Thursday, November 13, 2014

Death Valley and more

We’ve had limited phone and Internet access before on our travels, but never so little connectivity as since we left our home in Salt Lake City November 2.  It was a tad unsettling, at least for Bev.

But we're now in Lake Havasu City, AZ, with good Internet connection. Here’s some of what we’ve seen/done since we last posted:

--- Southern Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park is a beautiful place.  We really recommend it, especially if you like to hike.  The park has 22 hiking trails -- many are in the easy to moderate categories -- and over 170 technical climbing routes if you are more adventuresome. There’s also a three-miles paved biking trail plus equestrian trails.

One caveat about Snow Canyon:  As we mentioned in our last post, our campsite was very narrow -- 12 feet wide -- as are all the sites with electric and water.  There are a couple of great dry camping RV sites, however, plus a very pretty tent camping area.
---Next we spent two nights at Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas.  Valley of Fire has two spectacular campgrounds nestled in red rocks; about 25 spaces in the Atlatl campground have water and electric. We did four hikes, all of them off White Dome Road which starts near the Visitors' Center.  The hikes were short but not that easy; several of the trails were sand slogs and/or had sandstone steps covered with slippery grit.  But beautiful and worth it.  

--After Valley of Fire we went to Death Valley National Park, the hottest, driest of the national parks.  As the park brochures says “To the uninitiated Death Valley National Park appears to be a vast, empty wasteland, but to the aficionado it is a place of wonder and endless stories.”   As expected, Death Valley lacks much in the way of the color green, but the mountains, hills and flats of Death Valley includes all possible shades of brown, gray, white, and rust. 

--Then we made a stop in Yermo, CA, where we had decent cell phone but spotty Internet at our campground, so again no post.  We did have a lovely experience, which I’ll write about later.

Jim on the Johnson Canyon Trail in southern Utah's Snow Canyon State Park.  The trail led us through a sheltered canyon with red rock cliffs, trees, a spring and a 200 foot long arch. This trail is closed from mid March to mid September; fellow hikers told us the closure was to help protect the endangered red spotty toad.
Jim peering into one of two lava tube on the Lava Flow Trail at Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, Utah.  Lava tubes are formed when the surface of flowing lava cools, but molten lava below keeps flowing and eventually drains out of a sloped lava field.
Our large campsite at Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park, north of Las Vegas.
Bev on the Fire Wave trail at Valley of Fire State Park.
The Golden Canyon Trail at Death Valley. Jim scrambled to a ledge in the middle of the red mountains in the distance, but I turned back after I bonked my head on an overhanging rock.  Despite my goose egg, it was a pretty hike.
While the park newsletter said this spot at Death Valley is the lowest point in North America, nearby signage claims it's the lowest spot in the western hemisphere. Per the local lore, Badwater got its name when a pioneer lead his mule to nearby water and the mule refused to drink. 
A salt-flat path at Badwater Basin. Brackish water is maybe six inches below the surface and could be seen in several holes along the way.
Some of the mountain/hill views in Death Valley reminded me of melting Neapolitan ice cream, heavy on the chocolate.  This photo was taken  on Artists Drive, a 9-mile paved road through volcanic and sedimentary hills.
View from our rig's backup camera at our spot at Death Valley's Furnace Creek Campground, where we dry camped for two nights. The campground is a huge gravel parking lot with 300 spots, plus overflow.  We were told you can usually get a camping space at Death Valley, no matter how busy the season.
Scotty's Castle in the northern part of Death Valley National Park, is named after cowboy and con man Walter Scott who got people to invest in a fake Death Valley gold mine.  One investor was wealthy Chicago businessman Albert Johnson and his wife Bessie, who became Scotty's friends even though he'd duped them.  The Johnsons built this vacation home for themselves, plus a home for Scotty.  They said Scotty paid them back "in laughs."
View of the Scotty's Castle from Scotty's grave site. A natural spring allowed Albert and Bessie Johnson to create an oasis in an area that averages about two inches of rain a year.
After we drove up and down a 9 percent grade to leave Death Valley NP via its west side, we came upon the gas prices listed above in Panamint Springs. I thought the marker to the right maybe declared Panamint Springs had the highest gas prices in the US. Instead it said that the original store and restaurant was once run by a cousin of Buffalo Bill Cody.  We bit the bullet and bought 20 gallons of gas. 

This view not far behind our campsite at Death Valley's privately run Panamint Springs pretty much sums  up the campground.  Panamint did have a great restaurant, however, with good service, good (but pricey) food and a great beer selection.  

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