Rock formation at Zabriskie point.
I was really looking forward to seeing Death Valley in reasonable temperatures. It had been 123 degrees at Furnace Creek the last time I had visited, and had hit 125 at one point while driving to it. It had remained comfortable in my car, but seeing as the temp seemed to fluctuate with the altitude, I avoided going to Badwater, the lowest point in North America.
Badlands, and further it, the valley, at Zabriskie point.
It had still been interesting. Stark arid landscapes, the perfect scene for a post-apocalyptic world, if that world had been scoured with nuclear fire. Many movies and TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, had been shot there. Mining settlements had come and gone. There were thousands of out of the way places on the edge, many with cabins or the remains of small towns. Aircraft had crashed here. Wonderhussy has a video of one of these crash sites that she went to, and to several more of the cabins up in the mountains surrounding the lowlands. There is water here. Not much, and most of it saline and undrinkable. But there are also springs of good water, and small valleys with lush vegetation. But not out on the lowlands that are the park. This was perfect territory for the imagination.
The old Amargosa Opera House. I would be staying in the attached hotel.
So I left Bonnie Springs after a good breakfast and drove up the back way, up Hwy 160 to Pahrump. Again some spectacular scenery. The Spring Mountains had white caps from a late season snow. I could look across miles of desolation to Sandy Valley. The road was actually quite good, and soon I was in Pahrump, where I decided to let my GPS lead the way. And it failed. Eventually I just turned down a west bound street, then over a north bound until I hit the convenience store I remembered from my last trip. Then it was westward to Death Valley Junction, where the Amagrosa Opera House is located. The hotel was hard to miss. There are only three buildings at the junction, along with a couple of old water towers from the borax processing days, when the junction was a company town. I took some pictures of the Opera House before moving on, taking advantage of the daylight. The Opera House itself has an amazing history. A couple rented it back in the day and actually opened it up to producing local plays. These plays are still hosted there in season. And the old hotel, which used to be quarters for the employees of the borax works, is still open. More on that later.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
So, I headed up Hwy 190 to Furnace Creek, which houses the visitor’s center for the National Park as well as a gas station and other services. The scenery along the way was spectacular for this old rock hound (I like to look at them. I don’t collect them, like Lucy in The Long, Long Trailer. I don’t want to pay the over limit charges on bags while flying and mailing them is also a non-starter. But the formations in the mountains were spectacular, and I could send them by mail anyway. I stopped at Zabriskie Point to go up to the overlook for another great view. I had been here in the summer, and it was just too hot for even this short upward hike. The walk in the seventy some odd degree temp was well worth it, and I got some great shots, as well as some video, from up there.
Rugged mountains of the park.
Going further into the park I encountered one of the major problems with my Akaso cameras. I had six batteries, and one 64GB micro-Sd card lasted for six hours. But the batteries lasted at most forty minutes, and more often thirty. I was constantly having to pull over and change them, as the camera gives very little warning before it shuts down. Still, I filmed most of the trip in, and was soon at Furnace Creek. What a difference. The temp was up in the high seventies (the high for the day was eighty-three), and there was a nice breeze. Still dry as hell, and the water was sucked right out of you. But I had plenty of water. After the stop over I headed north. Scotty’s Castle was closed, but Stovepipe Wells and the sand dunes were open, so off I went.
More of the surrounding mountains.
First I stopped at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, sixteen square miles of mostly sand with some trees (mostly dead) and other sparse vegetation. It looked like it could be used, at the proper angles, as a set for a movie set in the Sahara. Stovepipe Wells was also small, without much more than a hotel, gas station, general store and a saloon/restaurant. I had a club sandwich at the saloon, which must have been an oasis of cool during the summer. Talking with the bartender I found out that Death Valley receives the most traffic during the summer, as hard as that is to believe. After lunch I headed back to Furnace Creek. This angle was how I entered the valley the first time, from the north, looking across the shimmering expanse of desolation. It had a grandeur I hadn’t seen anywhere else. The most desolate place in North America. The hottest, driest, and with the lowest elevation. It was still the same, though the temperatures were much more bearable.
Ruins of the Borax Processing Operation.
Near Artist’s Pallet.
From Furnace Creek I headed down the road to the south to Badwater, the lowest part of the park. I probably should have taken the roundabout road to the Artist’s Palette but was running out of time. Maybe next time. Still, the cliffs I could see were very colorful. The rock formations down this way were spectacular, and like everything else down here each mountain range was one of a kind. After a short stop at Badwater I continued south. I planned to leave the park by Jubilee Pass Road to Shoshone. It was a good thing I hadn’t taken the road to Artist’s Palette, since there was road construction at several points and one-way traffic. Finally made it to the turn off and the long road out through several passes. Filmed as much as I could of more spectacular scenery. Turning south on Hwy 178 I reached Shoshone, planning to stop and eat. Unfortunately there wasn’t much there. A school, a gas station, a post office and a museum. I filled up the car, paying the outrageous California price of over four dollars a gallon, then picked up a sandwich in case the restaurant at Amargosa Opera House wasn’t open. Which it wasn’t.
The owner of the hotel in the lobby taking a nap.
The hotel was cool. Not modern, not well painted, but it had that old-style ambiance to it. A perfect place for a ghost story with its history, but since I didn’t believe in ghosts I had no problem dismissing the possibility of late night visitations. And the owner had a friendly cat, giving me my kitty fix. The bed was comfortable, and I learned that there was a restaurant up the road. I headed that way and found out that the restaurant was also a hotel/casino, just over the state line into Nevada. I think every road into Nevada has a casino. This one was the Longstreet Inn, Casino and RV Resort. The food was not great, but it was filling, and I was back at the hotel in a flash, checking out my video take for the day. Tomorrow I would head into another state, and another national park.