Death Valley

On the way to Death Valley we drove through this big valley.  No other vehicles, just us, and two Air Force jets frolicking at low altitudes.  One of them buzzed over us and nearly knocked me out of my chair.  I got my camera ready in case he did it again, and sure enough, he did.  Probably using us for fake target practice.
Death Valley is awesome.  There was no Internet service, or cell phone service, or TV, for the days we were there.  It was rough, but we managed.  Oh, there is so much to see and do there, a lot of driving, but lots to see.  And we did not see everything.  You really need a high profile, 4-wheel drive vehicle with tire chains, and at least a week to see it all.
We checked into our campground, only $6 a night for us… awesome.  We love not spending big money.  Of course, there was no electricity, or any other hook ups but we didn’t mind that at all.
Stovepipe Wells Campground
The first thing we went to see was the nearby sand dunes.  We walked around for a few hours, it was cool.  There are other areas with more dunes, but these were close by.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Later, we drove up to see Scotty’s Castle.  It was a private residence built in the 1920’s, now open for tours.  The castle is interesting in itself, as it seems out of place in the middle of nowhere.  There is a strange and colorful story of how it came to be there, involving a con man, “Death Valley Scotty,” who did not own the castle, and a Chicago millionaire, who became lifelong friends. I want to keep this blog a reasonable length, so you can read about it by clicking [here]
Scotty’s Castle
 Behind the castle is what used to be a solar water heater.  Pretty high tech for 1920’s.
Solar Water Heater
 Ubehebe Crater is a steam-explosion crater, created when water suddenly flashed to steam.  Half mile wide and 500 feet deep.
Ubehebe Crater
 Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level.  Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth, often reaching  daytime temps of 120F/49C and night times and many nights don’t drop below 100F/38C.  It’s also the driest place in North America, getting less than two inches of rainfall a year.
Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level.
This area used to be a big lake, but has dried up and left nearly pure white salt crystal crust.  We walked out and around the salt flats.  It goes on for miles.
Salt Flats at Badwater Basin
 We hiked a lot in our time here.  Death Valley has many fascinating hiking trails.  Natural Bridge Canyon was one of our favorites.  Lots of different geographical curiosities.
Natural Bridge Canyon
Devil’s Golf Course–gnarled crystalline salt spires that look like a coral reef, remains of the last significant lake here, which evaporated 2,000 years ago.  There is no hiking trail, but you can walk about, but rather difficult, so we didn’t walk far.
Devil’s Golf Course
There are loads of minerals in the hills here.  Artist’s Drive is a nine-mile drive that takes you in and around where the views are spectacular.  One stop along the way was particularly colorful.
Artist’s Palette
Mosaic Canyon was a fascinating hike.  There were polished marble walls, it was beautiful.  And, of course, I forgot my camera!  So Bernie took the pics with his little flip phone.  Good thing, or we would have had to drive back to the RV to get mine!  The pics are ok, but missing some color.
Mosaic Canyon
Borax has a huge presence here.  Prospectors found borax in 1881, and the Harmony Borax Works began to process ore in 1883.  They used 20-mule teams to haul borax 165 miles to the railroad town of Mojave.  The teams averaged two miles an hour and took about 10 days to get there.  There is a museum here that has loads of information and artifacts from that time period.
20 Mule Team Wagon Train
The mule team wagon train was eventually replaced by a steam tractor and new ore wagons which in turn were replaced by a railroad.
Old Dinah
Steam Train
Gas is very expensive inside Death Valley National Park.  Average prices in California were more like $3.85, we were shocked to see this here.  Remember, if you go there, fill up first!
We only saw about half of what Death Valley has to offer.  There are many miles of back roads, many sights to see that can only be reached by the back roads, and hiking beyond that.  Our little Saturn car was not up to the task.  You can rent a jeep for a small fortune, but we thought we should move on.  Hopefully, we will return some day to see more cool stuff.
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