Friday, March 18, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Day Eight: Death Valley Blitz
Death Valley: one of the hottest and driest places on the entire planet.  Yet when we arrived, about half of the roads were closed due to flooding caused by the rains we had been circumventing.  Many of the must see places on our hit list were out of reach, but we still had plenty to do.  Besides, we had to get back to Tucson by the 29th for what we were hoping would be the crown jewel of the entire adventure.  That left us exactly one day to see as much as we could.  Arise early and go!

First stop, a walk into the mouth of Titus Canyon.  Most of the rough, narrow,  steep 27 mile road was closed, but visitors were allowed a short walk into this very popular narrow grey corridor of rock.

Titus Canyon (2)
Cool, but tough to photograph.

On to a house tour of Scotty’s Castle, built with money from a non-existent gold mine.  I don’t quite remember the convoluted story, but it was quite a scam.
Death Valley Scotty's Castle (3)

Death Valley Scotty's Castle (27)

A ride over Towne’s Pass to this eerie flat area.  It feels pretty desolate here, and completely unlike the area of Scotty’s castle which was graced with large trees fed by a natural spring.  Water is everything in the desert.  Incidentally, though the name conjures up visions of mass fatalities, only one man died to christen the park Death Valley.
Death Valley West of Towne Pass (4)

Death Valley West of Towne Pass (8)
The remains of some flooding.

A ride up to Aguereberry Point, arguably one of the best overlooks in the park.  Our off road capabilities came in handy here, and although I don’t really enjoy being a pillion off-road, I’ll tolerate it if there is a prize as nice as this at the end of the road.  Make no mistake, it was cold up there!
Death Valley Aguereberry Point (5)
The late French miner Pete Aguereberry would take friends to see his “Great View,” pictured here.

A quick stop at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.  I’d love to spend a day here, catching the light as it glances this way and that off the dunes, changing each hour with the angle of the sun.

Death Valley Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (2)

By the time we got to the salt flats at Badwater Basin (named for the brackish water an explorer’s mule refused to drink)  it was dark.  Still, it seemed a necessary journey, since it’s the official lowest place in North America (282 feet below sea level).  Weird factoid: there’s actually a rare snail that lives only here, the Badwater snail. (Visions of garlicky, buttery escargot go dancing through my head...)

That evening, we considered dinner at the Furnace Creek Inn, also a short walk from our less than idyllic but oh so convenient campsite.  It looked like a lovely restaurant, with a nice menu,  and although it wasn’t nearly as extravagant as L’Atelier Robuchon, it was out of our usual price range, and without the trusted recommendation of the Michelin Red Guide.  In the end, we decided we were not quite ready to diminish the memory of our meal two nights ago.   Wouldn’t you know it?  METG was in the area at the same time we were, and he later told me he gave the Inn two thumbs up after a nice breakfast of eggs Benedict and caviar!

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