December 14-15 2015

Some pictures from 2015 followed by a trip with Sharon in 2009.
October 29 2009

Our entrance to Death Valley - we came in from Las Vegas on the 190 (click on the link for a view of our time in Las Vegas), State Line Road, and a wowzer entrance it was. You know you're in for something cool.

And speaking of cool, the weather is per-per-PERfect. Cool, bright, still. Perfect!
A shot from the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center.

We both wanted to be the one who got to use her Senior Lifetime National Park Pass. (When you're 62 do Not miss your chance to buy one!)
We are staying at the entirely delightful Furnace Creek Ranch (about 3/4 downmarket from the Furnace Creek Inn) and this is the view from our back patio.
It's getting late in the day and we have time for one good outing and decide to make a dash for Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.
An interesting note from Ms Wiki "This point is only 76 miles east of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet." It's the rain shadow of both the Pacific Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada Range that make Death Valley so very very dry.
This is the salt crust at Badwater...
...and Sharon holding up a piece of the crusty thick chunk of salt left by the Pleistocene era inland seas.
In the middle of the dark area of the hill you can see the sign that says 'sea level'.

Wow. We walked all the way to the end of the salt-path.
Then we continued on to the Artist's Palette which was fairly named as so many surfaces were a-glow in beautiful pastels of pink, blue, orange, and green.

But the pictures, I just can't get them to work. So here's this one from the top of a long walk.
And the long shadows of evening sent us home for a nice dinner at the Furnace Creek Ranch Cafe, and a good solid sleep.
October 30

We kicked off today with a visit to one of the prime attractions in Death Valley - Scotty's Castle...not Scotty's (it was built and owned by Albert and Bessie Johnson), not a castle (its design, they say, is Spanish Villa), but a prime attraction due to all the stories the guides can tell of its history.
You can ask Ms Wiki and she'll tell you all about it too.
We took both the house tour And the basement tour, the guides decked out in period dress.
Outside enjoying the perfect day.
Another shot for the setting. As we heard a dozen times, it's all about the water and the spring that made this possible is still running today.
Next stop, Ubehebe Crater. Yikes!

(Isn't that pano technology getting Good? If I had cropped out the flying edges I think it would be hard to tell it wasn't one shot.)
Well, OK, if you think so.
Looking away from the crater. Vista Vista everywhich way you turn.
We swung through Stovepipe Wells for a snack before a quick stop by the dunes.

This is it, except for the gas station and general store behind me, this, the motel-restaurant combo is it for Stovepipe Wells. I thought I remembered random buildings scattered around but if there were they are gone now.
Food would not be served until 5:30 but we could come to the Saloon for some bar snacks at 4:30. Which we did. Yes you can make a dinner of chicken wings and a draft beer.
The Dunes... (I might add another picture or two here but I'm tired now!)
...and the glow of the mountains behind them.
It's the end of another beautiful day, delighting in one of our many great treasures in the National Park system for which we are grateful and ever so gladly pay our taxes.
October 31

A busy day of sightseeing ahead! First stop, the Golden Canyon Interpretive Walk. The sky really does look blue like that when it's clear and bright out and when you're looking up from a high-walled canyon.
Getting golden.
This canyon is just up the road from the Artist's Palette where I couldn't get the colors to come out last evening but here they are!
And even more. It's all about the light.
The Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail includes some preserved bits from a Borax operation...
...including the two wagons and water tank the mules hauled for days across the desert to reach the railroads. The water tank is positioned at the back of the load and every single one of these we saw had the exact same configuration, two carts of the same dimention and the water tank.
Looking out from the Harmony Borax Works.
And our last Interpretive Trail (don't we love these things at the National Parks?!), The Salt Creek Interpretive Trail.

Here it's all about the pupfish. From what I remember: Back when Death Valley was a sea there was this fish, the pupfish. Then as the sea disappeared only the pupfish evolved to stay alive in the more and more salty ponds that were left until eventually they evolved into about 7 different species each inhabiting its own salty pond, so the conservation efforts are directed towards protecting them.
This was it, our wildlife sighting. Except for plenty of birds and a few lizards, nada mas.
Some surrounding scenes.
At Furnace Creek Ranch they have a museum and a lot of the implements of the mining days. (If you don't know what's going on in this picture you probably need to stay in school...)
Zabriskie Point.

I'm copying this directly from Ms Wiki because it is interesting and explains a little of why this area seems different from the rest of Death Valley:

"Millions of years prior to the actual sinking and widening of Death Valley and the existence of Lake Manly, another lake covered a large portion of Death Valley including the area around Zabriskie Point....
"This ancient lake began forming approximately nine million years ago. During several million years of the lake's existence, sediments were collecting at the bottom in the form of saline muds, gravels from nearby mountains, and ashfalls from the then-active Black Mountain volcanic field. These sediments combined to form what we today call the Furnace Creek Formation."
Of course there's LOTS more to read on the geology of Death Valley. Books of it. I'm happy when I can remember what Borax is made from.
Then we decided to do some high-end relaxing at the ever so very expensive Furnace Creek Inn where...
...we each got a massage...
...and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on their patio. We're off tomorrow morning. It's been grand.

A few comments about food and accommodations in Death Valley. You don't have a lot of choices. There is camping in giant RV lots, some smaller spots, and some 'hike ins'.

And then there is 1) Furnace Creek Inn (expensive and lovely with an upscale restaurant but not on the scale of the great National Park lodges), 2) Furnace Creek Ranch (nice enough motel style rooms and a cute little compound of restaurants, general store, pool, museum, etc.), 3) Stovepipe Wells (similar amenities as Furnace Creek Ranch but much less charming), and 4) Panamint Springs Resort (very out of the way and not much to speak of). Really, besides for some general store style food at Scotty's Castle, that's it.

So don't expect much in terms of amenities, just relish in the glory of the vast landscape. You won't be sorry you went.
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