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The 16th of January I drove out to Death Valley for a few days. Last time I camped up at Wildrose, this time I camped at the NPS campground at Stovepipe Wells. The weather was perfect, a little cool at night, and a little warm during the day. Really not much point to the trip, I just wanted to go somewhere. It was a new moon so it was absolutely dark, save for all the stars.

The first night I spent the night at Mesquite Dunes parking lot letting some long exposure photos go. The next day, Wednesday, I setup my tent at the Stovepipe Wells campground. This was just after MLK Day, I’m told the place had just emptied out. What I wasn’t expecting was the fighter jets flying overhead. Sometimes they would start up right at 7am and sometimes they’d be around in the afternoon. I had problems sleeping, so I’d sleep in what I could, then go lay in the truck bed for a while. I’d go over to the SPW restaurant for their breakfast buffet, which beat cooking for myself.

I had brought along my new Yaesu FT-817, RigBlaster, and Buddipole. I set them up and tried to work HF digital on 20 meters but wasn’t having much luck. I was picking up tons of contacts, but I wasn’t able to get out. I suspect it was the antenna configuration being wrong, and not really knowing how to work all the gear yet. Still more manuals to read before trying again.

The second night I was there, there was a good fire going at the group fire ring at the NPS campground. Some campers and SPW employees were burning some lumber and pallets, so we spent several hours hanging out there shooting the shit while the fire burned.


Thursday the 18th I decided to drive over to Furnace Creek and Badwater. I was surprised to see the store, saloon, and cafe at Furnace Creek ranch had been torn down and were being rebuilt. I’m glad I didn’t decide to go hang out over there instead.

After a while I took off down the West Side Road, which was a bit of a mistake. The road was so washboarded, it shook me and the truck to death. Some spots were smooth riding, but the rest was terrible. I drove down to the road leading over to Hanaupah Canyon and turned around. If I had a jeep I probably would’ve went further.

That evening on the way back I stopped at the Mesquite Dunes right at sunset and took some photos of the dunes and colors. I had two bundles of firewood so I lit them up and hung out at my campsite. The jets were even flying at night, looking like they were flying somewhere from the East.


Bright and early the next day the fighter jets were flying over at 8 AM. This time they were lower and seemed to be doing some dogfighting. I kind of had enough after three nights so I started driving home. Plus there was a storm rolling in so I didn’t know if that would give me snow to drive through or not. Doing some reading about the jets I found out that not only were they easily seen in the Panamint Valley, but the Father Crowley Overlook/Vista Point was the popular spot to watch them.

From the parking lot there, there’s a dirt road that leads off closer to the canyon. There was a great view overlooking the valley floor and a big canyon right to the side of me. As I was driving in, a jet came shooting out of the canyon right next to the overlook. It was incredibly close and incredibly loud, I felt it rattling the truck. This is clearly the place to be in order to see jets up close and personal. There was also a great view of the Panamint Valley below, so it should afford a good view of jets zooming through there. I waited around for 15-20 minutes in the wind, but nothing else was flying around.


I’m sort of glad I left when I did because the next day the Federal government shutdown. It’s unclear what would’ve been affected, I recall last time that some of the roads to like Badwater were closed down.

Next time I go I want to explore the area around Trona. After reading the “Hunt for the Death Valley Germans”, it gave me new ideas of where to explore.

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