Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Death Valley

We live about 60 miles (100km) from Death Valley but don’t really go there very often.  It is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter; some people are never happy.  Still, it is a fascinating place and we decided to take a spur-of-the-moment trip over there last Sunday.  It was overcast and windy but it was only about 85F (29C) so we figured we could manage it.  It wasn’t a good day or time for photos but I have a couple to share.

It is kind of an interesting trip.  Pahrump is at 2,600 feet (790m), going west we crest the hills at about 2,800 feet (850m) then drop down to about 1,400 feet (425m) then back up to about 3,000 feet (900m) before starting the descent into Death Valley.  It isn’t a steep descent but it does go down quite a ways! 

We checked in at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center.  It was renovated recently and we hadn’t been.  They did a nice job mostly making the building much more energy efficient that it had been.  Then we went on a couple little trails; to see a couple of the attractions.  We've been to some of the better know spots like Zabriskie Point, Badwater and Artist's Palette before so we went to lesser known ones this time.  The first was the old Borax Works.  The mine isn’t shown but they have part of the machinery for melting down the ore and a few wagons that were used to transport the borax.  It must have been quite a deal.  They had Chinese workers who were paid something like $1.50 a day – this was in the 1880’s so it wouldn’t be TOO much like slave labor but then they had to buy food from ‘the company store’.  I’m sure that wasn’t much of a bargain.  Happily for the workers, borax couldn’t be processed when it was over 120F so they got the hottest part of the summer off. 

After that we went on a little walk along Salt Creek.  Yes, we have creeks in the desert.  This one is pretty fragile so the park service built a boardwalk along the creek.  You can see pupfish swimming in the creek.  These are cousins to the ones at Ash Meadows.  The ones at Ash Meadows are considered endangered and nearing extinction.  These guys have managed to adapt to the salty water of the creek and are actually doing just fine.  Trying to get a photo of them didn’t work; the wind was rippling the water. Besides, they are tiny, only an inch or so long (2.5cm).

This is the view north from the Borax processing area.  Not too scenic, huh?

Just to show you what our GPS thought of Death Valley:  we were in the parking lot at Salt Creek and elevation is -227 ft (-69m).  You will also note the absence of roads however when we got back on the road the GPS was back to knowing where we were.

We ended our stay by driving through Twenty Mule Team Canyon; a narrow and twisty one-way road through huge mounds.  It was really interesting but totally un-photographable. 

So that was our Sunday drive; we left about 10:00 and got home about 16:00.  It was really a great day.  Hope you have a good one.


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JoeinVegas said...

We've just hit the south end, never made it to the places you mentioned. Looks like not this summer, hopefully when it cools down.