Surviving Titus Canyon
Where do I begin?
I don’t know if I can explain how Titus Canyon transpired. I guess it was more or less a spur of the moment decision- due in large part to a gimp knee, drinking too much coffee, Gema’s Wagon Wheel Cafe and Espresso, a man in a cowboy hat, and a map.
You would think two smart girls could figure out the Titus Canyon lines looked a bit different than the normal red lines we took every where else in Death Valley. But no, we thought it was merely a “short cut”.
Planning our day in that quaint coffee shop, we concluded Ubehebe Crater was a must see. And, instead of taking the long way, we would indeed take the “short cut”, get through in about 22 miles, see a ghost town, still have time for Pantamint Springs, head to Stovepipe Wells, and on to Furnace Creek.
We were so confident in our decision making we didn’t even notice the guy in the cowboy hat across from us was laughing under his breath.
Leaving Beatty, Nevada, we embarked on this Death Valley adventure in our comfortable Volkswagen Jetta. As we found the turn in to Titus Canyon, we were slightly confused that it was unpaved, but didn’t think much of it.
About 10 miles in, we continue to stop sporadically to take pictures, to find my phone I keep “losing” every 2 or so miles, to adjust the ice pack on my knee, to hop on top of the car, and to strike random poses at various points on the road.
At 12 miles into the drive (we have already driven for 1 hr, 30 minutes), we are suddenly in a canyon- making sharp turns, going up and down hills, through narrow cliffs- not knowing if we and/or the car will survive. It is about this time we also make the discovery that this is a one way road. Yep, no turning back.
Once in the canyon, we did see some cool petroglyphs and a ghost town called Leadfield.
Once past the ghost town, we assume the road will get better- it doesn’t. We proceed to get stuck on rocks. Andrea has to direct me out of this sticky situation- quick reverse and slight turn of the wheel left and then right.
A few more miles to go and we near our journey’s end…in one piece.
All the things that could have gone wrong that didn’t:
- Flat tire(s)
- Permanently stuck on rocks
- Falling off a cliff
- Running out of gas (FYI we started with a full tank and by the end of our 4 hour journey, we still had a full tank)
Titus Canyon is a very scenic drive, but enter at your own risk. And don’t do what we did. Learn how to read a map legend- those two dotted lines don’t mean “short cut.” They mean the drive is not recommended for low clearance vehicles.
I’m just going to leave this link here:
Apparently Titus Canyon is one of the most exciting places to see in Death Valley. Would you dare take a drive through this unpredictable road? Better yet, would you traverse it with a Jetta? Does this spell adventure to you?
Thelma Dickinson: OK, then listen: let’s not get caught.
Louise Sawyer: What’re you talkin’ about?
Thelma Dickinson: Let’s keep going’!
Louise Sawyer: What d’you mean?
–Thelma and Louise