roger January 24th, 2012
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Some people think this reference can pertain to Death Valley National Park. I guess you could feel that way in the summer. You be the judge since we were there for 4 nights. Also, technically Death Valley is not a valley, it is a basin.
Our friends, the Chen's (here is their blog), contacted us about going to Death Valley over the MLK weekend. We checked Roxie's schedule and it was one of her 3 day weekends but with a twist. She works every 5th Saturday. When she works a Saturday she gets the Monday of THAT week off. This time the Monday was a holiday so she got the Monday and Tuesday off. So she got a 4 day weekend! She took the Friday before off also to give us a 5 day/4 night weekend. We were also able to find reservations at Furnace Creek campground for 4 nights. We were on!
There is always prep work for any trip but a dry camping one is even more fun. This time I used Evernote to keep track of it. This way I could get to the list from any electronic device that I have and I also shared it with Roxie so she could add to them. It helped a lot. This was also going to be a good test of the new trailer batteries I got.
We got out early since we had to go 320 miles to get there and I didn't want to get in after dark. The route was south through Bakersfield, east on CA58, north on CA14, east on CA178 through Ridgecrest and Trona. We joined up to CA190E right before the climb over the mountains into Death Valley. We started the climb and this was a big climb! We got down to 50mph on the climb which is a rarity for the truck. We came over this pass to Death Valley about 6-8 years ago but I didn't remember it like this.
We got to the campground about 4:15 and started to setup. A Chen contingent came by as we were finishing up. We went to their campsite after that and talked a bit. We figured out what we were going to do the next day then retired to our trailer, to eat and warm up.
We met the Chen's at 8:30 to get on the road to a ranger talk about photography at the Eureka sand dunes. We packed a lunch because we had some other things planned afterwards. It was nice to walk out on the dunes and the ranger offered a few salient photography tips. Unfortunately Maverick, the Chen's oldest son, had to stay at the vehicle with their dog. We let me go frolic for a bit after we got back. Maverick, not the dog.
Dunes (looking east):
After the dunes we headed to Mosaic Canyon. Since this canyon was so narrow we were told that the best time to go is midday or it is mostly shadows and gets cold very fast. That was very true. We had been in a slot canyon before in Anza-Borrego State Park. This one was different. The rocks were very smooth from the water action. Here is a view of the canyon:
When there are a lot of kids around and places to climb, what happens? You end up with kids climbing everywhere. Kids of ALL ages:
We had our lunch in the canyon. It was fun to watch all the people walking by on the trail. We stopped off at the Stovepipe Wells store on the way back. That evening we had a nice campfire with the Chen's.
The Chen's only had 2 nights in Death Valley and were planning on heading home today so we both did our separate things. Looking at the ranger activity list we saw a walk/talk at Golden Canyon so off we went. The ranger was from Oklahoma and it was interesting to hear his accent and colloquialisms. We learned a lot and got to stretch our legs. Here is a shot in the canyon toward the Red Cathedrals and one back down the canyon toward the valley:
Golden Canyon is south of Furnace Creek so we wanted to see the 'south' things. There was another ranger talk after lunch, do you see a trend here? We like to go to ranger talks.
We had our lunch at the campground and had a few visitors. The first is a well camouflaged road runner and a couple of doves:
The ranger talk after lunch was a bit north of the campground and was about the 20 Mule Team. It was at the Harmony Borax works. Borax was huge in the valley before tourism took over. They would haul the Borax over 160 miles over ten days with a 20 Mule Team (actually 18 mules and 2 horses). Here is the wagon they used to haul the goods:
We had to leave the talk early to get to another talk. This next talk was at Badwater, the lowest location in the western hemisphere (282 feet below sea level). I had to drive a bit faster than normal but we did get there. There were a lot of people there, more so than any other location. From down on the boardwalk I looked up at the hill next to us. Look at the zoomed in portion, it gives you a taste of where we were:
Looking the other direction you can see people walking out on the salt flats:
Here is proof of Roxie at the lowest point (actually the lowest point is somewhere out on the salt flats, but don't tell her):
We made one more stop on the way back to the campground. We stopped at the Devil's Golf Course. This makes me glad that I have a vehicle and don't have to cross this area alone:
That night we watched a movie on the Mac in the trailer. Our Mr Heater Buddy kept us nice and warm.
The evening before we discussed what we wanted to do on our last full day. I was going to get tickets to the Amargosa Opera House but the main actress there was changing her show for a final performance in February so that was a no go. We had seen the first tour of Scotty's Castle but there was a second, 'underground' tour. So on Sunday evening I called and got reservations. So that is where we went.
As we turned on the road to the northern part of the valley it got a lot windier. I had left our awning out so, naturally, I was worried about that. But all forecasts did not show high winds for the campground so I just let go. Sort of. We got to Scotty's Castle and it was windy and COLD! We were a bit early so we were thankful there was somewhere inside to wait.
The tour started and we got to learn how the Johnson's survived there with NOTHING else around. They generated their own electricity, heated and cooled their house with local means. It was very interesting and the vast majority of it was inside. Plus there were only 5 people on the tour! Here is Roxie trying her luck as a door to door salesperson and the requisite shot of the castle:
Since we were at the north end of the park and I don't like to backtrack, we continued NE into Nevada, then SE on US95 to Beatty, NV. By that time it was time to have some lunch. We ate one time in Beatty before at a less than modern casino. We weren't going to do that this time. I had heard good things about the Death Valley Fire Pit BBQ but they were only open from 4-8. So we looked to Yelp and found KC's Outpost. It was very good and was definitely homemade food.
Before we left Beatty I thought I would top off my diesel so I didn't have to do it in the valley where it was $5.24/gal. Between Beatty and the valley is the ghost town of Rhyolite. Here is a shot from Rhyolite looking west:
There is also a house made of bottles in Rhyolite:
When we got back to Furnace Ranch we decided to have dinner at the 49'er Cafe at the resort. The dinner was adequate for a remote locale such as Death Valley. The waiting staff was superb even when they handled the 'idiosyncrasies' of the couple sitting behind us. After dinner I was thinking of another campfire but if you know Roxie, you will know how much she doesn't like the cold. So that was off the table. We watched another movie in the trailer.
Time to leave. Here is another on of my normal shots of the trailer in its' spot. It was a very nice spot because it had a few tamarisk trees around it. You can see Roxie just barely coming out of the trailer in this shot.. I asked her to get in front of the trailer so I could include her but she declined:
We got on the road home at about 9:30. We went back a different way that was 60 miles farther. We took CA190E to Death Valley Junction, CA127S to Baker, I-15W to Barstow, CA58W to Bakersfield and then home. Oddly we made it home around 4:30, same time we got to the valley on Day 1.
It was a enjoyable and relaxing trip. It was a bit long for a single day's drive. If we did it again we would probably break it up, getting old you know. The trailer did fantastic! The batteries started at 12.5 volts and ended 4 days later at 12.2v! Roxie did a masterful job in conserving water and we probably had 15-20 gallons left.
One other thing and this has to do with George Chen. They went home earlier than us and I texted him to see if they made it. He said they did but they had a 'traction' issue and that was all he said. He said look at his blog but I haven't seen anything yet. Come on George!