this year, when thepeakseeker and I were attempting the Shorty's Well Route (Trip Report here) to the top of Telescope Peak, we came across an abandoned mine. While abandoned mines are common in Death Valley due to the park's mining history, the location of this mine was unexpected. We had backpacked into the Panamint Mountains from the Badwater Basin; and had passed Shorty's Well, and Shorty's Mine. From the mine, we had followed a foot trail which had gradually become steeper deep into the mountains. At the end of the first day of backpacking, we had traveled ten miles from the nearest "road"; and were truly off the grid.
As if there weren’t enough interesting things about Death Valley National Park, here’s one more for you: the park is honeycombed with tons of abandoned mines, representing a bygone era of mineral exploration and exploitation. Many of these mines can be seen from the trail, most notably in the Golden Canyon region, but a majority – if not all of these mines may be unsafe, due to a variety of factors – the mine may not be seismically stable, there may be hazardous gasses (methane), or there may be morlocks or other serious hazards within the mine. Fortunately, should you have the itch to explore a mine in a safe manner; there is an option for you: the Eureka Mine (provided you are headed there during the right season).
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.