Last week Tom and I took a new kind of hike. We didn’t follow a map or a path. We pulled off onto the side of the road in a place that looked interesting next to the Kit Fox Hills and then we just picked a direction and hiked.
We have been driving by the Kit Fox Hills every time we go down to Furnace Creek. They are really pretty, small hills with stripes of red, white, and orange. So we decided to spend the morning walking around.
I chose the first direction – up a shallow canyon that looked interesting. It was fun to walk up the wash and into the lovely, soft colors of the canyon. There wasn’t anyone else around within miles and only a few cars drove by on the road. We walked to the end of the canyon and then picked another direction, turning right and then going down a different canyon.
Tom chose the next canyon, one that used to be the old Rhyolite – Skiddoo road. As we walked up the steep wash, we tried to imagine driving a Model T Ford up or down the canyon. When we reached the end of this canyon, we turned right again. Tom had read that going up a narrow canyon to the right resulted in another canyon where they ran the Rhyolite – Skidoo telephone line. After scrambling up and up over the rocks, he scouted ahead and realized we had turned one canyon too soon. So we came back down and went up a much easier wash to the next canyon.
We found the old telephone line, but could only see a few poles still standing. Then we followed this canyon back to the valley. This canyon had steeper walls and was much narrower than the one that had been the road.
The hardest part of the hike was the mile over the alluvial fan back to the truck. The rocks were hot, sharp, and uneven. They form what is called “desert pavement” – looking like a cobbled walkway, but you sink into the sand when you step on it.
We ended up wandering around the Kit Fox Hills for about six miles going up and down four canyons. In each canyon we found different kinds of rocks and the beautiful, delicate wildflowers that we have been enjoying all over the park.
Death Valley encourages this kind of “off the trail” exploring and we enjoyed the morning. We love that feeling of being the only people to have ever seen a place – even though we know that many have been through here before. But on this day, at this time, in the Kit Fox Hills, we were the only ones. Explorers heading for the great unknown!