Joe and Nancy

Joe and Nancy
Our Home on Wheels (Click on image above for our web albums.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Death Valley National Park, CA

So, we broke camp in St George, UT and headed out for the Death Valley NP.  We got our washing machine fixed and now we have to fight with Whirlpool to get our $150 back as it was under warranty.  It was a pleasant 160 mile drive as we went right Las Vegas and got on US95 there and drove to Armagosa Valley and got on NV373, drove to DeathValley Junction and turned down CA190 and on into the NP.

If you've never had the opportunity to visit the park, you might be surprised at the variety of the surrounding landscapes.  We certainly were.  On our drive down into the abyss, we decided we would spend a couple of nights at the Sunset Campground at the Furnace Creek Ranch area.  It was supposed to be closed, but we pulled in there and hooked up to "nothing" as there were no services.  That was ok though as we don't need anything.  We did however park next to a rest room.  The reason we came this direction from St George vice heading north from there (which is what Nancy wanted to do, for the record), was because the weather in Salt Lake area was still winter-like.  I don't do winters very well these days.  o we headed to a warmer area.  And was it ever warmer. 
When we pulled into the campground it was 94.  But as everyone says, it was a "dry heat".  Baloney!  It is still HOT, but I like hot.  Nancy likes cool.  Perhaps next week Nancy.
Golden Canyon hike with a volunteer ranger.
This tour was actually the next day.  It was about 10:30 and it was already bright and 88.  Nice!  We had a group of about 15 folks learning about the rock and geological formations from 3 million years ago to the present.  Nice!

"Can anyone tell me what you see here"?  Yep, a big rock!
That's our Jeep way down there.  It was hot so Nancy stayed with the Jeep and the AC.  I went on a little hike on this off road trail, called 20 Mule Team Trail.  Oh, which reminds me, some of you may remember way back in our younger years, the 20 Mule Team Borax commercials that brought the series "Death Valley Days".  Here is where it all took place, in Death Valley, literally.  All the borite and borax was mined here and transported to Boron, CA for refining and packaging into the many products made from the crystals.  And just how was it transported 165 miles from here to Boron?:  By 20 Mule Teams and two wagons full of the cleaned borax and one wagon full of water for the mules.  Poor animals in that deathly heat.
This location was about a mile up the road from Furnace Creek Ranch.
This is one of the five sets of wagons that are still in existance.  It is at the Harmony Borax Works location.
One of the little exploratory shafts that was drilled looking for the rich deposits of borax.  I found this on my little hike up in the 20 Mule Team trail ride.  There were many of these shafts drilled in the area.
These were a few pics of the original Harmony Works.  This one of the rail wagons used to haul in the raw borax scraped from the floor of the valley.
The old boiler still stands.
One two remnants of the housing units where the Chinese laborers lived while working at the Works, about a half-mile down on the flats from the Works.  Here a few more pics from my little "hot hike".
These hills were an unusual shade of cream-colored rock and soft material when walked upon.

OK, here we are at the lowest geogrphical point in North America:  Badwater! 282 feet below sea level.  The pic below has a marker indicating where sea level is.
Not really bad or poisonous, just real brine and salty.
We walked a little ways out into the flats, but it was about 90 now and the footing was a little spongy.  So we headed back to the Jeep and on to the next stop.
Nancy looking back at the Jeep.  "Hey, this is far enough", is what I think she said.  Did I mention she doesn't do "hot" very well?  So we hopped in the Jeep and headed for Devil's Golf Course.
Only the devil could play golf here.
Nancy posing for the real golfer :-)  On to Dante's View...
From atop Dante's View.   Dante's View is a viewpoint terrace at 5,475 feet (1,669 meters) height, on the north side of Coffin Peak, along the crest of the Black Mountains, overlooking Death Valley. Dante's View is about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park.  It was 73 up here and a little windy, but too bad.  Nancy fixed us a samich and a drink here as we relaxed in the cool breeze and took in the panoramic valley over 5000 feet below and the Badwater salt flats directly below.
Looking north down the valley towards Furnace Creek.
Looking west towards Telescope Peak in the Panamint Range.
Looking south and past one of the several tourists that were there enjoying the views and weather.
These Asian tourists would jump in the air while the camera man tried to catch them appearing to be jumping off the edge.  I caught this young lady at the right moment.
Nancy relaxing after our lunch.  And keeping my peanuts safe from the raven that was waiting for the right moment to swoop in and fly off with his cache.  Never happened!  Our last stop of the day was at the Furnace Creek Borax Museum.  It was still hot but the evening breezes were beginning to pick up, so we decided to walk through the museum.  It was free, so the price was right!  :-)  Here are few pics from the museum.  I asked Nancy to be in these pics so you could gain a pespective as to the size of these wheels and carriages.
An old 225 HP engine used to provide electricity to the Furnace Creek Ranch area in 1936.
Borax wagon carriage
axles and wheels for the big wagons
Logging wheels used to drag timbers from the Spring Mountains.
Concord Stagecoach carried passengers across the Armagosa Valley east of Death Valley.
This Panamint Stagecoach  run twice a day between Skidoo and Rhyolite in 1907.
Logging wagon
Feed wagon used at the many stopping points along the 165 mile journey from Furnace Creek to Boron.
Francis Marion Smith's buckboard was used by the Borax King to get around to his properties in Death Valley.
Railroad crew car for transporting members for doing track inspections and repairs on the Tonopah & Tidewater RR from 1904 to 1940.
Side-dump ore cars
Old home made wheelbarrel.
Well, we took many other photos in the museum, as it was most interesting looking at the artifacts from long ago.  We left here and went back to the motor home and rode out the night in blustery winds.  Had to pull in the slides as the wind tried to pick our MH up a few times.  WOW!  It blew all night long and into the next morning.  We packed up and left out towards the western entrance and Stovepipe Wells, with a hopeful stop by Scotty's Castle.  We never made it to Scotty's Castle.  First of it was 36 more miles, one way, and into a 45 mph gusting wind, and dust and sand so thick you could hardly see at times.  Our main awning was pulled out and I had to stop and re-secure it.  So we will save Scotty's Castle for another time.  The rest of the ride out of the huge National Park was not with incident or excitement.  Nancy drove the Jeep and I the MH.  It was so windy and dusty that I could only do about 35mph for 35 miles up and out of the Valley.  We were told by a young man at the general store in Furnace Creek that we should be ok driving our MH over to Lone Pine.  When got to the top of the Valley some 4000 feet up and ready to go back down the mountain on the other side, headed for Panamint Springs, little did we know that this grade would put our engine break and real brakes to their ultimate test to date.  It was 9 miles long at grades from 6 to 9 per cent.  I thought we would be ok because we had not connected the Jeep yet, so only the MH would be braking.  WRONG!  BAD WRONG!  About half way down, I realized this was a bad trip.  I smoked the brakes for about a mile before I relized it would be real risky to try and make it to the bottom.  So I prayed and pushed rather hard to bring the rig to a complete stop.  WHEW!  That was scary!  After about 30 minutes of letting the system "cool down", we continued on to Lone Pine.  Hope to never experience anything like that again.  We are in Lone Pine at the Boulder Creek RV Park and will go to the top of Mt Whitney in the Jeep today.  So, till the next blog, Joe & Nancy.