So, after 5 days in Sin City, we were really ready to be ‘Leaving Las Vegas.’ We parted friends with the KOA People at Sam’s Town, even though this stay was a mild hassel. The drive to Furnace Creek in Death Valley was an easy one, with very little traffic. Better yet, by the time we arrived, the Thanksgiving Crazies had left and the park was quiet and almost empty. A great time to be here: post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas.
We experienced the same heavy rains as many other southwest US areas. Some roads here were closed due to washouts (Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Titus Canyon), and there was a lot of water flowing across asphalt roadways, flowing down washes and alluvial fans.
I played golf a couple of times at the Furnace Creek Golf Couse, a nice track in good condition with lightning-fast greens; the 2nd time I had the entire course to myself for the first 15 holes. Dee Dee took several long bike rides and got to know the area around Furnace Creek a lot better. This was a somewhat off-year for coyotes; I only saw 2, on the golf course, and Dee Dee did not see any. Charlie-The-Dog spent a fair amount of time smelling them. Dylan-the-Cat was kept on-lease; no coyote bait for him.
We rented a jeep one (very rainy) day and explored Hole in the Wall road, Echo Canyon Road to the Inyo Mine, Chloride City and Titus Canyon (our 2nd trip through). All of the roads required 4WD high-clearance vehicles. The road to Chloride City got pretty technical. Lots of big rocks and steep, slippery turns, due to exposed bedrock and the fact it was raining. That drive was white-knuckle all the way. (Ted and Mary Ellen, you would have loved it; I would have jumped out, only I was driving.) We were probably the last vehicle through Titus Canyon. It was raining hard and the road on both sides of the pass was starting to wash out. And, we never saw another person. The parking lot at the end was empty. This was one of the very best days we have had in our 40+ years and many visits to Death Valley…lots of excitement and we saw new stuff.
Last night (Thursday, December 4th) Dee Dee was outside and saw huge flames and lots of smoke coming from the historic Furnace Creek Inn. It looked like the whole place was on fire. This morning (Friday) we drove up there and found that it was the laundry building across the highway that had burned. Totally gutted and still smoldering; no damage at all to the Inn. The entire Valley was filled with haze-induce smoke from the fire, that must have taken most of the night to extinguish. When we got there, about 9:30 AM, it was still smoldering and they were still doing ‘spot-squirts’ on hot areas. The Park Service had closed Highway 90 in front of the structure and was routing traffic through the Inn’s parking lot.
Of course we had to visit the local saloon and have a beer (or 2) every day. Our theory is that beer is good for your health, at least in our book. We rode our bikes the mile up and back, so that balances off the beer (and some days French fries and blue cheese dressing dip.)
Tonite we are having dinner with our good friend, Shellye Poster, who was our NPS Ranger Supervisor when we were Campground Hosts at Stove Pipe Wells in 2010. Shellye has also published a wonderful book, “The Photographer’s Guide to Death Valley.”
OK…enough words…here are some images (and captions) for our latest installment. (Our next stops will be Bullhead City, AZ, the Grand Canyon, Prescott (where we are visiting our friends Gary and Debbie), and then Apache Junction (where we will meet up with long-time friend, Neil, who I met in graduate school at ASU, in the early 1970’s.)
(Sherry, this post is dedicated to you…not many words, lots of pictures, just the way you like it…)