Note to readers: I don’t know if you are all aware that you can enlarge the photos by clicking on any of them. I like to size them down for the blog to give the impression my ramblings are not so long. Probably doesn’t fool anyone but I try.
We drove through Death Valley today. So, this is your official warning that there are lots of photographs in this blog; and they are not of snow either!
We left Tonopah this morning in a biting cold wind, but it didn’t take too long before I could take off the winter jacket and put on a light one. Thank goodness. I was seriously getting tired of winter. (Sorry, all you folks that are still stuck in it.)
We climbed a little pass and entered, once again, into long straight roads through scrub and sand. However, not too far south of Tonapah Joshua Trees appeared as well, so there is a little more moisture in the ground.
The best part of the first few miles of our trip today were the clouds. I love clouds. They are an infinite number of shapes and colours. Today’s clouds were waves. Very, very cool.
The first little community we passed through was Goldfield, named, obviously for the gold mining in the area. Goldfield was small, but spread out, with many boarded up, derelict buildings. There were stores and other business open, so it is not a ghost town by any means. Another very typical tiny old western mining town.
This area is home to wild burros and we saw a couple of them a few miles south of Goldfield.
It was about 93 miles from Tonopah to Beatty, one of the eastern gate-ways from Nevada into Death Valley National Park.
A few miles before we reached Beatty I checked to see if there were any near-by geo-caches. I know we missed a lot of them on our drive to this point, but geo-caching is not the focus of this part of the trip; destination Escondido is. A few caches found along the way just make the drive more fun.
A cache popped up a short distance ahead so John pulled over beside a chained driveway that had a much-graffiti-ed crashed airplane sitting on the other side of the cattle guard. Notes on the cache logs said the owner of the property did not mind people crossing the chain to find the cache hidden in the airplane they just didn’t want folks wandering further up the drive. We looked all around the airplane but couldn’t find the cache. We did find two others as we drove through Beatty.
The drive from Beatty to the Nevada/California border and the boundary of Death Valley National Park is about 10 miles. About half-way there is the Rhyolite Ghost Town. It had a population of over 8,000 in 1901 and only a few ruined buildings remain. There is a small Open Air Museum (it seemed to just be small collection of odd art pieces). At the driveway entrance there is a ‘Shoe Tree,’ where, for whatever reason, people leave pairs of shoes. At the base of the pole is a cache and there was another one under the concrete Gaudi-style couch behind the museum.
It is only a few miles from Rhyolite Ghost Town to the border of Death Valley National Park. We spent a week here last year and I was very excited to be back. Before we left home John tried to book a hotel room so we could stay overnight but there were no vacancies at Stovepipe Wells or Furnance Creek so we could only spend a short time in the park. We are spending the night at Ridgecrest, which is about 100 miles west and south from Stovepipe Wells, which is about 1/3 of the way into the park from the eastern boundary.
Death Valley, as we all know, has the lowest elevation in the US (282 feet BELOW sea level – at Badwater Basin – and; only 15 miles away, is the highest peak in the Panamint Ridge – Mt. Telescope; at over 11,000 feet. The Valley stretches 140 miles between the Amargosa Range on the CA/NV border and the Panamint Ridge on the west. The Park is 3.4 million acres and is a photographers dream with all the different geologic shapes and colours.
There were, near the Stovepipe Wells Junction, two areas we had not visited last year and both of them are the site of an Earth Cache. (No physical caches are allowed in the National Parks so at various interesting places people log an Earth Cache. To claim them you must answer some questions about the area that will prove you actually visited, and, if you choose, post a photo of yourself at the site. There are over a dozen Earth Caches in Death Valley. We claimed a couple last year and thought we would pick up another few today.
The first place was the Lake Manley Gravel Beds where acres and acres of small rocks to pebbles were deposited by glaciers many feet thick over a huge former lake bed.
On the way to Lake Manley we passed the turn-off for Salt Creek which was our next stop. This was a very picturesque 1/2 mile long boardwalk loop trail so I took many, many pictures in that short time. It was just so pretty…..
Our last stop was at the Mesquite Sand Dunes. We had been here last year not realizing there are two Earth Caches here. The dunes are right beside the road we need to take to leave the park so we stopped in again to find the information we need to get the Smileys (a smiley face will display on the map to show caches you have found.)
After we climbed a few of the sand dunes we made a brief stop at the General Store at Stovepipe Wells for a sandwich to eat on the way. The man at the counter said a big storm was coming in and we could see clouds gathering in the mountains. The western boundary of Death Valley National Park is the Panamint Ridge. It is a very long climb from the valley through the pass and down the other side to the Panamint Valley. Panamint Valley is 65 miles long and 10 miles wide. Death Valley runs in a NW-SE direction. Panamint Valley runs due North-South and is bordered on its western side by the Amargosa Range. The Valley is used extensively for low-level test flying by the American military. If you are up at Aquereberry Point high in the Panamint Ridge it is not unusual to get buzzed by a jet plane.
The ‘white’ strip in the middle of the valley bottom is a miles-long strip of compacted sand. There had been rain recently and the sand had interesting, blotchy patterns of moist and dry.
Once we left the Panamint Valley it was a short 15-20 miles into Ridgecrest and our stop for the night. Chock up another day of interesting sites and places.