The trip from Eureka Dunes to Homestake Camp began with the sun rising over the Last Chance Range illuminating the dunes and revealing their sinuous shapes. The ground at the base of the dunes, the location of our previous nights camp, was still warm from the prior day’s heat.
Our journey for the day would take us from Eureka Dunes up Steel Pass and through the narrow rocky ledge steps of Dedeckera Canyon and down the warm spring lined Saline Valley to Lippincott Road. Lippincott road is a steep and narrow shelf road that climbs to the Lippincott Mine area and connects to Racetrack Road in Racetrack Valley. Sixty plus off-road miles later we would arrive at our camp for the night at Homestake Camp.
The Eureka Dunes came alive as the morning sunlight cast shadows and highlights creating wonderfully abstract shapes. The forms of captured motion. After trying to photograph just the right combination of light and shadow and form, it was time to begin the rest of our day.
With a cup of coffee and breakfast finished, we began to break camp and prepare for today’s trip.
We set off by driving through the soft sand to the East of the dunes and toward the high walled Dedeckera Canyon. There, before ascending the Joshua Tree lined gravelly track of Steel Pass, we would first have to climb the three narrow solid rock steps that have made this part of the trip famous. The approach changes from a gravelly track to a rocky stream bed with gravel pools in between. Successfully climbing the Dedeckera steps, with the only casualty a rear mud flap, we proceeded toward Steel Pass where we were “strafed” by a fighter jet playing in the canyon.
The track through the open rocky landscape of Steel Pass is an easy drive though very slow at times because of the numerous large rocks littering the trail. The landscape fills with Joshua Trees as you climb in elevation toward the passes’ summit.
Once you reach the summit and begin your descent into the Saline Valley and have traveled a few more miles of very rocky track you enter a wide wash. The wash is gravel in the beginning with a very distinct track. Barrel Cactus and Cholla line the sides of the wash.
However, after several miles the track all but disappears except for a few remnants here and there. Thankfully some well-placed Cairns and tags on some bushes in the most confusing sections helped to guide us through. I had previously marked and downloaded our route into our Delorme inReach Explorer which confirmed our location and that we were headed in the correct direction and actually on track. The wash seems never-ending. So much so, that while falling asleep that night, I would dream of navigating rocks and stream beds.
Finally, well after lunch time, we reached Upper Warm Spring. The first of three warm springs in this section of the Saline Valley. We stopped here to take a break and have a bite to eat. It was warm, and even though the spring was lush with trees, any shade was difficult to find beyond the truck. A fence entirely encircled the spring and trees, and accessing shade was impossible in the midday sun.
Navigating our way a little more than a mile further down the wash the track finally climbs out of the wash and onto the sands of Saline Valley road. It had taken 4 hours to travel a little more 3o miles. We passed through middle and then lower warm springs areas, past Bat Junction and continued down the graded road toward Lippincott Road.
The destination was Homestake Camp about a mile from the Racetrack Playa and still another 20 miles away and up the very steep, narrow and rough Lippincott Road. The last few miles before turning onto Lippincott Road were very rocky with extremely high washboards. Finding a comfortable speed was impossible.
We welcomed the change as we turned toward Lippincott Pass and made our way toward the old mining road that quickly climbs and serpentines up the mountainside. The road scratched into the hillside becomes very narrow and steep after a deceptive first mile or so. Fortunately, right where the road turns to a 4WD only track, there is a turnout allowing the less adventurous to retreat. Once you pass this spot, just beyond the old the National Monument sign, you are committed to continuing to the top. Narrow, sometimes feeling only wide enough for four wheels, the rough track is then made even thinner by areas of washouts. Climbing to the pass is beautiful with the views changing from looking up the canyon and back to the enormous vistas of the Saline Valley and the road that you climbed to get right where you are.
As you summit, the road turns left to the Racetrack or right to Homestake Camp and further on to the Lippincott Mine. The Camp was empty, so we chose the site with the “best” view.
Another day of adventure complete!