A new day with new goals. Today our mission would be to make our way from the Argus Range to the hot springs in the Saline Valley. This wasn’t to be a direct shot, as we’d make a rather large detour; Hunter Mountain – Hidden Valley – Teakettle Junction – The Racetrack – Lippincott, and then end the day at the springs. Fully rested from a solids night sleep in our Tepui roof top tents, full from a freshly cooked breakfast and buzzed off hot coffee, it was a nice change of pace to be able to relax and enjoy our morning surroundings.
We took our time packing up and preparing for the days adventure. When we reach such remote and preserved areas like this, it can be hard to leave. Once ready, we cleaned up after ourselves and returned the cabin to better shape then when found and continued on our way.
Now out of the valley that we shared with the night, we’d set our heading north towards Panamint Springs. There we’d refuel our thirsty vehicles for our next stretch and restock on any misc supplies. It wasn’t smooth sailing though, the trail out was riddled with rocks and often times reclaimed by Mother Nature. Slow and steady, equipment preservation was crucial.
Our time on smooth and comfortable paved roads was short lived. Up the mountain pass, we turned right onto South Saline Road. Periodically maintained by Inyo County, there are no difficult sections here. The flat and flowy washboard trail slowly leads up to a great view of the Panamint Dunes and Valley.
A bit further up the path Y’s off into two different directions. Keeping left will be a direct shot into Saline Valley, turning right begins the ascent into Hunter Mountain, followed by a quick decent into Hidden Valley. We decided to take the long way around, as we had the time to spare and vehicles capable of making good time in rough conditions. Gaining elevation brought upon snow patches and mud.
The drop into Hidden Valley is fast and full of hairpin turns situated mostly along a shelf road. Didn’t take long to return to the familiar desert landscape.
Up next was the infamous Lippincott Pass. A giant sign discourages most inexperienced and unprepared motorists from traveling any further; looking for an alternative passage out to avoid the return trip in vehicles & tires that shouldn’t be there in the first place. In fact, we had numerous people ask if they could get out that way (pointing towards Lippincott) looking for approval that they could exit the park in that direction. Lot’s of disappointment in their faces as we told them what they didn’t want to hear.
What was a problem for them, was an adventure for us.
Down we went.
The Saline Hot Springs offered a vastly different atmosphere compared to the previous year. Turns out Valentines Day weekend at a clothing optional location can be quite the eye opener for someone who’s a bit more on the conservative side. Thankfully, it was much more mellow this time around and that allowed the group to enjoy the hot tubs. Finished off the night around a campfire surrounded by stories and laughter before turning in for the night.
Another day awaits.