Our new spot in Panamint Valley is beautiful! We are alone on BLM land up against big desert mountains like Sentinel Peak (9634′). A couple cars go by during the day as hikers head up to Surprise Canyon Wilderness. Other than that it’s dead quiet and very remote. The down side is there is no cell service or internet so our blog posts will be inconsistent. Today we had to drive to Ridgecrest because one of the truck tires was flat and needed to be serviced. Lame.
Yesterday we hiked Surprise Canyon and were indeed very surprised by how cool it was. We hiked out and back for a total of 8.6 miles with 3,117′ of climbing. The hike starts at the end of a gravel road in the canyon. The first 2 miles of this trail are fairly challenging and very slow going. The perennial spring runs right down the canyon making the going a bit wet. On top of that, there is a waterfall to navigate up and several steep rocky sections that require scrambling and the use of all four limbs. The trail climbs steadily up the canyon the entire way with little reprieve. Sheer rock walls tower above and the different rock types and layers were fun to study.
After what I call the waterfall section and the muddy section, we came to the bramble section. The trail is pretty overgrown as you tunnel through and around some sort of vine/thorny bush that looked like it was taking over the canyon in this section. Being a warm day I was wearing shorts so my legs got pretty scratched up. After the bramble sector we entered the rocky section. For a couple miles the trail here is just a bed of rocks snaking up the canyon above a jumbled mess of a wash that must regularly get torn apart with rains.
We really wanted to make it all the way to the old Panamint City but were worried with how slow going the first part was. So we ate our sandwiches, hiked a couple more miles and then turned around to ensure we made it back before dark. This hike is pretty secluded hike and a true adventure. I’d definitely hike this again.