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Northern loop

Discuss 4x4'ing, Hiking, Backpacking, Camping
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wbdeford
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Northern loop

Post by wbdeford » Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:24 pm

I'm planning to visit the northern part of the park over about 4 days next month. My current planned route, with high clearance and 4WD, is a loop starting in the Ubehebe crater area, down to the Racetrack -> Hidden Valley -> Hunter Mountain -> Saline Valley, north and over to the Eureka Valley and back to Ubehebe.

Is this a bad idea? Is the other direction better? It avoids the southern portion of Saline Valley Road, but still has to go through South Pass. I don't have the experience to tackle Lippincott Rd, so won't be going that way.

Other big question: Are most flat tires on these roads attributable to driving too fast? IOW, Can flat tires generally be avoided if one is willing to drive slowly?

Thanks!

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Tom
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Post by Tom » Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:36 pm

The loop sounds fine. Generally the racetrack road and the Saline Valley road are heavily washboarded.

As for flats, yes driving slowly should do the trick to avoid them. With passenger car tires just the normal rocks plus washboard may be enough to cause flats; with truck tires its probably that rock you misjudged or did not see in time to miss. Sidewalls are the weakest parts of most modern tires, so be extra careful when the rocks are sharp, and if you can't avoid driving on a sharp rock try to place the center of the tire on the rock so the tread takes the hit and the rock does not cut the sidewall.
Tom
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kwalsh
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Post by kwalsh » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:04 am

I just did this loop last week, although instead of Hunter and South Pass we did Lippencott. Washboard is horrible in some spots but otherwise all was in decent condition. I believe South Pass through Grapevine is in bad shape and in all honesty Lippencott *might* be better.

Slow will reduce flats for sure. Do be advised some of the washboard can be horrendous at low speeds unless you are at a crawl. When there is 20 miles of washboard in front of you 5 mph isn't a realistic option and in many cases 30 mph will be more livable to 10 mph. What I'm saying is, be sure to bring a full size spare - you may not be able to tolerate slow all the time. Also, make sure your vehicle has LT tires on it, not P.

One last point - and a very important one. Calculate how much gas you will need! That is a long loop given the closest gas is Furnace Creek on both ends. You'll have over a 100 miles of pavement on that tank before hitting almost 200 of dirt. Lower mileage on dirt usually. My 1992 Toyota 4WD can not make that loop on a single tank. I bring a 5 gal can with me. I fill it (and the truck) at Furnace Creek. I can usually put the gas in the truck at Racetrack at the end of the first day. That way I'm only driving with a full can for one day.

Have a blast - that is an awesome loop. I've done it twice.

Ken

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Gowergulch42
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Post by Gowergulch42 » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:14 am

We did both South Pass and Lippincott a few weeks ago, and Lippincott was better than SP. Lippincott is slow going though but not as rough except for on the floor of Saline Valley on the connector road where we kicked it into 4wd.
Check out my reports and informative ramblings at http://dvexplore.blogspot.com

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wbdeford
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Post by wbdeford » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:09 pm

Thanks for the tips, guys! I'm planning to take a side trip to Big Pine to get gas. I'm renting a Wrangler...OK, here's my off road experience:

I drove into Hanaupah Canyon in a Toyota Sequoia to about where the canyon makes it's sharp right turn to the west. Very slow driving around a lot of big rocks and I almost got stuck with a rock blocking a front and a rear wheel, but managed to get out. I err on the side of going too slow....

Is that enough to try Lippincott? Is it easier going west to east? How hard is it to turn around if I realize I've bitten off more than I can chew?

David_Bricker
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Post by David_Bricker » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:09 am

Lippincott with a Sequoia could be dicey. It is generally better to run Lippincott downhill (east to west) if you have low range.

The problem with the Sequoia will be its size. There are a few spots that are narrow, and one spot where you'll need to take several passes to make the turn. I have however, taken a H3 down Lippincott and didn't have trouble.

David Bricker / SYR

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Gowergulch42
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Post by Gowergulch42 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:06 pm

The places to turn around are already past the hairy part. There are a few above the hairy part and a few below it, and I think thats it. There are, of course, multiple hairy parts though.
Check out my reports and informative ramblings at http://dvexplore.blogspot.com

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wbdeford
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Post by wbdeford » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:08 am

I had a Sequoia in Hanaupah Canyon, but this time I will be in a 2 door Jeep Wrangler. Still haven't decided what I'm going to do yet, but thanks for all the great info for me to consider!

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wbdeford
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Post by wbdeford » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:10 am

The rental company (Fox) made my decisions for me....I got there and they said "we sold all our Wranglers....here's a Liberty". I get in the Liberty and there is no 4WD. The rental guy says, "it's AWD". I look underneath and there are no front drive shafts. They have NO 4x4s at all! I didn't have time to chase down another rental company, so I went with the Liberty. So, South Pass and Lippincott were out. I drove up 395 to Big Pine and hit the Saline, Eureka, and Racetrack Valleys from there.

It was even worse than no 4x4....the Liberty had 35k miles, 3 Goodyear Wranglers (ironic) and one Firestone. The front left tire was at least 80% worn and the two rear ones probably 70%. None of the tires had valve stem caps, so who does the maintenance? Windshield washer didn't work either, and the B trip odometer kept spontaneously resetting itself....twice an overheating light came on while going up steep hills (1 at Thorndike and the other at North Pass). Temp gauge was normal, so guessing transmission.

I had about 265 miles of dirt/rock road to do, and after 253 of them, the tire light came on....left front tire, surprise-surprise, was hissing--12 miles from Ubehebe coming back from the Racetrack. Loaded it up with 1 of the 4 cans of Fix-a-flat I bought, took it to Furnace Creek where Wayne patched the tire for me for $20. Got it back to Fox with no further damage. Needless to say, will never rent from Fox again.

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bbb
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Post by bbb » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:59 am

wbdeford wrote:Got it back to Fox with no further damage. Needless to say, will never rent from Fox again.
That's terrific that you got to do some off-roading. I can't say that I've ever heard anything good about Fox, so I'm sure you're not alone.

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hwstock
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Post by hwstock » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:07 am

I typically get just 3/5 of my highway gas mileage when I am on DV dirt roads. I have an AWD vehicle, and I'm guessing that it is applying power rather inefficiently on the washboarded areas. You will crawl along some stretches, and there are lots of elevation gains on the route you mention, which are also tough on mileage. I drop the car into lower gear on steeep downhills, further burning gas. You can bail to Big Pine for a gas-up if needed, else swallow hard and avail yourself of the Furnace Creek or Stovepipe stations.

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Post by netllama » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:40 pm

bbb wrote:
wbdeford wrote:Got it back to Fox with no further damage. Needless to say, will never rent from Fox again.
That's terrific that you got to do some off-roading. I can't say that I've ever heard anything good about Fox, so I'm sure you're not alone.
Ditto. I've never heard anyone who had a good experience renting from them. They survive by undercutting the competition on price, which means that they're cutting corners on maintenance.

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Morrie
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Post by Morrie » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:20 am

wbdeford wrote:Needless to say, will never rent from Fox again.
The last time I had to rent a vehicle for DV, I rented the cheapest compact car at the airport, and drove it to Furnace Creek to rent a real jeep from Farabees while the car sat idle in their lot for the week. It cost an arm and a leg, but I'd do it again if I had to rent.

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Lippincott Road

Post by gregsoc » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:34 am

I was in Death Valley in mid-April of 2013 and had a great time driving the Lippincott Mine Road. I posted a video of the road condition on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLT7SYaUX7M

The Saline Valley Road did still have the road closed sign up, but I ignored it. The road does seem to be deteriorating and I'm sure the NPS is glad to see that. It's an historic ride. Do it while you can.

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