Death Valley by Air

Zabriskie Point

Last November I took all my seats out but mine (I need mine), got a big ole’ electric mountain bike and camping stuff into the plane and headed out to Death Valley.

I was a little nervous because both runways there (not counting the chicken strip) have deteriorated badly with “salt heaves” which are serious ridges that build up along the cracks. The park service says it will cost $3 million to resurface them and is trying hard not to do that. For example they want to repurpose the Stovepipe Wells airport into a night-sky viewing area. Which I find ridiculous because the runway is not lighted and is closed at night to aircraft operations, so it is already a night-sky viewing area.

Stovepipe Wells Runway, a fantastic night-sky viewing area

They have now posted that the runways are unusable.

But hey, unusable maybe for tiny-wheeled planes. My 210, though certainly not a bush plane, sometimes is. It was definitely a rough touch down on each strip but by using soft field technique the 210 did fine.

I was doing research for my book (now three books and they WILL be published some day) so I rode my bike to different canyons to hike. I also did a pre-dawn take-off from Stovepipe Wells for some blue hour aerial photography, then landed at Furnace Creek.

Overall, a fun and productive trip. I really like my pre-sunrise blue hour shots from the plane. I was anxiously awaiting the sunrise for more great photo opportunities but within a split second all the colors were washed out. Blue hour is best, although much more of a challenge with little light, and shooting from a small airplane.

Sunrise over Zabriskie point
For any pilot googling around trying to find runway conditions. This is Furnace Creek 11/20/21

4 thoughts on “Death Valley by Air

  1. “ For any pilot googling around trying to find runway conditions” – That’s me! Thanks for the update. Furnace Creek looks “iffy” for the wheel pants on the Cirrus, had no troubles at Stovepipe Wells. Who can lobby on behalf of GA community to keep one or both of these true gems open?

    1. I don’t know – I hope AOPA is on it. At least keep one open!

  2. After Chicken Strip, that runway looks perfect! The 210 should be fine in that! Thank you for the update. I have a ’67 T210 as well that I am flying and fixing up, she ain’t pretty but she flies great! I’m based out of French Valley (F70) if you are ever around, drop me a note, I’d love to tag along on an adventure with you!


    1. Yeah I flew into Chicken Strip and it scared me silly. Bad washboards so heavy braking was not wise, though desirable.

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