Our annual Route 66 Photo Workshop with Dave Wyman this year was scheduled for Sunday eve through Tuesday, leaving Saturday and Sunday free for me. Our SCTC had been injury'd out of the Death Valley trip with the Tullamore Dew Running Club a few weeks earlier and so I was really eager to get out into the desert for some trail running while the weather was still cool. My original plan was to run up Owl Canyon in the mountains north of Barstow on Saturday afternoon with my brand new "fastpack" gear, camp out overnight, and then run over the top of a ridge and come back through Rainbow Basin, following this route. Some ragged edges remained... like, the fact that I couldn't figure out how to load maps into my new Garmin GPS, and my new Kelty down bag was clearly a summer-only bag, rated at 41F, and untested. Hmmm - an 8 mile run/scramble, the last 6 of which were trackless through jagged slot canyons with highly likely technical sections, equipped with only a summer sleeping bag, no tent (bivy bag instead), in the winter, where a hike out late at night due to possible hypothermia was not a serious option... using gear I'd never tested in the field..... what could possibly go wrong? Plenty!, I decided. I kept thinking of Dave Wyman's story about his camping experience at Rainbow Basin years ago, with summer overnight gear, and how he'd almost frozen to death. Common sense prevailed, and I decided to instead spend Saturday night at Cabrillo Observatory, get up predawn, drive the 6 hrs out to Owl Canyon Sunday morning, and then spend all afternoon trail running up the slot canyons and perhaps over the ridge and down the other canyons, and overland back to the foot of Owl Canyon and the campground.

Here's DesertUSA's account of Owl Canyon , the BLM's site, a nice photographic account , SummitPost's site , Death Valley Jim's site

This site shows lots of photos of the route I planned to take.

It was windy and cool when I arrived at the top of Owl Canyon campground and the trailhead

First order of business, and danger already is lurking....

I'm off!

Happy is he who runs desert trails after 6 hours cooped up in a car seat

Eroded unconsolidated sediments make for a steep west wall

A right turn and the canyon turns into a slot canyon for the next mile

At mile 1.2, the canyon widens out some. A maze of volcanics rhyolites, lithified ash containing chunks of granite basement rock. A wierd mixture to be sure.

This little spot allowed me to set a pic, running, against the cliffs above

Still feeling good, excited by the scenery. Although the campground at the bottom was almost full, I didn't see a soul up Owl Canyon. I enjoyed the intimacy of the canyon and just me and nature.

A water-polished obstacle. Took a bit of thought to find a way up.

The slot canyon got quite narrow, with several places requiring class III or IV scrambling to make progress

Another tricky spot. If it seems like I'm hogging all the camera shots... well, there's no one else to photograph

A dramatic geologic contact about 2 miles up, as the red rhyolite ended and bluish-green ash with imbedded black chunks takes over the canyonlands.

Great leg! and the rocks aren't bad either

It was quite beautiful up here

Here, the trail, such as it was, ends, and it's cross country up the canyon to the left

A giant green boulder of volcanic ash, broken loose and rolled down from a higher place that has since eroded away

The top - looking down Owl Canyon to the flats from whence we started

A lone Joshua Tree at the top of the canyon trail. From here, I retrace my steps back down Owl Canyon as the overland cross country route I'd hoped to do was just too sketchy to follow this late in the afternoon

A bizarre landscape, and on the run-able stretches, a joy to run through

Under the chockstone

I'd hoped to come down from the top via Rainbow Basin. Instead, I drove. Here - the Rainbow Basin syncline at sunset. I got myself in this shot too - that's my shadow down there on the left.


The rest of my photographs of Rainbow Basin itself were taken on the bigger Nikon D40. Except, it had a not so helpful "feature" - it took pictures, showed them afterwards on the back screen, and then w/o telling me, it threw them away. Terrific! Why didn't you just TELL me you wanted me to insert the SD card I'd forgotten to put into you, you lazy camera!?