10-25-08 and 10-26-08 Death Valley National Park

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Salsberry Pass coming into Death Valley -- love these colors

Salsberry Pass coming into Death Valley -- love these colors

October 25 to October 26, 2008 — We are in Death Valley today and tomorrow.  Absolutely beautiful — it is right up there with the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.  We don’t have Internet in our room so I’ll update with pics as soon as we are back to civilization.  Evenings here are for star gazing, not computing!   _______________________________________    

Looking out from Jubilee Pass

Looking out from Jubilee Pass

Nov 1, 2008:  Finally, I have a chance to post photos and tell you about our wonderful 2 days in Death Valley!    

Between passes -- with these colors, you can see why there was so much prospecting!

Between passes -- with these colors, you can see why there was so much prospecting!

We arrived here on Saturday Morning after spending a (not so restful due to awful bed) night in Barstow, California.  There a several entrances into Death Valley, each requiring that you drive up over a mountain and then as you descend you see the beautiful valley below.  Mind you, Death Valley is so large that it is impossible to see it all at once as you come in.    

Ashford Mills ruins - was a gold processing plant

Ashford Mills ruins - In 1914 Gold Ore from the Golden Treasure Mine (5 miles to the east) was processed here.

We came into Death Valley on 178 (we took 15 to 126N to 178) at the southern tip of the Funeral Mountains. This entrance has you drive through  two passes (which means that you travel up to the peak and then back down again) not before we went by the Salsberry Pass (3315 ft) and then the Jubilee Pass (1290 feet).    

Kit Fox on the side of the road.

Kit Fox on the side of the road. Look at this fur!

Our first stop in Death Valley was at the Ashford Mill ruins.  We poked around a bit. Here’s the history: In 1910, Ashford had the rights to the gold mine, but he and his brother worked it 4 years without a strike. They sold the rights to an Australian count for $50, 000 who later sold it to McCausland for $105,000. McCausland did find gold ore and processed $100,000 worth He employed 28 men. He shut it down because the cost to process exceeded the profit.    

Carl at 282 ft. Below Sea Level in Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point (on land) in North America. There is a spring fed pond of water, but because of the salt it is not drinkable, hence the name "Badwater."

Carl at 282 ft. Below Sea Level in Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point (on land) in North America. There is a spring fed pond of water, but because of the salt minerals, it is not drinkable, hence the name "Badwater."

Car in parking lot - against mountain that shows where sea level is

Car in parking lot - against mountain that shows where sea level is

Everywhere we looked was just picture perfect — but I couldn’t keep asking Carl to stop so I took minimum photos until we came to the Badwater Basin.  As I said, Death Valley is a big place; surely more than you can see in a couple days.  There are two things, that epitimizes this place — one is the large salt flat known as Badwater.  There is a small spring-fed basin of water — and the reason this is called Badwater is that a prospector complained that the water here was so bad that not even his donkey would drink it — hence, “badwater.”        

Close up of salt crystals on the salt flats at Badwater.

Close up of salt crystals on the salt flats at Badwater.

Sand Dunes in Death Valley

Sand Dunes in Death Valley

There is a stretch of salt that us tourists are allowed to walk out on.  Carl says that when he was here with his brother, Ole,  nearly 20 years ago (and this place was only a National Monument and not a National Park), people could walk anywhere that they wanted, thus there were RVs out on the salt flats.  Now there are fences and such to protect this naturally occurring wonder.      

I loved all the colors in Death Valley and could not stop taking pictures -- of course none of the photos capture it like it really is.

I loved all the colors in Death Valley and could not stop taking pictures -- of course none of the photos capture it like it really is.

Certainly one needs little imagination to picture that this whole valley was once filled with water, about 2000 to 4000 years ago.  You can see the water level as you look out at the surrounding mountains.  When the weather changed and the water began to evaporate, it left behind the minerals, which is this salt bed.    Carl and I walked out on the Salt Flats about as far as we were allowed to walk — and then back again.  Nice exercise.  The temperature was in the high 80s — dry, sunny and perfect.  By this time it was around 3:00 in the afternoon and we still needed a place for the night.  So rather than stopping at each and every spot as outlined in my book, we headed over to the Stovepipe Wells Village.  There are three places to stay in the park (without camping equipment or an RV); of the three, this one is the least expensive.  Carl was smart to hurry over to Stovepipe (despite my dismay as we passed the artist’s pallette, the Borax Works, etc) — we got the last room!  Though it was one of the high end ones — with a TV.  After thinking about how much we still needed to see, we took the room for Sunday night as well. After that, we went over to the Stove Pipe General Store and picked up a sandwich and headed over to the sand dunes for dinner.  Pleasant.  

Rhyolite - Cook Bank.  Notice the two bank vaults and the trim left at the top of the building.

Rhyolite - Cook Bank. Notice the two bank vaults and the trim left at the top of the building.

When we got back, we brought our computers over to the lobby area.  The access was about good enough to get mail.  I decided to read instead of work on my computer. Carl tried to follow a couple of the RV auctions that he was following but finally gave up.    

Look a tarantula.  (In Rhyolite)

Look a tarantula! (In Rhyolite)

The next morning, we had a real breakfast at the restaurant and then headed off to visit Rhyolite ghost town just over the border in Nevada.  This meant leaving Death Valley via route 374 out through Daylight Pass.  Looking out the back window, you could see that this would be a pretty spectacular way to come into Death Valley.    

Train Station in Rhyolite
Train Station in Rhyolite — there is a fence around this to protect it.  There is evidence that someone tried to make this into a casino, probably after this was a ghost town. This is Nevada, where casinos are in every town.

Rhyolite had a few building structures left — and these were marked  with signs that said  what they once were.  

The most popular spot to visit was the Bottle House since it had a curator giving a tour.  When we arrived it was filled with people and then when we came back from our walk around “town,” a whole new group had just arrived, so we decided to not explore it.  

 

Carl showing me an old can -- note the stamp to seal it shut and the holes punctured to get the liquid out.

Carl showing me an old can -- note the stamp to seal it shut and the holes punctured to get the liquid out. There was rusted metal junk everywhere but I'm sure the stuff worth anything is long gone. Still this was interesting. I found a chip from an old plate.

The town came into existence as the result of a gold rush that began in 1904, and had its peak population  from 1905 to 1910.  By 1907, the town had electricity with an estimated population of 3,500 to 10,000.  Looking over at the land that was this town, it is hard to imagine that many people lived here — it had to be really crowded.   When gold production decreased,  the population declined and the town was abandoned by 1919. In the desert, wood lasts forever, and thus if they had left the wooden structures in place, this whole ghost town would have a different appearance.  But, in those days, when towns were abandoned, people took apart the houses and brought them with them! 

 

 

Armagosa Opera House featuring Marta Beckett

Armagosa Opera House featuring Marta Beckett

When we left Rhyolite we head east to Beatty, Nevada.  This is a picturesque historical town. Of course, it was bit marred by so many McCain signs.  But that’s just me.  Oh, and there is still an active mine in this area. 

 

 

Active Mining right on the border of Death Valley

Active Mining right on the border of Death Valley

After Beatty, we continued outside Death Valley, and found ourselves in Death Valley Junction and the Armagosa Opera House and Hotel. This would be an interesting place to stay for one night. It feels like a ghost town. Watch this video. Unfortunately the opera house was locked so we couldn’t take a look inside.

 

 

From Dante's Peak, looking up Death Valley

From Dante's Peak -- looking out at Death Valley. From here we can see all of Death Valley, but we can't possibly photograph it all.

This brought us back into Death Valley, and yet another entrance (highway 190).  There is still a lot mining going on this side of Death Valley and looking at the map closely, we could see that National Park border does scoot around this area.

 

 

From Dantes Peak, looking down at Badwater Basin, where we were yesterday.

From Dante's Peak, looking down at Badwater Basin, where we were yesterday.

We decided to take the road up the top of the mountain to see Dante’s View — and here at last you can see all of Death Valley from 5475 feet up. We then stopped at the Zabriskie Point look out, which was just a turn off and not nearly as dramatic a ride — but the view was.

When we came down from here, we headed over to the museum and spent over an hour looking at all the exhibits. It is really well done with lots of information on the geology, mining efforts, the area’s native people and the first white people to stumble into the Death Valley.  

 

 

Petrified Sand Dunes -- view from Zabriskie Point

Petrified Sand Dunes -- view from Zabriskie Point

After the museum, we went over to look at the Borax works — or what is left of it.  Carl remembers the original “20 mule” Borax ads — I don’t remember that as much, but I do recall commercials with laundry products touting “with Borax”  as the special feature.  Is Borax still used for laundry?  Anyway, from what I learned between the Borax works site and the museum is that the works hired about 40 people, many of them Chinese workers.  Essentially they dug the salt out the flats and then boiled out the borax, and then hung metal poles in a barrel and let the pure borax crystalize. The couldn’t make it in the summer because the crystals wouldn’t form in the high heat.  Even at other times of the year, they wrapped the barrels to keep them cool.

 

Borax Works

Borax Works

 

 

 

The borax filled box cars and water tank that were drawn by the 20 mules.

The borax filled box cars and water tank that were drawn by the 20 mules. It took 10 days to reach Mohave. In the background is worker housing.

We were fairly wiped out by this point and we headed back to the cabin at Stovepipe Wells.  We shared a sandwich by the pool and read our books for awhile, until sunset.  Then went back to our rooms for a bit more book reading.  Love this life. I hope we have another opportunity to visit Death Valley again soon — maybe after we by our RV — we only saw a fraction of what the National Park has to offer.

 

Sun setting on mountains in Death Valley

Sun setting on mountains in Death Valley

 

Office at Stove Pipe Village

Office at Stove Pipe Village

 

Stovepipe Village

Stovepipe Village

 

Pool at Stovepipe Village

Pool at Stovepipe Village

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