Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Goodbye Death Valley

Sunrise at Death Valley National Park
In 1849 the California Gold Rush lured many wagon trains to seek a short cut through this region.  Only one wagon train made it out, and according to the story, one of the party said "Goodbye Death Valley" and the name stuck.  I said goodbye merely because we're now in Paso Robles doing some wine tasting - not nearly as dramatic!

Death Valley is a great place to visit.  We pulled into the Furnace Creek campground on Monday, March 16th, and spent the next three action packed days taking in some of the sights.

We set out on Tuesday to see the old ghost town of Rhyolite.  Founded in 1904, Rhyolite was a booming mining town with a population of 10,000.  However, the financial panic of 1907 took its toll on the town, and by 1912 only a handful of people remained.

Train Station at Rhyolite

We decided to go through Titus Canyon on the way back.  Wow, what a surprise we were in for!  The dirt road that winds through the canyon is narrow and filled with hair pin turns up and down the steep inclines that take you through the canyon.  The scenery is beautiful, but Bob had to concentrate on the road so that we didn't go off the edge.  I couldn't get any pictures that do the canyon justice as there were no good turn offs and the car was rattling around too much to take good ones out of the window.  I did get some good video of Bob white knuckling it through the gorge.

Titus Canyon

We took a break going through the canyon to stop at Leadfield, another old mining town that dates back to the 1920's.


On Wednesday we headed out to Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the North America.  There is huge span of salt flats there caused by trapped water evaporating and leaving just the salt deposits behind.

We continued on to Artist's Drive.  I never expected all of this beauty in the desert.  The pictures don't do justice to the colors in the rocks.

I walked up to Zabriski Point to get a couple of pictures - very scenic!

Zabriski Point

Finally we headed up to Dante's Peak which at 5500 ft. has some amazing views.

Dante's Peak

There were some pretty wildflowers on the way down from the peak.  Some Desert Indian Paint brush....

These delicate little purple flowers are Indigo Bush,

I think the yellow flower below is a Desert Dandilion, but I don't know what the white ones are.

Bob no sooner lit a campfire on Wednesday evening when a sudden storm blew in.  The wind was pretty strong - probably about 40 mph - and lasted for about 20 minutes.  There were a few drops of rain, and then the whole thing blew over, but by then we had doused our campfire and packed it in for the night.

Here's a good view of our campsite - one of the 26 full hookup sites available at the Furnace Creek campground.

On Thursday we went to see the old Harmony Borax Works which refined borax from 1883 to 1889.

Here are some of the old wagons, pulled of course by the "20-mule team" made famous in commercials.  They hauled 10 tons of borax 165 miles through the desert and mountain passes to the railroad in Mojave.  Amazingly, not a single animal was lost nor did a single wagon break down.

We took a drive on 190 to Panamint Springs.  Our navigational system was going to take us on this road to get to Paso Robles, so we through we'd check it out.  Good thing that we did, because it was a pretty hairy drive, full of long steep grades and windy roads.  We decided to take an alternate route to Paso Robles where we would head back out of the park the way we came in and pick up I15.

There was a lovely sunset on Thursday evening.  We had a campfire and gazed at the stars glittering through a crystal clear sky.  The desert can be such a mysterious, beautiful and interesting place.  We've really enjoyed our time here.

Sunset at Death Valley National Park

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