In the southeastern corner of Death Valley, hidden behind the Saddle Peak Hills, there’s a small range of rolling sand dunes shaped by the strong winds called the Ibex Dunes. They reach a height of approximately 600 feet, and contrasted against sharp dry peaks off the Saddle Hills, they are quite a sight. Gene and I decided to spend New Year’s away from the parties and in solitude of this great desert in Death Valley.

On December 30th, we loaded up the car and drove down to Death Valley. As it took a while to get there, we spent the night at Panamint Springs campground; we didn’t have reservations, and it cost us around 10 bucks. The next morning we got a free permit at Furnace Wells Visitor Center although it seemed from talking to the rangers that it was not necessary to register with the park. We loaded back into the car, drove another 40 miles, and parked our car at its final destination: off a dirt road approximately 15 miles south of Shoshone near a small electrical substation.

On the first day out we hiked to Ibex Springs, an abandoned ghost town, and spent New Year’s eve fighting the bitter cold. The wind came from all directions and tugged on our clothes as if inviting us to flutter away with it; it was just too cold to enjoy any stargazing.

The next morning we filled up water at the spring and continued south towards Ibex Dunes. This trail was gradual downhill (about 500 feet elevation loss) with a section of deep sand. We trekked off the road towards the dunes to enjoy lunch and a break under the sandy backdrop. The sun was out and the wind had stopped so the weather was perfect. We reached Saratoga Springs in the afternoon, and the area was teeming with visitors arriving with 4x4 dune buggies. By sunset, though, we were in solitude.

Two interesting things we learned about the springs:

  1. turns out the springs doesn’t allow overnight camping, but since the ranger never said anything about our plans, we decided to stay there any way
  2. contrary to its name, the water at the springs was not drinkable; after some online research, I think our “tea” was salty because of borax contamination. Should I go to a doctor?

The final morning we packed up our stuff, said goodbye to this beautiful landscape, and grudgingly hiked back to the car as we were not looking forward to our long drive home. A perfect way to start 2016!