Early Tuesday morning, March 27, 2018, I left to enjoy another adventure in Saline Valley, CA, which is THE most remote spot in California, and one of THE most remote places in the lower 48 states. This was quite an adventure, as I finally left the valley on Thursday, April 5th, after enjoying great scenery, great hiking, wonderful people, and good food.
Saline Valley is located in Death Valley National Park, but there are no amenities like most expect in a national park. You trade the amenities you're used to in a national park for breathtaking scenery, rugged camping, sparkling clean hot tubs - clothing optional - along with some of the most friendly people you'll ever meet. Every time I camp in Saline Valley, I meet up with people I've met before, and I always come away with new friends.
Photo: Saline Valley Road heads to the north, from Death Valley - Big Pine Road, about 10 miles east of California State Highway 168. From here, it's 40,4 miles to Middle Springs, and the trip will take about 3 hours, thanks to the bumpy, wash boarded Saline Valley Road, and the unimproved Bat Rock Road. Unless North Pass - or if you enter from the south, via South Pass - are icy or snowy, you really don't need four wheel drive, but you should have a vehicle with high clearance, as this isn't a road for your dad's Honda Civic. Without four wheel drive, you should be OK, as long as you stay on the road. If you pull over to let another vehicle pass, and you don't have four wheel drive, wish you the best of luck. Personally, I'd never take a trip to Saline Valley without four wheel drive.
Keep in mind there are ABSOLUTELY NO SERVICES, cell phone coverage is slim to none, and you're in remote, wild country. If you plan to camp at Middle Springs, take my advice and BE PREPARED.
Photo: A very typical section of Saline Valley Road. Most of the road is wide enough for two vehicles, but it's dusty, wash boarded and caution is advised. The road is actually an Inyo County Road, even though it passes through the Inyo National Forest in the first 8 miles. Also interesting is that the road forms the border of Death Valley National Park, as the park likes on the east side of the road, and B.L.M. land lies to the west.
Photo: This is a very typical section of Saline Valley Road. The photo makes the road look gentle, but it isn't, as sharp rocks, along with thorns that can puncture tire sidewalls lurk everywhere. Make sure your spare tire is in good shape, and if you have the capability, a second spare tire would be a great idea. Carry plenty of water, as this is hard-core desert.
Photo: North Pass, elevation 7316' and 12.1 miles from the junction of Saline Valley Road and Death Valley - Big Pine Road.
Photo: The "Bat Pole" welcomes you to the hot springs, as you're about half way from the turn off on to Bat Rock Road from Saline Valley Road. Lower Springs is to the right of the photo, Middle Springs - a.k.a. Palm Springs - is just under the Bat. If you look in the far distance beyond Lower Springs, you can make out a couple of green trees, which mark the unimproved Upper Springs, which is 2.4 miles from Middle Springs.
Photo: It's early Tuesday evening, March 27, 2018, and the temperature is 88 degrees, the wind is blowing at 20+ miles per hour, and the American flag is flying at my camp, and the camp in the distance.
Photo: I love to eat good food while I'm camping in the desert! For tonight's dinner, I enjoyed fried shrimp, fried potatoes, with onion, pepper and hot sauce, along with a couple of corn tortillas.
Photo: After I set up camp, I make the back of my truck my camp kitchen, and it works great! Sometimes, I bring a fold-up table for extra work space, but I neglected to bring it on this trip and I sorely missed the extra space.
Photo: My typical "Saline Valley breakfast" of fried bacon, eggs, potatoes, garnished with onion, jalapeno pepper, along with a healthy dose of hot sauce. When I'm camping in Saline Valley, I love to eat good. The only drawback is keeping food cool in the ice chest, as ice doesn't last long in the brutal climate of Saline Valley, even in late March.
If you choose to adventure here during the summer - not recommended - expect 115+ temperatures. Good luck keeping the ice in your ice chest intact. On this trip, in late March/early April, daily temperatures were in the mid to upper 90's.
Photo: Life is good at Middle Springs, also known as Palm Springs. A lazy afternoon... The area is clothing optional, heck nobody wears clothes in the hot tubs, and protocol dictates that if you want to take photos of naked people you ask first, or you're be labeled as a creep. I asked this young lady for permission to snap her photo, assured her I wouldn't show "anything," and had her preview the photo before saving it, and ultimately publishing it on this web site.
Photo: Cooking breakfast on the back of my truck. During the hundreds of camping trips I've enjoyed during my life, and the many trips I've enjoyed to Saline Valley, I've developed an efficient way to cook great food in the most remote corner of California, and just about any place. I inherited the cast iron frying pan from my mother; she inherited it from her mother, and it's at least 100 years old, and still cookin'.
Photo: My favorite breakfast of chorizo, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, along with salsa cruda, made from fresh ingredients.
Photo: Neighbor John takes a photo of a burro, one of the many who roam the area, who are both entertaining, and are nuisance animals. They love to chew on cardboard and they also know how to open ice chests! Keep that in mind... I had to chase a burro or two away from my camp during my 10-day stay at Middle Springs.
Photo: Camp dinner of fried pork, along with fried potato, onion and pepper. I ate fried potato with every meal, as I can never get enough potatoes. The fried pork was amazing, and good food always seem to taste better under the wide-open desert sky.
Photo: Sunset, and a cheery fire on Friday evening, March 30, 2018.
Photo: Frying Italian sausage, potatoes, onion and jalapeno peppers in my 4-quart Dutch oven for a very enjoyable, and typical camp dinner. I had purchased this large pot just before this trip, and I used it for several days, to cook breakfast and dinner. Before going on this camping trip I seasoned it, and by the time I got home, this pot was very well used and seasoned. The great thing about cast iron cookware is the more you use it, the better it gets.
Photo: Early Saturday evening, April 01, 2018, the sun is beginning to set, and casts a warm, mellow glow over my camp. Note the palm tree which frames the left side of the photo. Palm trees are not native to the area, as they were planted during the 1960's when the hot tubs were constructed. I marvel that the improved hot tubs, the palm trees, and the community of Middle Springs exists, as it's within Death Valley National Park, and the Park Service normally frowns on non-native "improvements." Every time I visit Middle Springs, I act as if it will be my last visit...
Photo: I marvel at the magnificent sunset on this Saturday evening. My friend Kat, seen in the middle of the photo, is marveling at the beautiful sunset, as she's doing the same thing I'm doing: Taking photos.
Photo: On this beautiful Saturday evening, I joined my friends, Michelle and Aaron for a pot luck dinner. My friend, Michelle Pappas smiles at the camera, as she fries artichoke hearts, as part of the dinner.
Photo: Michelle and I clown up, as we enjoy the beautiful sunset in Saline Valley.
Photo: Tonight's dinner of bratwurst, potatoes, artichoke hearts and carrots. You can't see it in the photo, but we enjoyed lots of beer and wine. Nothing but the best for Saline Valley cuisine!
Saline Valley is almost magical, and it's certainly enchanting, and the desert scenery is simply beautiful.
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