Death Valley 2015, Round 2

We met up with Jeanne’s ma (Yvonne), and Gary and all stayed at the Sunset campground in Furnace Creek for 8 days at $12 per night (Gary got it for $6, a senior discount) for a no hook-up campsite with fresh water, a dump station, and flush toilets available. The weather this time was great, a little cloudy for a couple of days, a little blustery at times, but overall cool and enjoyable. The campground had paved roads and large gravel sites. The visitor’s center was across the street, as was the Furnace Creek Ranch, which contained a general store, a couple of restaurants, cabins for rent, and the Borax museum. The coyotes did not bother us much, only heard them in the campground on a couple of nights. Death Valley N.P. is very large and there is a lot of driving to do for the spread out sights to see. 

Sunset Campground at Furnace Creek.
Our first stop was the Harmony Borax Works. It is touted as one of the first borax operations in the valley, operating in the late 1800‘s. Of all the mining throughout the history of Death Valley, borax was the most profitable. Here at Harmony are the remnants of that processing plant.  

What is left of the Harmony Borax Works.

A closer view…

Jeanne, Yvonne, and Gary in front of a 20-mule team wagon set up.
This time around we made it to Scotty’s Castle in the north. We walked around the exterior on our own, opting not to pay for the guided tour through the interior. The castle is a very large spanish style ranch plopped down in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It was interesting to see that, being built back during the Depression years, they had solar power technology back then, they had put a solar system in for the water heating behind the house. While we were there, a couple of coyotes were prowling around the picnic area looking for Scooby snacks. We took the short walk uphill to visit Death Valley Scotty’s grave which overlooks the castle and has a good view of the surrounding valleys.

Wile E. Coyote looking for Scooby snacks.

The front view of Scotty’s Castle.

At the rear of the castle, you can see the water tank at right and the solar heating system remnants directly in front and below the tank.

Death Valley Scotty’s grave marker. Strange history behind this man, he did not actually own the castle, he was only the caretaker for a millionaire who he conned, was found out, then continued a friendly relationship with…

View of Scotty’s Castle from his gravesite.

A closer front view.
After leaving Scotty’s Castle, we veered over to Ubehebe Crater. It was a short walk up to the rim and a pretty scenic view. The crater was formed by volcanic activity—ground water was heated to steam and pressure built up until it exploded to create the crater. Amazing was nature will create…

Ubehebe Crater

“OK, who stole all the colors?”

I guess this is not a good location to play “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey”—watch your step!
Badwater Basin is the lowest point of land in the U.S. (actually, in the western hemisphere) at 282’ below sea level. It is a big, flat plain at the bottom of the valley and when you look up at the mountain along the highway you see the words “sea level” marking that measurement on the mountain.

The sea level marker waaaaaaay up on the mountain.

Yvonne, me, and Gary just chillin’ “under the water”.

We still had a bit of snow on nearby mountains, but nice weather in Death Valley.
Next on our agenda was the Natural Bridge. That is a short hike up a canyon with some spectacular formations and dried up waterfalls.

Jeanne, Gary, and Yvonne taking a break on this short hike to Natural Bridge.

Jeanne and her mom standing in a dry waterfall tube.

“Hooray, we made it to the bridge!”

Yvonne and Gary inside another “dryfall”.

The Artist’s Palette drive is always a must-see. In these narrow, windy roads through the hills the mountains look like somebody splashed bright paints all over them (not limited to Artist’s Palette, ALL of the surrounding mountains to Death Valley have to be some of the most colorful mountains in the country, if not world!).

The Artist’s Palette.

Some of the strange formations found in the Artist’s Palette drive.
The Golden Canyon Trail is very cool as well. The surrounding canyon walls and hills are a bright golden color with unique and interesting formations. We took the short walk, ending at the Red Cathedral, but there is a longer, about 4 mile loop hike that nears Zabriskie Point (which was closed during our visit this time due to construction work to repair erosion/damage to the viewing area).

“We’re climbing through THAT?!”

Cruising through Golden Canyon.


“Why do you suppose they call this Golden Canyon?”

Gary, Yvonne, and Jeanne in the canyons.

The approach to Red Cathedral.

Jeanne conquered the hike to Red Cathedral.

Yeah, we made Gary and Yvonne climb rocks too!

“Hey, hey, hey you two, get a room!”
The Titus Canyon drive is a must when visiting D.V. It is a bit of a rough dirt road (4-wheel and high clearance advised), it is about 27 +/- miles long, takes about 3 hours to traverse, and winds through the ghost town of Leadfield. Scenic, scenic, scenic, ‘nuff said.

Titus Canyon views.

Most colorful…

Leadfield, a ghost town in Titus Canyon.

4-wheel beauty.

Toward the end of Titus Canyon drive. The end has the skinnier canyon trails…
On the way to Mosaic Canyon, we made a quick stop at the Mesquite Flat Dunes, a large area of sand dunes which looks out of place in Death Valley. Mosaic Canyon is another short hike up a narrow canyon area with awesome formations. Jeanne sweated it out whether her mom and Gary could make the hike(s), but they showed her how the cow ate the cabbage.

Gary, Yvonne, and Jeanne on the Mesquite dunes. Nice shot of mountains in background.

Walking Mosaic Canyon. Well, we walked. Jeanne danced…

Plugging away in Mosaic Canyon.

Platoon leader Jeanne taking charge of our march.

Atlas…times 3.

Help! I’m stuck up here!

Lots of different formations in Mosaic Canyon.

We finished off our time in Death Valley with a disappointing day of playoff football, then bid our farewells. We headed back to Pahrump to clean up and re-stock for our next adventure, which will be at…

About rvrrat520

Recreational wanderers just livin' the dream while we can still get vertical.
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