Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dispatches from No Cell Phone...

Coverage Valley...

would be an appropriate name for Panamint Valley. Verizon and company has deemed the area as unworthy of a microwave tower. I'm OK with this "No Service" approach to remote.

This desert depression is a short raven's flight west of its famous neighbor-Death Valley National Park. After spending four nights there, I call it Death Valley Lite. There's canyons, mountains, ghost towns, waterfalls, sand, solitude, abandoned mines and one Panamint Springs Resort. 

The PS Resort is the Valley's population center (about 30). When campers and motel guests stay the night, the population quadruples. Naming this crash pad a Resort is sort of a misnomer. Toilets plug up daily, hot showers are problematic, wifi is in name only and litter blows freely throughout the compound. The unofficial slogan of the staff is, "we're not paid enough to care!" 

On the plus side, the restaurant has good bar food, smiling helpers and a beer selection that puts most  Biker Bars to shame. (In other words, heaps more than Coors and Bud Lite). Purchasing an IPA is on the honor system. Choose one of 130 titles from the Winnebago sized cooler, flick its cap and start drinking. Settle up with the bartender when you're done. I like the style. 

I met Evan, a part owner of the spread. He was in his late-twenties, wore camouflage pants, long hair and a beard. His shirt announced "Keep calm and return fire." He was a wealth of information about dirt bike trails but never heard of a canyon of historical significance just fifteen miles away in the National Park. Go figure. 

Ahh! But the views from the campground of the Cottonwood and Panamint Ranges are skip a heartbeat beautiful. Happy Hour sunsets are silently thrilling, except when fighter jets from nearby China Lake Naval Weapons Center flex their might and muscle at sand dune level. Oftentimes, the aircraft are heard but not seen. The fly boys and girls are kind enough to call it quits at nightfall, thus restoring peace in the Valley. 

BTW Thank you pilots for your service to our country. 

The other population center is thirty miles south-the one full time resident ghost town of Ballarat. From 1897-1917, this mining camp/supply center boasted a post office, a Wells Fargo station, a school, a jail, a morgue, three hotels and seven saloons. There wasn't any churches. Now, there's a sign proclaiming the town to be "free." Going so far as to say, it's OK to shoot your gun. 

Freedom has its limits. Don't drive over 15 MPH past the trailers, rusting mining equipment, blue-tarp roof outbuildings and General Store. You can camp there, but it'll cost you $3 a night. Don't forget to give your neighbors a wide berth and stay out of their line of fire. 

Besides being wild and remote, Panamint Valley is just plain out there. I hiked a few canyons, went high along some hills to old mines and spent the rest of my time taking in the views. 

One day, I'll be back to do it over again. I'd even camp at the Panamint Springs Resort. Maybe (touch wood) the plumbing will be repaired.

Cheers from somewhere else out there,

1 comment:

  1. It is beautiful there in the Panamint Valley - we drove through in September 1971 on our way from Tuolumne Meadows campground in Yosemite NP to Las Vegas. The two adults and two kids in the '65 Plymouth, dark navy blue, no a/c, had finished all 5 gallons of water in the car by the time we made it to Las Vegas around sunset.