Two Days in the Valley
I pulled into Death Valley's Furnace Creek campground yesterday morning, and have made the most of my time while here. Interesting place, even if it is hotter than Hades.
Yesterday after getting situated, I drove through the 20 Mule Team loop, which is about a mile long dirt road through a badlands type area. I guess that's one of the places borax was mined here years ago. After that I continued on to Dante's View, elevation 5475 feet. The sweeping, panoramic views of Death Valley from the viewpoint are incredible.
Driving back down to campsite (minus 100 feet elevation), I took it easy and planned today's activities. I decided to see Scotty's Castle and the Ubehebe Crater.
I didn't sleep well last night, and woke up at 3AM. I checked online to see if I could find some hikes I could take, and for some reason "The Racetrack" popped up. That's the place here in DV that has the big rocks that mysteriously slide along the playa mud. I decided to do that too. It's up in the vicinity of the Castle, so I thought I'd add it to my list.
I hit the road at 4AM today and drove the 55 miles to reach Racetrack road. Calling it a road is a stretch. Gravel, rocks, washboards all along the way. It was still dark, except for the waning moonlight, and all I could see was the road ahead of me.
I thought the first 20 miles of road were bad until I reached Teakettle Junction. After that, the last 7 miles had to be driven 10 mph or less. It was a bone jarring ride.
I set out to find the sliding stones, with my binoculars and camera in hand. I walked 3 or 4 miles looking, but never found them. Darn. I would've stayed longer but the sun was starting to peek over the mountain peaks and I didn't know how quickly it would heat things up. So I got back in the truck and backtracked the 27 miles of washboard. Even though I didn't see my rocks, it was a great experience, except for seeing where some morons drove their vehicles through the playa. That's not allowed, and it ticked me off that some people have so little respect.
Ubehebe Crater is located at the starting end of Racetrack road, so I drove around it, stopping at the lookout and snapping some pics. It is an awesome hole. Some 600 feet deep, created when hot magma and water connected a few hundred years ago and blew out a giant plug of earth and rock. Really neat!
After seeing the first two sights, I though Scotty's Castle would be anticlimatic, but I drove up there anyway. Cool looking building, but I had no desire to see something manmade after seeing nature's wonders.
Back at the camp, I walked over to the visitor center and paid for another night. I was dead tired from lack of sleep, so I turned on the A/C, stretched out on the bed and took a nap... until I woke up from being chilly.
Stepped outside and trimmed my hair down to stubble and shaved off my beard- kind of a tradition of mine when I get to the southern desert. I looked at the map and decided to visit a few more places.
First stop was the Devil's Golf Course. Rough, rough land there. Looks like a freshly plowed field, just hotter. Second stop was Badwater Basin, lowest elevation in the U.S., at 282 feet below sea level. It was 111 degrees there according to the thermometer in my truck.
Next I drove the Artist's Drive loop, which is highlights colorful, bare-naked mountains. Interesting, but it didn't thrill me much after the other things I'd seen. On the way back to camp I filled up with gas at the Furnace Creek station. I paid a lot ($3.85 per, I think), but I needed it to get out of the valley tomorrow.
Last thing for today is hooking the TT to the TV this evening, so I can make an easy escape tomorrow morning. I'll probably leave well before dawn, so I don't want to have to deal with hitching up in the dark.
I took a lot of pics. I will post some here when I get them transferred from my camera.
If you haven't been to Death Valley, it's worth seeing at least once. (2nd time for me) Just make sure you have good brakes for all the elevation changes. It's something like 6000 feet down from the rim.
2011 Dodge Ram 1500 HEMI Quad Cab
2011 Jay Flight 26BH