You made it through the Burning Man Festival and continue to struggle with the Nevada or California drought so how do you ramp it up a notch? Well, autumn is on its way and the only thing you can do is pack up and head to Death Valley. When you get back home, things won’t seem nearly so extreme.
Death Valley is the lowest, hottest and driest place in the world, and it is also eerily beautiful and a great place to go backpacking, hiking, bird watching and check out the amazing sights. When you want to find a place of solitude, there is nothing quite like three million acres of wilderness full of canyons, salt flats to the horizon, sand dunes, snow-covered mountain peaks and shimmering heat.
If you are lucky, you can catch it after the rare rain showers that turn the desert into a sea of wildflowers. Death Valley is home to over 1000 types of plants surprisingly enough, 51 species of animals, over 300 species of birds, reptiles and even one species of fish, so bring your camera.
The park rangers lead tours to Scotty’s Castle in Grapevine Canyon year round. The castle is an amazing sight because of the location and is furnished beautifully. There is also a tour of the tunnels underneath the house and the Pelton Water Wheel, which was used to supply the house with water.
The castle was built by Albert Mussey Johnson as a vacation house but Death Valley Scotty, his friend, is the one who became famous in Death Valley. At one time, he was a performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and then became a prospector. Although he never struck it rich, he was well known for his wild spending sprees in Nevada and California. Johnson invested large amounts of money in Scotty’s mine and, though he never saw any return on his investment, Scotty became a permanent fixture at the castle.
Death Valley is the home of Telescope Peak, discovered in 1861 by Dr. Samuel George, after he hiked up to the 11, 049 top of the mountain. He named it Telescope Peak because he said it was like looking through a telescope because he could see so far.
There are ghost towns to explore scattered throughout the valley such as Rhyolite, that at one time contained two churches and 50 saloons and Panamint City, founded by outlaws and described as being a hellhole. While most of the town was destroyed in a flash flood in 1876, the ruins remain.
Skidoo, which is entirely gone, is worth knowing about because it is the site of the only known hanging in Death Valley. A local saloon owner, Hootch Simpson, fell on hard times and decided to rob a local bank. The robbery was a failure, but later he went back and killed the bank owner. In the night, the townspeople got together and lynched him – supposedly twice. After he was dead from the first lynching, they hung him up again so a news photographer could take a picture of it.
Most places in Death Valley are accessible but some are roads that require 4-wheel drive or hiking. Always check in with the visitors’ center first so the rangers know you are in the park, bring along plenty of water and don’t forget to take along an up-to-date map because GPS doesn’t work in many areas of the park.
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center doesn’t really have an address but you can use the post office address to find it at 328 Greenland Blvd., Death Valley, CA 92328. It is about two hours from Las Vegas. Vehicle parking is $20 for one week and $10 for one week if you come by bike, motorcycle or hoof it.
If you plan to visit, go to THE WEBSITE and take proper precautions. Death Valley is incredible as the over one million visitors a year will tell you.
(All photos via Wikipedia)
I started to write because I developed laryngitis and needed to communicate or burst. It’s true. However, once I discovered the written word, I fell in love. I edited and wrote for my college newspaper and wrote articles for various journals after that. I am still working on the great American novel but I have yet to find the one among many starts I want to finish. Above all, I am fascinated with the world and the people in it. I have a dog who sincerely believes he should write instead of me but I steadfastly refuse to show him how to use the keyboard partly because of writer neurosis and partly because I hate his style.