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My Expedition Vehicle & Trailer

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Death Valley Shakedown Cruise For My Expedition Trailer - - Dec 10th, 2010

To allow me to go further and stay longer when exploring I recently kicked off a project to acquire a trailer that could be taken with me offroad. I purchased a slightly used custom-built trailer with the following key features:

Dexter axle, spring over, electric brakes, Rancho shocks
Tail gate, removeable
Camping Labs 8'x6' roof top tent
Lid, hinged and removeable
19 gallon stainless steel water tank
65 Watt Solar panel on retractable slides, removeable
dual Optima blue top deep cycle batteriess in a lockable nose box
1500 watt inverter
Lock N Roll multi-axis hitch
Powder coated paint almost everywhere
Jeep leaf Springs with Poly bushings
Integrated rear hitch receiver

I recently completed a series of electrical and other upgrades and decided to take it out to Death Valley for a 3 day trial. Altogether I had an additional 25 gallons of gas which extended my range to over 700 miles, enabling me to hang out in the back country without visiting any high-priced gas stations.

Past Trona I stopped for this great view of the valley.

On the other side of the road there is a whimsical cave-shrine and you never know what sorts of odd figures will be resident.

From a 2009 trip

My plan was to set up a base camp near the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns and then set out from there to explore each day. The campground was at 7300' and had a little snow and ice on the ground. A perfect excuse for a tent mounted up high!

Some views of the famous kilns built by Chinese labor to supply charcoal to the local ore processing  operations. This is your first view of them as you come up the dirt road.

Construction was completed in 1877. The charcoal from the kilns was used as fuel for two smelters in the Argus Range to the west. Each of the 10 kilns is 25 feet tall and has a circumference of about 30 feet. They were only in use for a year.

Friday night the temps dipped down to 36 outside. That campsite sees only a brief window of sunlight so Saturday morning a breakfast of pancakes and thin-sliced fried Spam was a great way to bust the chill. I gassed up the truck and I rolled out to head into Death Valley towards Stovepipe wells. From there I crossed over into Nevada and turned onto a dirt road to access Titus Canyon.

Looking back to where the trail first descends into the canyon.

When you've climbed higher up to Red Pass you can easily spot other vehicles winding their way in.
The smaller red one is an old school VW powered dune buggy with an old couple and their dog. The darker vehicle was a Land Cruiser with some tourists driving even slower than the dune buggy! The canyon is incredibly rugged and you wonder about the first miners who dared to venture in.

 Red Pass in my GPS topo map.

This is the view heading down from Red Pass towards the mining town of Leadfield

It is not long before you start spotting the black mouths of the mines and the tell-tale shape of their tailings.

Heading out of town towards Death Valley

 The scenery in Titus Canyon kept urging me to roll further forward.

But it ended almost too soon and I drove out into the bright afternoon sun. I amused myself by creating some shadow "art" before I drove to Ubehebe Crater.

The sun was rapidly dropping so I jetted over to Ubehebe for a quick visit.

The setting sun accented the multicolored layers in the crater's walls.

Soon the setting sun was painting panoramas that refused to be ignored and I turned my camera towards them.

As it became darker I headed back to my camp site to prepare dinner and bed down for the night.

Sunday morning was another cold one and after breakfast I tried heading further up the road to the upper campgrounds and Telescope Peak. The road was so icy that it was impossible to go much more than a half a mile. I headed back down the hill to investigate an old trail that i had spotted on the way in. I did not realize that a history lesson awaited me.

After driving up a ways and steadily gaining altitude I spotted some old stone work through the trees.

And this magnificent chimney and fireplace. Can't you just imagine a roaring fire warming you inside the cabin as snow silently enfolds the landscape?

Who built it all and why? It appeared to have been wired for electricity but the wires were made with old-fashioned insulation.

Large retaining walls and more stone stairways

Who was it that enjoyed such a great view, all the way to the glistening white snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains?

The cabin appeared to have had water piped in so I decided to follow the trail further up hill. Before too long I came to this water tank with its collapsed roof and ventilation screens.

The other side added some interesting facts that led me to investigate further once I was home

United States Civilian Conservation Corps Company 908 from the mid 1930's!

Later research told the story of how the park was created and that the infrastructure was carefully but rapidly put in place by the men of the CCC.  This cabin was intended for the first Park Superintendent.

Soon it was time to head back to camp, pack up, gas the truck and start driving home. I really enjoyed getting the trailer out and exploring more of Death Valley. Thanks for joining me!


  1. Awesome trip Jim...thanks so much for sharing...almost like being there!!

  2. wow, that trailer is badass. Mind if I ask how much it set you back?

    When we were up there this weekend we saw a full-size Chevy passenger van attempting to get up the Kilns, he had got himself stuck sideways in the snow bank and was spinning uselessly. We offered to help but they declined. They were blocking the trail up so we turned around and headed down to Daylight pass/Chloride City rd

  3. Very interesting thanks for sharing.

  4. I am really interested in your trailer. Would you be willing to send me some more detailed pics of it. I would like to build one.
    Not sure how to contact you so I will watch this thread in hopes you will respond and we can set something up.

  5. Josh, more detail on the trailer can be found here: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/47614-I-joined-the-Cult?highlight=cult

  6. Thanks very much