Just wanted to add our experience in case it helps others.
We arrived from Lone Pine around 10am ~ish to the nearest road that showed on the map as leading up to the racetrack. The was the Saline Valley Alt Route from the 190 heading North. We’d never done this before, we had a pdf map of the area, gps and phones.
We were prepared, having been to Death Valley before, we knew water etc was essential for the heat. We had lots of water, snacks, a full tank of gas. What could go wrong…
Well, strangely on this day it was raining, unusual and a bit exciting. However it was drizzle and a bit foggy, it didn't seem that bad.
We started up the Saline alt road, as much as anything testing the waters so to speak. We made good progress, it seemed all was ok. We joined the main Saline road and negotiated straight and bend, climb and descent for miles and miles. All was good. We had phone signal and felt ok. Maybe the weather was getting worse but we were moving, often at 25mph or more, what could be a problem.
Then quite some time past. There was no signal anymore, maybe not for 30 mins. We'd gone a long way, a very long way if you had to walk. We didn't see another car or living thing the whole way.
After negotiating a twisty climb, just passing the summit and descending the car completely went out of control. Now I've done a _LOT_ of driving, the nearest I can say was this was like being on black ice. Total loss of control in all respects. The strange thing was there was nothing really to suggest the road was much different to the previous miles we'd covered.
It was quite scary, we went sideways down a hill, there was no controlling the car at all. Luckily we came to a halt on the road after the big slide. Rather shaken but still on the road and upright. However we appeared to be rather stuck.
I looked out to try and see what was wrong, that's when I realised what the problem was. A fine sediment mud covered the road and we were sunk in it, stuck in several inches, probably 6 inches or more. Suddenly it was quite scary. Miles from anywhere, stuck precariously on a hill with no grip. It was raining, foggy, we had no signal and it was a long way back the way we came, or onwards to anything the other side.
At this stage all I could do was try to get through the mud to a patch of road down the hill I could see looked solid. After much trying we made it there, then wondered what to do.
Then we had a dilemma, continue onwards but meet more of the same, or worse. Was this just the worst bit of the road, an anomaly? Neither of us had been here before, who knew what lay ahead or how we might get stuck again. Or alternatively we had to turn back, which meant having to go up the hill over the mud we lost control on and only if we could get through it we could get back to a main road.
As it happens we decided the only option was to turn around and head back. By now the weather was definitely worsening, the sides of the road were turning to rivers, visibility was worse as it felt like the fog we were in was a middle of a giant rain cloud. Worse still I started to sense there could be lightening or a flash flood. We felt scared and vulnerable, it now all seemed like a bad idea.
After carefully turning around we took a reasonable 20mph run up at the mud and quickly came to a sticky halt. The tyres only dug in, there was a serious chance to be stuck for good. Neither of us fancied tackling the walk back, maybe 5-6hours at best, in terrible conditions. So we kept on.
I found the best approach was to move forward with as much momentum as possible, when the car stopped, reverse a little, 10m down the path we came then take another run. This enabled us to move forward, although we had to go backwards a lot more than forward to make progress. At wont point, the worst point the car refused to go forwards and kept sliding sideways without control towards the bad camber and river of rocks at the side of the road. Somehow we did make it through, it took probably a very tense 45 minutes. I'm glad we had supplies and a full tank of gas. We carefully made it back towards the main road, appreciating just how far we'd come at this point.
Now in the end no bad came of this, but it was scary. We were on holiday and if we'd have got properly stuck I'm not exactly sure what we would or should have done. Having no phone signal and being miles from anywhere in such weather is actually quite alarming.
A lesson learn. The funny thing is probably on the 98% dry days the road might have been good fun. But in nature conditions can change dramatically very quickly.
My advice, unless you've done it before and have a very suitably equipped vehicle, stay off of these roads when the weather is bad or looks like it may turn bad.
So no comment on the racetrack, maybe it wouldn’t have been good in the rain anyway. We did have a fantastic time down in the main part of the park later in the day. Artist drive and the Devil’s Golf course were fantastic. We’ll be back, but we’ll take appropriate measures to reach the racetrack next time, which is unlikely to be wet.
On the plus side our drive up those roads before the trouble was amazing, the desert in the rain is an amazing place and we saw some amazing colourful blooms. It felt properly remote and was awe inspiring. But don't underestimate nature.
My advice, be careful on unpaved roads, be very careful in the desert in bad weather, it’s a _very_ different place to what it is normally when the sun shines, it might catch you out just how different it can be and how quickly conditions can change for the worse.
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