After lunch we headed back south to pick up Death Valley West Side road. This is mainly a graded dirt road with some interesting stops along the way. We stopped at a couple sites but time was ticking away and we still had a fair amount to cover before reaching camp. The West Side road meets up with Mengel Pass trail to the east (aka Warm Springs trail). We were heading towards the “cabins” which are DVNP Adopt-a-Cabin sites. Old mining cabins, they have been preserved and maintained, available on a first come, first serve bases. We had hoped one of the three would be available. As it would be, all three had been taken. Okay, onto plan B.
One member in the group scouted ahead of the main group, looking for a suitable spot. One was quickly found near Striped Butte. As it was, it was now dark so everyone got
their camps setup and started dinner. Luckily a fire pit was there (no open fires in DVNP) so a fire was started as temps were dropping quickly. Surprisingly the last couple managed to find us in the middle of nowhere. I had to give them credit as I am not sure I would have found us and I knew where we were.
Morning came and with the dawn, we saw why Striped Butte got its name. It is a very unusual hill, pushed up vertically so all the strata layers are almost vertical, unlike any of the surrounding hills. Very cool to see but it makes you think about what forces it took to create this. Packing up camp, we head to Mengel Pass, the hardest part of the entire route planned. This is somewhat of a rock garden type climb, in two different steps. Our group consisted of a very mixed set of rigs, from our Cherokee with Kamparoo travel trailer to a Liberty with an Adventure Trailers Horizon in tow, a couple well built Tacomas, one with a new Flippac camper, an Xterra and even a Land Rover. This made for any interesting morning, seeing how the different rigs and drivers handled the rocks. Surprisingly our Cherokee and trailer walked up the obstacles
without any drama and almost made it look easy. Most of the other rigs came thru without much issue but there was some rock stacking to help them along. The only one that had any issues was the Liberty, with open diffs front and rear and trailer in tow.
If you have never done any offroading with a trailer in tow, it is a very different experience than just wheeling your rig solo. You have to take into account you have what amounts to a big boat anchor behind you and you have to think about vehicle placement, not only for the main rig but the trailer behind you. You do things much slower and with more finesse than just hammering down on the loud pedal. As it happened, we decided to hook the winch up from a rig that passed through already and give an assist to get the Liberty and trailer over the hardest spot. After that, he was good for the rest of the trail. As a side note, we found out later that we came over Mengel Pass “the hard way”. I guess most people go down it, heading east, where we went up heading west. I guess a number of groups have turned around after trying to go up pass. Who knew?