Citroens, Smoke and Joggers in Panamint

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Posted by David A. Wright on July 25, 2002 at 01:57:13:

Driving from my job in Trona to my home in northern Owens Valley this evening, I encountered three interesting items in Panamint Valley.

A ralley of Citroen Avants is being run from the west to the east coast, passing through Death Valley. I caught up with a few stragglers just north of Trona and passed them one by one all through the valley. At the junction of CA190 and Panamint Valley Road a chase van was parked along with an Avant in front of the mileage sign east of the junction. A family was posing around the car with a grizzly "prospector." My curiosity got the best of me so I pulled over to see what was going on. A ralley photographer and videographer were shooting the scene. The group talked among themselves in French, including the "prospector." I inquired and was told that the tour's progress is being tracked on

Panamint Valley and the Argus Range was affected greatly by the 50,000+ acre fire in the Sequoia National Forest. The southern half of Panamint Valley was clear, but a pall of smoke filled the sky. As I traveled northward, the smoke cloud closed in on the roadway, although the Panamint Range remained clear. Turning west on CA190, smoke began to thicken at Panamint Springs Resort. As I climbed the grade, the bottom of Rainbow Canyon could not be seen. At the middle of the grade, Father Crowley Point, the Argus Range nor Hunter Mountain was visible. At the summit, the visibility was less than a half mile.

At the summit, just east of the Saline Valley road, I began to hit the rearmost of the Badwater to Mount Whitney runners. The smoke was choking. I don't know how or why these people persisted or why the race wasn't postponed. Many "runners" were walking. Breathing was hard enough, breathing deeply no doubt will cause some of these people distress tonight or beyond (Lone Pine an southern Owens Valley quite smoky also). I came across dozens of runners and chase vehicles the entire way to Lone Pine, where the headquarters was set up at the Dow Villa Motel. It was dusk and difficult to see due to the smoke as I picked my way carefully along the highway. Along the way I slowed to match the speed of one gentleman who was jogging slowly near the Darwin turnoff. He sounded British and he was curious about the source of the smoke. He was having difficulty breathing.

All in all, an interesting trip home from work.

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