Saturday, March 21, 2015

Death Valley National Park to Mt. Whitney foothills

Why the blog title?
Because it is such an extreme from Death Valley to the Eastern Sierra Mountain foothills.
More about that as we move along.

Jan and I follow Route 210 to Route 190 into Death Valley National Park.  A very easy route to follow beginning just north of Pahrump.

The colors from various minerals show off as we approach the valley.

Once again, a very nice visitor center with friendly and helpful staff.

And yes---we came on the hottest days so far in 2015.   That is 91 degrees and rising.

If you click to enlarge, you might read the vertical post that says the center is
190 feet below sea level!

Even our helpful second page from our GPS
wants to show minus 105 feet at our campsite.

Jan and I are in no rush, so we will always try to stroll through the displays at visitor centers as well as watch videos that might be playing.  Videos are 100% better these last few years for picture quality and overall quality.

You will see this record noted in many spots around the valley.
The world record of hottest temperature 134 degrees!

It is also the driest place in the U.S.

2 inches of rain per year. Some years , no rain at all!

Even in March, we are very much aware of how quickly we become dehydrated.

Things we were told.
  Gas up in Pahrump ($2.39 per gallon). Gas was $4.00 per gallon in Death Valley.
   No cell phone or data coverage.  We were lucky to have some phone coverage, but no internet for our entire stay.
    The distances are long!.  The park has over 3 million acres and nearly 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads.

One important stop is Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level.
Yet, as we walk out on the salt flats, we are also looking at the snow capped peaks like Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet.

There is often some water here.  Some people have also dug down a few inches and found extremely salty water.

All of the white is salt left over after evaporation.
At one time this was a 30 foot deep lake. After evaporation it left a one to five foot layer of salt.

No, this is not a dirty snow pile from Boston!

This is one of the salt piles out on the flats.

Lady Blue insisted that we show you her picture at Badwater.

There is a sign up on the cliffs where the red letters say Sea Level.

Jan and I stayed the first few days at Furnace Creek area at the Sunset Campground. This is basically a parking lot for dry camping with nice views of the sunsets and the surrounding mountains.

At the Ranch in Furnace Creek are some museum pieces that remind you of the borax mining in the late 1800's and early 1900's

And how many are old enough to remember 20 Mule Team Borax?

This link will show you a team and also bring you to the National Park site. 20 Mule Team

This link will take you to the radio-television program that started in the 1930's and lasted until the mid 1960's when it was hosted by a Ronald Reagan(later known as U.S. President)
Death Valley Days  and Apacheland with Ronald Reagan

Had to put this one in for Cliff and Vicki.

A 60 ton oil burning Baldwin 280 locomotive.
It hauled borax from 1916 to 1931.

Then there is Old Dinah that hauled between the 20 mule teams years and the locomotive years.

Just abandoned along the roadside.

Those who have 4 wheel drive vehicles with good clearance can hunt other antique vehicles and cabins all across Death Valley.

The view from Zabriskie Point.  The valley can be seen clearly stretched between the mountain ranges east and west.

There are many hikes listed from as short as a half mile to at least a 14 mile round trip.

Extremely dangerous in the hot summer weather.

For those who want a little more comfort, there is The Inn at Furnace Creek.

Furnace Creek Inn

Some of the features are massage therapy , fireplaces, and a gourmet menu in an elegant room, and two spring fed swimming pools.

A 4 diamond AAA inn, remember that there is a dress code for dinner.

One of the most fascinating stops in Death Valley is Scotty's Castle, at the northern end of the park.

Scotty was a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show that traveled around the world in the early 1900's.

He was also an ex-cowboy, a prospector, and a con artist.  He was able to sell shares to a non existent gold mine.  One millionaire he swindled was Albert Johnson.
The surprise was that Johnson, after insisting on seeing this mine, actually liked Scotty and became lifelong friends with him.

After spending some time camping in the area, Johnson had a huge home built for his wife Bessie, himself, and an added cabin for Scotty himself.

Scotty never lived at the castle, but he held forth with all kinds of visitors and celebrities, telling his collection of fantastic tales and real stories.

Lots of heavy wood(redwood)and iron in a Spanish Mission style.  Bessie declined a design from an architect named Frank Lloyd Wright.

Even an ornate sundial.

What time is it?

Even though this was a wilderness in the early 20th century, Johnson loved his Packards.

This was his 1914 7 passenger Packard Touring Car.

For some of the younger readers, Packard was perhaps the most elegant vehicle of the time.

A 1925 Graham Brothers Dump truck used on the property.

Al Johnson with one of his earliest -1914-Packards caught in a gully out in the Valley.

There is no question, Jan and I would strongly recommend a tour of the Castle.  The whole story is very fascinating, the tours are conducted by guides in period dress, and the inside is complete with original furniture, rugs, theater organ, pianos, dishes, and clothing.

Just a few miles from Scotty's Castle is the Mesquite Spring Campground.  Nice developed dry camping sites. Well spaced. And about 2,000 foot elevation, making for a more comfortable day and evening.

Like Sunset, this campground was $6 per night with Senior Pass.  Also, the Senior Pass allows for free entrance to the park($20 value) and half price entrance to Scotty's Castle.

It's March and the desert is beginning to flower.  From full yellow creosote bush above to smaller purple bushes like a lupine.

Some are only an inch or two high.

Some of the very small are similar to a violet.

And some are like small daisies.  Being in the desert, the petals and leaves are often quite waxy, almost artificial looking to preserve moisture.

Well, we have gone on a bit!!!  We left Death Valley at below sea level and traveled to Lone Pine, California at 5,000 foot elevation(our spot at Tuttle Creek BLM).  The cost for this local view?  $2.50 per night!
Mt. Whitney at 14,496 feet is the second from the right, looking a little smaller than Lone Pine because it is further away.  More to follow.

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