Feb 22

Day 7: Titus Canyon Road

Category: Death Valley

The road tilted radically upward and began to twist on itself in earnest. We drove smoothly up the crunchy gravel road, coasting over a narrow pass and entered Titus canyon road. The view took our breath away! The weather was highly variable and changed every 15 minutes from rain to sun to and back again. Shadows rolled across slopes visible for 30 miles in all directions.

Titanothere canyon

We stopped to make lunch and then began the descent into the canyon. Only a few other drivers passed by; most of the time we couldn’t see any sign of human activity.

To get a sense of scale, here is a picture showing another truck which had passed us about 30 minutes earlier. It is inside the green circle. You can see the Titus canyon road snaking around below us.

As we proceeded lower into the canyon and the steep walls rose around us, the weather changed like a long time-sequence film. From one minute to the next, it was a different place. At times the light was dull, the rocks monochrome and the wind lifeless; I was hardly inspired to lift the camera. Then the clouds shifted, sliding over one another like a silent door into the heavens, and instantly the scenery was transformed. Bands of bright green and blue oxides stood out from the mountainsides; shadows limned impressive erosion gullies. Ancient volcanic points previously hidden by sheets of gauzy cloud scratched the flawless and impossibly blue sky.

In this picture you can see how the sun lingers on a nearby hillside, defying the storm overtaking the peak behind.

Within Titus canyon, there is so much large-scale natural beauty and the silence can be so extreme that it’s easy to conclude that the hand of man has barely touched the region. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But man’s puny manipulations do become visible as the road reaches the bottom of Titus canyon and begins to level out into a broad valley. Looking backward at a cliff covered with black desert varnish, I noticed the flat-topped gravel pile typical of a mineshaft. If you look at the highlighted region, you can see the opening of a mineshaft. Once I became accustomed to the signs, I realized that mines were all over the place.

mine shaft in titanothere canyon

We stopped to take a closer look at one of them, but time and safety prevented a thorough exploration. Maybe next time. It’s pretty hard to look down that enticing tunnel and then turn away! But if i ever go into one, it’s going to be cautiously, with someone outside, radio communication and not in a hurry.


2 Comments so far

  1. Jim March 15th, 2013 11:44 PM

    Dan, you did Titus Canyon, not Titanothere Canyon.

  2. Dan Greenspan March 16th, 2013 12:22 AM

    Jim, you are correct – somehow I got the two mixed up. I will edit the post. Thanks for the correction!

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