By: Bob Greenawalt
Exploratory Traverse - Outlaw Replay
May-Seven die-bards thought Cottonwood Springs could be found on a long Memorial Day weekend so we tried it again. The trail was found in quick order and the first 2-3 miles were voided by cars. The weather was delightful as the holiday was about a week in advance of its usual position. In lieu of a car shuttle we all parked at the hike start and had the extra 6-7 miles which Gordon had endured in April. Three days would be a breeze we figured.
The first couple of hours went perfect. Even saw a band of four wild mustangs so we knew we were in desert country. Our lunch stop under a small cottonwood group told us we would be at the springs in mid-afternoon. We left the lunch spot and followed the logical draw without topo consultation after a couple of hours things began to get rough and there were signs of life other than what we had expected to see. Our first waterfall made us know we were not on the trail to Cottonwood Springs! So be it! We kept going and ended up at a rock-incised trail mark saying that it was just 4 miles to Goldbelt Spring. So we had come down the wrong canyon-Dead Horse is its name but we had good water for the campsite. Foiled again! The next day was spent doing four miles to Goldbelt where a small but adequate flow of fine water exists. Several cabins mark the spot of an old mining endeavor. Between the mining site and the cars is a good spring with stock tank where one can get a good wash down. We spent the night on a pleasant Goldbelt knoll.
We had bypassed Cottonwood altogether! The walk from Goldbelt back to the cars is all uphill. We now realized what Gordon had to overcome.
This writer still has great interest in the area and hopes to plan a third-lucky charm scheduled trip into this most rugged part of Death Valley National Monument. We'll get there the next time!
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