We left the Springs on Sunday morning. This report will cover the South Pass Road from the Bat Rock Turnoff to Hwy 190.
Immediately south of the turnoff to the Springs, the road was nearly destroyed. You can see all the flood debris all over the road. Apparently someone drove through here while it was still wet.
The road has seen enough traffic since the last storm that it's no longer tough to follow. There's one established trail and there's no reason to drive off of it.
Dozens of small washouts, just a few inches deep and a foot or two across, will keep your speed down all the way past the dunes. By the way, the bypass road along the dunes was the smoothest part of this trip!
As you approach the lake, the road gets quite rocky. Again, we didn't encounter anything that made us stop, but our speed through this section was very slow. I'd be very hesitant to attempt this road on “P” rated tires.
We stopped and checked out the cold pool while we were in the neighborhood. The water is still running, but the pool has once again filled with silt! There's only about a foot of water over several feet of mud in there. I stuck my foot in and sank quite easily to my knee before I could even feel any resistance. I'm thinking that some sort of submersible pump should be able to pump it out pretty easily if we can get it before it hardens.
I also drove down to the old salt works. If you're wondering where all that flood water went, here's your answer. I don't know if I've seen the lake this full before. Next time we're bringing kayaks!
Back on the road, we passed a couple spots where standing water dried on the road. As more people drive over them, they'll undoubtedly turn into silt pits. At least the Burning Man crowd should feel at home!
The rest of the drive across the valley floor was uneventful. The further south we got, the better the road got. As we started up the alluvial fan, we really couldn't tell that there had been a flood.
Originally we had planned to check out the Lippencott Road while we were in the neighborhood. Fuel concerns prevented us from doing that. (Apparently you burn more gas when you're running the AC!) Looking across the valley we couldn't see any damage to the road. Combined with the fact that we were well south of any other road damage, I'm betting that Lippencott is probably as good (or bad) as it was before the storms.
The rest of the trip out was kind of anticlimactic. There've been a LOT of improvements made to the road in Grapevine Canyon since we were there 11 months ago. I drove the whole way out in 2wd, High range. A big “Thank You” to whoever spent all that time filling in the washouts, and moving the boulders near the top!
The nice part of all this rain is that the canyon looks absolutely beautiful, especially near the top.
We stopped at the Panamint overlook to take a few pictures, and were surprised to be overtaken by three Austrian folks in a Farabee's rental Jeep. They were just completing the Ubehebe/Racetrack/Hidden Valley/Hunter Mountain loop. They said they'd had no problems at all, and that the road was in good shape the whole way.
I think that for most people, the South Pass is the most appropriate way to access the valley. I wouldn't hesitate to drive any full-size, 4WD pickup or SUV in and out that way. Very careful drivers with pickup truck campers could probably make it, although it will take a long time. Smaller 4WD trucks will be fine, too. Smaller vehicles, use this road at your own peril! Clearance is important. I highly recommend “LT” rated tires, and obviously, all the standard rules about spares and supplies still apply.
At this point, this is the best choice we have. It ain't perfect, but at least it's not impossible. I'd say, “Enjoy it while you can”. If we get any snow this winter, it's gonna change rapidly.