Monday, April 22, 2013

Death Valley National Park

Furnace Creek

Time to leave Pahrump, Nevada where we spent the past week getting ready for our annual spring trek to Route 395 and the Sierra Nevada with its lofty mountains, lakes, rivers, and creeks around Lone Pine, Bishop, and Mammoth, California. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful stretches of land in the world sharing the lowest (Badwater Basin) and highest points (Mt.Whitney) in North America. This year we decided to cut through Death Valley for a few days before camping, hiking, kayaking, and fishing our way up north to Oregon.

Entrance to Death Valley National Park along Rt. 190

Taking Rt. 160 out of Pahrump to connect with Rt. 190, it was less than an hour before we entered the National Park. Excellent roads along the way, especially within the park.  Met a great group of motorcyclists from Western Canada at the Park sign where we took photos of each other.        

Road into Furnace Creek along Rt. 190

Then into the park, bypassing Dante's View, but stopping at Zebriskie's Point.  Nola mentioned to me, "You know, it's kind of hot here at 2:00 PM." Little did we know the temperatures were over 100 degrees.  But the walk up to the Point is well worth the time and effort as a beautiful panorama of badlands with different hues and colors jump out at you. This is an ideal place for sunrises and sunsets.

The Badlands at Zebriskie Point

We drove slowly into Furnace Creek, admiring the luxurous Inn and more approachable Ranch at Furnace Creek on the way before entering the cool, lovely habitat of the Visitor Center.  On the way in we noticed a temperature reading...106 degrees. Yikes!  106 degrees.  Couldn't believe it!  Would have melted if we were on the East Coast.'s dry heat, but nonetheless, I had a water bottle in tow and drank every few minutes, which is totally unusual for me.  Haven't experienced such thirst in years!
After getting the lay of the land and checking out two different RV Parks across from the Center, we decided to stay at Texas Spring Camp, set aside with areas for tenters as well as RVers.  Better scenery with broken hills and valleys to view but trees and shade reserved for tenters.  Having tented for 70 years, I figured they deserved it. Down below was another RV Park called Sunset, which seemed less inviting at the time. Kind of flat gravel sites without much wind or sun protection. Besides the intense heat, the winds came in gusts every once in a while with a strong warning not to put our awnings out to create an outdoor room.  With Golden Age card, the RV sites were $6 (Sunset) and $7 (Texas Springs).  Only a handful of RVers in either park.

Ranger Bob Telling the Story of Harmony Borax Works and the 20 Mule Team

After a healthy dinner of Greek Salad, and lots of ice water to quench our thirst, we drove our car over to Harmony Borax Works site at 7 PM for a talk by Ranger Bob on the history of the Borax Works and 20 Mule Teams.  Bringing our own chairs and water, we joined a small group of fellow travelers, learning about the short and profitable history of the Borax Works.  By bringing Chinese laborers from San Francisco to dig the whitish borax out of the ground, they piled it into narrow wagons led by 18 mules and two horses, and two teamsters across 165 miles of desert to the railroad head in Majove.  Started in 1883, things went great for five years and huge profits were made by the owner, W.T. Coleman. However, the company went bankrupt  by 1888 because the owner's sons talked him into investing most of his wealth into a sure thing with even greater profits.  Been there...done that! 

One final note to end the day.  Winds plowed along at 25 mph all night with gusts up to 50 mph.  The temps in the RV were in the low 90's before dropping into the 70's.  The worst night on the road, ever, with rocking and rolling, wondering if our kayaks would fly off into the next county.  Forget April, come here in February or early March.


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