Sunday, January 20, 2019

I've Got Gas

One of the things we learned in Death Valley was that it's BIG. While the truck has a big tank, it's always easier to burn off the top half when you don't know where you're going. We paid $2.20 in Bullhead City on our way to Death Valley, and $4.25 in Baker, California figuring gas would be more expensive in the park.

There was a gas station at Furnace Creek posted at $5.05 but we ignored it.

We went to Beatty, in part for fuel, but also because of some ghost towns around the area. Gas in Beatty was posted at $3.25 but it cost more than that because there was a candy store in the station...

Another day, we drove out to the west side of the park, where we could see the snow covered peak of Mt. Whitney in the distance. Apparently there are places in the park where on a clear day you can see both the highest and the lowest points in the continental U.S.

Coming back towards Stovepipe Wells, we made a note of the gas price in Panamint Springs but did not partake. Instead, we fueled at Stovepipe Wells ($3.58/gallon) before hooking up the trailer for our southbound departure.

We stopped in Shoshone at the famous Crowbar Cafe and Saloon for lunch with friends who have been volunteering at a nearby wildlife area. Good food and good conversation!

The gas pump next door to the cafe said 44 cents but it was dry. The pump across the street said $5.05, but we didn't partake.

We continued south from Baker through the Mohave Nature Preserve to check out the restored railroad depot in Kelso. It is now used as the visitor center for the Preserve but was closed due to the shutdown. We found a boondock (thanks, Campendium!) with a view before we got to the intersection with I-40 which made a nice overnight stop.

We had plenty of fuel to reach Parker, Arizona where we took on 24 gallons at $2.19. It pays to shop around!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Back Roads - Part Way

Our second full day at Stovepipe Wells had us heading to Nevada, not only in the hopes of cheaper gas and the start of a one-way back road,

but I wanted to check out a place with a geocache called Geocacher's Heaven. When we spotted this outfit that deals in used ammo cans, we could understand the name.

The other planned stop before we started our back road jaunt was a visit to Rhyolite. The site is now managed by BLM and has a paved road,

but that hasn't stopped vandals over the years.

Rhyolite was a going concern for a few years in the early 1900's but was totally deserted within 15 years or so. Portions of several large buildings remain but many of the smaller ones were moved to Beatty years ago.

Immediately adjacent to Rhyolite is a small piece of private land that hosts a museum and several pieces of large art

including "The Last Supper" by Polish-Belgian artist Albert Szukalski.

On our way out of town we stopped to visit the cemetery. Some graves are still obvious, but many of the wooden markers are long gone and the wood ones that remain are unreadable.

After our visit to Rhyolite, we headed out on the 27 mile road to Leadfield and Titus Canyon. Turns out, this is Death Valley National Park's most popular back road trip. We saw a few other vehicles, but often had the place to ourselves. The road was steep in places and occasionally had large potholes that required high clearance or avoidance.

I discovered that rough roads are great for conning the Fitbit that I was actually working. The road was such that if you wanted to consider the view, it was essential to stop first. We spotted this small mine shortly before we reached Leadfield.

Leadfield was created in the 1920s. According to Wikipedia, "The product of extensive and fraudulent advertising by the Western Lead Mine Company and C.C. Julian, the town boomed in 1925. His advertising posters showed steamboats navigating the Amargosa River to Leadfield, ignoring the fact that the Amargosa River is dry much of the time and does not run within 20 miles of Leadfield."

As a fan of history, rust, and ghost towns, I was looking forward to Leadfield. Turns out, the best part of the trip was the drive out of town through Titus Canyon. The rock, and the road were twisted!

It's times like these I wish I'd taken a geology class somewhere along the line.

I understand now why the park operates this as a one way road!

While Rhyolite and Leadfield were interesting, the drive was the highlight of the day!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Rolling the Dice

For several years, we've talked about visiting Death Valley, but it always seemed the conversations revolved around the late May northbound, or August southbound time frames. Apparently August is Death Valley National Park's busiest month which just goes to show how many people are lacking sanity.

With the government 'partial' shutdown in place, we knew the experience would be impacted but we decided to go anyway. After rain most of the way, we parked for the night at the Riverside in Laughlin and enjoyed dinner with one of our dear river rat friends.

We headed from Searchlight to Baker, avoiding Las Vegas traffic, and approached the park from the south. Baker is "interesting" but I wouldn't want to live there! We'd fueled in Bullhead City at $2.20 but wanted to top off the tank because of the long distances in the park. Fuel in Baker varied between $4.25 and $4.50.

I spent some time before departure looking for places where we could get off the road with the truck and trailer so that BJ could stretch. My planning was good enough that there just happened to be a geocache at almost all of the stretch breaks.

We didn't have any rain, but it sure looked like it on the second day.

We arrived at the park boundary west of Death Valley Junction, and saw slivers of blue sky ahead of us.

Nearly all of the NPS campgrounds were closed except for Stovepipe Wells, 30 miles north of Furnace Creek. The concessionaire operated campgrounds were open, but why pay their price when there was no charge for the NPS campgrounds since they can't charge during shutdowns. (What was that about sanity?)

The sunrise the next morning through a very dirty window, looked very inviting. After breakfast, we headed back to explore the central portion of the park.

Some roads were gated off. This one had been open the day before when we went up to Stovepipe Wells, but now our first stop of the day had equipment blocking the road to the parking lot. While you couldn't drive, you could walk to visit the mill. Turk couldn't walk on the path, but he could walk on the road.

I'm old enough to remember 20 Mule Team Borax advertised on the radio so I was really looking forward to this stop. The most interesting tidbit was that they couldn't process borax during the summer since it won't crystallize at temps above 120 degrees.

We stopped at Furnace Creek and wandered a bit. These facilities were built to attract tourists by the railroad and the borax company when the borax business slowed down. Still very nice!

The museum was closed, but the yard full of equipment displays was open. This steam tractor replaced the 20 Mule teams before the railroad replaced the steam tractor. The mules pulled 30 ton wagon trains 163 miles from Death Valley.

We went as far south as Badwater Basin, just so we could say we've been to the lowest spot in the U.S. How low can you go??

After checking out the salt growth in the basin we headed back to view the Badlands. If we hadn't had Turk along, we could have been enticed into a hike through this area. Turned out the weather was perfect for hiking - highs in the mid 60's.

I'm glad we visited in the winter, and it's on my list to return. There's LOTS that we won't have time to see (or opportunity due to locked gates) this time.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Typically, I wander the desert in a solitary fashion or with BJ, but recently we've been asked to join with a group of friends to visit some rarely visited places. Thanks to limited parking, we teamed up which gave me a chance to watch as we navigated an old road.

Six of us gathered on the first trip.

We wandered past the cactus and the trees, brushing past the brittle bush as we searched for the clearest route to navigate.

Eventually we reached a point where we could see a bridge far below,

and the goal of our search was found. As we backtracked to the vehicles, we all agreed that we should do that again.

A couple weeks later found us peering under bushes - once again successfully locating the object of our wandering.

It's been lots of fun doing some geocaching with friends.

It's the time of year that friends from far and wide start to gather in the Southwest. We're heading to Death Valley for a few days before spending time in Quartzsite and Yuma. We'll be back in town just in time to head to San Diego for a few days watching our grandson pay hockey. It's going to be fun seeing friends we don't see often!