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Old 12-02-2007, 11:03 PM   #1
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Question Death Valley: Which approach?

Last year, on Jan. 1--wait, that's this year--, anyway, we entered Death Valley from the east (Vegas/Baker) entrance to Furnace Creek campground. This year we're considering coming in from State Hwy 395 on the west, to Furnace Creek by way of Stovepipe Wells. I know there are some high passes on the way in from 395. Anyone have any advice? I'm towing a 19' Bambi with a Dodge Dakota 4.7 V8.
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Old 12-02-2007, 11:23 PM   #2
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Yes, keep it in low gear because that downhill run into Stovepipe is a monster. It is real easy to burn up brakes on that hill. Keep it slow and safe.
It is a beautiful way into the valley.
By the way (cheap shameless plug here), you can now rent a GPS Ranger from the Visitors center at Furnace Creek. This little device will operate like a personal tour guide to the valley. If you are not familiar with the valley this will help you get around and see the sites. This GPS Ranger program is a program of the Death Valley Natural History Association. If you are a DV enthusiast your membership to that association will go a long way to helping these folks out. We are lifetime members and help where we can. (end of cheap, shameless plug)
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Old 12-02-2007, 11:58 PM   #3
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Thanks for the advice to take it slow into DV. How about the same way out? Is the upgrade a killer too? My 2002 Dakota is a 4.7L V8. Is this a route out of DV that is too steep?
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Old 12-03-2007, 03:37 AM   #4
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Well, it is a steep pull but it is cooler now so I would recommend taking your time. and keep an eye onm the tranny temp if you have a gage for that. It is a long pull up going out and then you drop down to Panamint and again uphill to go out towards 395. It is over 5000 feet climb in about 15 - 20 miles to Towne Pass and that is the one you will have to watch things. But really, it is no different than coming into the east end of the valley, from the Nevada side you go from 4200 feet at Daylight Pass down to about 200 feet. It is steep but if you take it reasonable you will do fine. Besides, a gizillion people go to Death valley every year towing - Most of them never have a problem.
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Old 12-03-2007, 08:24 AM   #5
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Hi,

Back in Sept I came into Death Valley from Hwy 395, with 19' Bambi and a Ford Ranger 4.0 liter V-6. I turned off 395 at Olancha onto Hwy 190 to Stovepipe Wells.

That section of road is marked in my Rand McNally as a "scenic route" which it is. It was fairly steep and windy with enough downhill braking so I could smell "hot brakes" so I stopped about 1/2 way in for 15~20 mins on the side of the road to let everything cool down. If coming up the other way, there will be a lot more uphill, but what I think I was surprized about was it was up and down so you will get both if coming from Stovepipe wells to Olancha.

One thing to keep in mind is to just ignore the morons that will be on your bumper and drive at the pace you feel comfortable at and don't let them make you feel a need to hurry. There are enough places where you can pull over onto the shoulder and let them on by.

On the long uphills, my truck settled in right at about 22 mph in second gear and about 3/4 throttle. That is where my truck is pulling good and not hurting itself. Naturally the A/C is off etc, and it helps to just put it down into second so the automatic transmission does not try and shift up and down.

Anyway, should be nice. Attached should be a pic from along Hwy 190 about 1/2way to Stovepipe Wellls where I stopped to let the brakes cool.

regards... Dave
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Old 12-03-2007, 09:37 AM   #6
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Uphill rpms?

Thanks, Dave!
I am curious, though, about what rpm your engine reaches when you feel it is at max strength without undue strain on the transmission. I tend to stay just at or under 3500 rpm with my small V-8. Anyone else want to weigh in on this?
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Old 12-03-2007, 11:34 AM   #7
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I looked back at some posts I did when going thru Death Valley and I was mainly at 2200 rpm in 2nd gear on the big, big hills. That is where the engine was humming along and from the "feel" of it you could tell it could run like that all day without hurting anything.

I looked in my owners manual, and my V-6 is rated at 207 HP @ 5250 rpm and 238 ft/lb torque at 3000 rpm so my thinking is you are much better off staying at/around/under your max torque rpm. Sometimes you will hear somebody going up a hill with the engine just screaming away, but they won't last long if you do that. My suggestion is to see what your manual says is your max torque rpm and then lock into a gear that keeps you at or below that rpm at 1/2 - 3/4 throttle.

One other thing to keep an eye out for is gas consumption. My normal towing mpg is around 12~13 mpg, but when dragging up big, big hills it is down around 6 mpg. With only a 19 gallon tank that cuts the range way down. I bought gas in Olancha and again at Furnace Creek because I was worried about running out before I got to Hwy 95 going to Las Vegas. I think it was about $4 per gallon at the station in Furnace Creek.

At any rate, I didn't meet any other Airstream's on the road thru Death Valley, but there were two of them parked off to the side of somebodies house in Stovepipe Wells.

regards, Dave

ps - about a page or two back in this forum is my posting called "Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast Road Trip" which is the one where I went thru Death Valley which has some more pics etc. I don't quite know how to post a link to it but you can find it there.
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Old 12-03-2007, 09:33 PM   #8
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Escape Pod, rather than repeat the entire trip in from Olancha on your exit, turn south just before Panamint Springs and take CA 178 out through Trona. Gives you a view of the Panamint Valley. You may even want to stop at the Trona Pinnacles just south of Searles Dry Lake as you leave Trona. The Pinnacles have been the sight of several movies needing scenery that would represent other worlds, desert warfare, etc. Be cautioned, the dirt road off 178 is about 7 miles long and rough but can be negotiated with an Airstream, just keep the speed down. You can check out the scenery at this web site: Trona, CA

Another option, given that you have a relatively short tow vehicle and trailer, is to take Emigrant Canyon Road through Emigrant and Wildrose Canyons. You turn south off CA 190 about 9 miles west of Stovepipe Wells. The highest two passes are 5318 and 5547 ft but it is a long gradual grade. There are many tight turns on Emigrant Canyon Road near the two passes and there is some dirt as you enter Wildrose Canyon going west, 2-3 miles, but not a problem for your length vehicles. There is great scenery along this route, a small campground at the junction of Emigrant and Wildrose Canyons and the side road to the Charcoal Kilns is suitable for a small trailer. The last 2 1/2 mile to the kilns is dirt but fairly smooth. They are very well maintained and worth the side trip. I guess my only caution is to get a weather report for this route, especially if you plan to camp here.

We'd take our 25' CCD and Dodge Ram tow vehicle through but then we have quite a few miles of desert dirt roads and even ice and snow on our rigs. Let us know your route and how you liked it after your trip.
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Old 12-03-2007, 10:18 PM   #9
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You could do that but the Park Service Map states that that road is limited to vehicles less than 25 feet in length. So with a 19 foot trailer you are probably be over the limit by a few feet. Just be careful if you do elect to take that route.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Motoman

Another option, given that you have a relatively short tow vehicle and trailer, is to take Emigrant Canyon Road through Emigrant and Wildrose Canyons. You turn south off CA 190 about 9 miles west of Stovepipe Wells. The highest two passes are 5318 and 5547 ft but it is a long gradual grade. There are many tight turns on Emigrant Canyon Road near the two passes and there is some dirt as you enter Wildrose Canyon going west, 2-3 miles, but not a problem for your length vehicles. There is great scenery along this route, a small campground at the junction of Emigrant and Wildrose Canyons and the side road to the Charcoal Kilns is suitable for a small trailer. The last 2 1/2 mile to the kilns is dirt but fairly smooth. They are very well maintained and worth the side trip. I guess my only caution is to get a weather report for this route, especially if you plan to camp here.

We'd take our 25' CCD and Dodge Ram tow vehicle through but then we have quite a few miles of desert dirt roads and even ice and snow on our rigs. Let us know your route and how you liked it after your trip.
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Old 12-03-2007, 11:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buttercup
You could do that but the Park Service Map states that that road is limited to vehicles less than 25 feet in length. So with a 19 foot trailer you are probably be over the limit by a few feet. Just be careful if you do elect to take that route.
Good catch Buttercup, I didn't note length limit on my Triple A (AAA) Death Valley map. I was there in April 2006 with my motorcycle and there was a trailer in the campground at the intersection of the two canyon roads so I wouldn't have anticipated the limit. It's too bad, it's a really great area. I guess an alternative is to camp across the street from the Panamint Springs Resort or drive up fro the valley and make some day trips with the Dakota into Emigrant and Wildrose Canyons.

Also, the length limit doesn't apply to 178 so that highway is still a good alternative.
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Old 12-03-2007, 11:39 PM   #11
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We've gone in from Olancha several times with the excella using either the 1977 GMC 3/4ton PU or the '67 binder. No problems up or down. As everyone has said, let the gears do the work. If you smell brakes, stop and have a cup of coffee. We usually let the Excella brakes do most of the braking and keep the TV in reserve. The Excella is disc brake and doesn/t seem prone to fade.
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Old 12-04-2007, 10:11 AM   #12
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Thumbs up Great feedback!

Wow! We were blown away by DV on our first visit last January, but thanks to all of you seasoned DV veterans, our second voyage to this incredible place will have a lot more depth (pun intended) to it! BTW, I recently discovered, and bookmarked, this website that has a link ("Morning Report") providing daily reports of road and weather conditions in Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
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Old 12-04-2007, 03:40 PM   #13
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Yes, that map is a life saver. I found it online a few years ago and it has tons of great information. There is an update but I have not found an online PDF of it yet. But if I do I will post it.
178 is not a bad road at all - it's is just that little section if you go that one way.
We came out that way once and had no problems other than the yahoos who tailgate if you aren't go fast enough. But as was mentioned before, let them go around.

That morning report is certainly quite valuable! For a while they didn't have it online at all - the National Park Service had to shut it down ofr server security reasons if you believe that! Aparently, the government would only allow certain few people to upload files to government servers and nobody in Death Valley was allowed to do that. So the Death Valley Natural History Assn. stepped up to the plate and gave the park service some server space to upload the file. And with that they can put a link back on their site. The morning report is actually downloaded from the association's web site.

I'll look for a new map and see if I can't post a link for that...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Motoman
Good catch Buttercup, I didn't note length limit on my Triple A (AAA) Death Valley map. I was there in April 2006 with my motorcycle and there was a trailer in the campground at the intersection of the two canyon roads so I wouldn't have anticipated the limit. It's too bad, it's a really great area. I guess an alternative is to camp across the street from the Panamint Springs Resort or drive up fro the valley and make some day trips with the Dakota into Emigrant and Wildrose Canyons.

Also, the length limit doesn't apply to 178 so that highway is still a good alternative.
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