Go Knights!!

My Airbnb hostess in Pahrump is a HUGE Golden Knights fan.  The Golden Knights, based in Las Vegas – about 75 miles from here, are a new NHL professional hockey team this year and they have made it to the Stanley Cup finals.  As I post this they are playing Game 4 against the Washington Capitals.  Going in to tonight’s game the Capitals were up 2 games to 1 in the best of 7 series.  The series returns to Las Vegas Thursday night.

My Airbnb hostess is currently at a “watch party” where she and a group of friends are watching the game.  Yesterday she made cupcakes decorated in the team colors:


Death Valley – Day 1 – Post 1 of 3

Death Valley National Park is located in southeast California, along the border with Nevada. The Park slants from Northwest to Southeast. There are four entrances to the Park from the east. The northernmost entrance is closed, for reasons I will explain shortly.  I am staying at an Airbnb in Pahrump, Nevada.  Pahrump is a variation of the Southern Paiute Indian words for “Water Rock,” for the abundance of artesian wells in the area.

Sunday I drove from Pahrump north about an hour to the town of Beatty, then headed west towards the second northern entrance. As soon as I crossed the state line in to California I was in Death Valley National Park. The Park is huge – over 5,200 square miles.  Death Valley proper is about 3,000 square miles, in the center of the Park.

I’ve always pictured Death Valley as a flat, dry, empty desert. Well, Death Valley proper basically is that. But the desert floor lies between two long mountain ranges, the Amargosa Range to the east and the Panamint Range to the west, so it truly is in a valley.  The mountains on both sides are very tall, close to or over 10,000 feet.  The highest point is called Telescope Peak, in the western range, and it tops out at 11,049 feet.  The mountains are devoid of trees but are nonetheless very colorful in their own way.  Many shades of brown, gray, and green create some very interesting patterns and there is a wide variety as you travel through the valley.


After entering the Park I needed to climb over the Amargosa mountains to get to the desert floor.  Actually, first I still had to get to the Amargosa mountains….


It took about 15 minutes but after getting over the mountains I was finally at the desert floor.





The majority of the paved roads in the Park run along the base of the Amargosa Mountains on the east side of the desert.   I headed towards Scotty’s Castle, and then to the place where the road ends.

Scotty’s Castle is one of the two Visitor Centers in the Park.  It is a very ornate structure, and I would have loved to have seen it – but the road to it is closed.  On October 18, 2015 the northern part of the valley received over 3 inches of rain in a 5 hour period.  Needless to say, the desert isn’t prepared to handle that amount of rain (more than they get in a whole year!).  The roads were severely damaged, and while the Castle didn’t suffer any structural damage, there was cleanup work to do and obviously the roads must be fixed in order to get to it.  Over $50 million dollars in damage.  And Trump would rather spend money on his goofy military parade than fix one of America’s major National Parks.

These photos are from a sign at the Grapevine Ranger Station.  If you want to play along at home you can find a map of the Park on the US Park Service website, or just Google “Death Valley National Park map”.





So since I couldn’t go to the Castle I continued northward until the paved road ended.  This put me at an overlook which let me peer down into Ubehebe Crater.

Here is an aerial view from a sign at the overlook:


Ubehebe (you say it just like it’s spelled:  U-bee Hee-bee) is not the result of a meteor strike, but rather a volcanic eruption – similar to what is currently going on in Hawaii.  Magma underground hits ground water and the resulting steam must find relief, and the path of least resistance in this case was UP.  Rocks and debris were scattered over a 6 square mile area.  The resulting crater is 1/2 mile across and 500 feet deep.

Here is a panorama sequence, looking left to right:





Here is a view the the bottom of the crater:


And here is a closer look at the far side, looking from my vantage point:


Since this was the end of the road I headed back the way I came to go to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, the only one currently open.  The story continues in the next post.


Death Valley – Day 1 – Post 2 of 3

As I proceeded south I passed Titus Canyon, which is a popular spot with tourists but has a dirt and rock access road.  I learned my lesson last year about driving on such roads with my car (a Nissan Altima) as I cut a tire on the road leading in and out of Chaco Canyon in Arizona.  Although it deprives me of seeing some of the sights, I have learned to stay on paved roads.

I also passed the road for Salt Creek.  A gentleman I had spoken with earlier in the day recommended that I go see it but again, dirt road.  Evidently there is a creek there where fish have adapted to actually tolerate the extreme temperatures and high salt content.  They are called “pupfish” and if you Google that you will find images of them.

Next I came to the site of the old Harmony Borax Works, which operated from 1883 to 1888.  Borax is a mineral, and despite the rumors of gold and other treasures in the valley, was the most profitable resource to ever be harvested here.  Borax was called the “White Gold of the Desert”.  Remember Borax laundry detergent?  “It’s stronger than dirt!” was their tag line.  It was also called 20-mule team Borax because of the teams comprised of 20 mules, pulling the wagons used to transport the product to market.






Just before getting to the Visitor Center I passed a sign indicating that I was parked right at sea level:


You may or may not be able to tell, but the car is sloping forward (downward).  I am beginning my descent into the belly of the beast.

The Furnace Creek Visitor Center sits at 190 feet BELOW sea level.  It is near the spot where the highest temperature ever recorded in the world occurred in July of 1913 – at 134 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once I got to the Visitor Center I learned that Death Valley averages only 2 inches of rain per year.  And some years they don’t get ANY rain.  Zip, Zero, Nada.

The Visitor Center has this model showing the Valley:


You could press buttons and it would show where in the Park various landmarks were located.  Here is a relief map which may help you visualize the area a little better:


And here are two satellite photos, the first is the northern portion of the Park, the second is the southern portion:



The “You Are Here” references are actually to Dante’s Peak, which I’ll get to in the next post.

Right next to the Visitor Center is a small, privately owned gas station.  Here is what people who came unprepared are expected to pay:


There really isn’t any excuse for anyone coming here and needing to buy gas.  I paid 2.959 for regular unleaded in Pahrump.  Yes, the Park is big, but I drove a good bit the first day and only used a little more than half a tank.  If you come here low on fuel you deserve to pay this price!

Here are some more photos taken at various points up to this part of my first day in the Park.  I haven’t looked at the digital camera photos yet, but since the valley is so big, I used the smartphone camera for most pictures.  There really wasn’t much to zoom in on!




This concludes first-day coverage on the central portion of the Park.  The next post covers some areas south of the Visitor Center.




Death Valley – Day 1 – Post 3 of 3

After stopping at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center I continued to drive south.  This is when things started to get interesting.  The next stop as I proceeded south along the east side of the valley was Artist’s Point.  There is a one-way paved road which leads part way up into the mountains and it is said that the colors and hues change constantly as the sun rises, moves across the sky, and sets.  It is a popular place for artists and photographers to gather.





One particular overlook is called “Artist’s Palette”:







I’m sure you can find some great pictures by either Googling “Death Valley Artist’s Palette” and looking at “Images” or go on the National Park Service website and go to Death Valley and look at photos there.

Before I left Artist’s Point I saw this little shrub, sitting just off the side of the road.  To me it looked deader than dead:


I stopped at the Visitor Center again today and asked a Ranger and he said no, it is very much alive.  It is called a Desert Holly and can apparently act like a chameleon and lighten the color of it’s leaves when it gets dry.  When it gets moisture from rain it will turn green and has very waxy leaves.  You’ll see other pictures of this plant in future posts.

The next stop down the road was the Devil’s Golf Course, which is off the main road going towards the center of the desert floor.  It isn’t really a golf course, and unfortunately for me the access road is comprised of dirt and rock so it was a no go.  According to a picture at the Visitor Center this is what the white surface out there looks like:


Those are salt crystals, oozing up from cracks in the desert floor.  They are comprised mostly of sodium chloride (common, everyday table salt) but if you go out there, wear your heavy golf shoes.  In some places the salt is sharp enough to cut through leather.

The next stop down the road is probably the most popular place in the Park:


Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet BELOW sea level.


People were actually walking out into the valley.  At this point it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, about 2 1/2 weeks shy of the longest day of the year.  The temperature…..  are you ready for this…..  had climbed to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  The temperature gauge in my Mazda 6 would exaggerate, but I currently drive a Nissan Altima and I have come to find that the temperature gauge in it is pretty accurate, especially when the car is moving.  I can tell you – it was pretty darn hot!  I also heard reports from other sources confirming that 120 was the magic number on Sunday.


I decided I had had enough fun for one day and started my journey back to Pahrump.  I planned to exit the Park through the 3rd road coming in from the east but before I left I drove up to Dante’s Peak.  This overlook is located at the end of a 13-mile access road and sits at 5,475 feet above sea level – more than a mile high.  The view of the valley is spectacular, but the pictures I took on Sunday were looking in to the sun so they aren’t very good.  I went back up there this morning (Monday) and will post those pictures tomorrow.  I will tell you that when I drove up there Sunday afternoon the temperature had dropped from 120 at Badwater Basin to a crisp, refreshing 94 degrees at Dante’s Peak.

I plan to go back down to Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas, tomorrow morning to get some pictures from down there with the sun behind me.  I may not go back in to Death Valley until Wednesday, when I will drive across the valley to the west side and visit all the things along the paved road over there before heading south to Barstow, California, my next stop.

After I get back from Red Rock Canyon tomorrow I will probably try to get caught up on posting pictures from today as well as more pictures from Black Canyon, Goblin Valley, Canyonlands and Zion.  I have them all identified – I just need to post them!





Oops…. I’m doing it again…

I realized yesterday that I am posting everything backwards again.  It is easier for me to post the events of a day as they happen, but then they are out of order as people scroll down the page.  I will try to post the end of the day first, then work backwards.

Sorry – I seem to be out of practice…