Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Death Valley, Amboy Crater and Joshua Tree National Parks
When we left Ridgecrest we were flanked by a Naval Base on one side and land containing minerals. There in this land, every mineral in the periodic table can be found. That astounded me! Mineral harvesting companys lined the road for a few miles. Then we were back out in the desert with borax covering the desert floor. Looks to me like a bit of a snow storm and I'm sure the photos will give that appearance. As we continued on CA 178, civilization decreased and we were able to enjoy the ever changing desert and the mountains. Suddenly 178 stops! Okay, what do we do? We continued following the road and assumed the road would lead us to Death Valley, which it did eventually.
But first, we found a sign to a ghost town. Down an unpaved, washboard road we went. For three and a half miles some of the things in the motor home rattled as well as out teeth! Finally, we entered the town and saw what is left of a California ghost town. An empty building, partial shells of other buildings, foundations and one lone building is all that is left. Someone build a tiny cabin with an outhouse behind - for overnight "guests". One startling discovery was the pick up truck used by Charles Manson and his followers as they hid out in the desert. A mighty ominous feeling seeing that truck. We retraced our washboard drive back to the main road and on to Death Valley.
Ahead of us appeared what looked to be different weather systems. It looked like one storm was being trapped between two mountain ranges. To the left was another weather system with the third off to our right. I wondered if we were going to drive into danger with this dark cloud, or would the mountain wind us around to one of the lesser systems. Of course, we ended up in the dark storm system. As the altitude increased the rain started, and higher altitudes brought snow and sleet. You name it, it happened. We have heard that driving on snow / ice covered roads is hard with the motor homes, and this was becoming a nail biter. At 4000 feet, we were in an all out blizzard. The road began to go down the mountain and at three thousand feet the storm was much better. By the time we arrived at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, all the snow had melted and the windshield was dry and it was HOT! The only reminder of the trip in the mountain was ice on the back mud flaps on the back of the motor home.
We settled in at the RV park across from the welcome center and were thrilled with the $6.00 / fee (no hook ups). The park afforded us with a place to lite at night as we did our sight seeing. The first stop was the Borax Museum. Behind the museum was a large collection of mining, logging, road building and means of travel. We spotted a road grader that was propelled by mules. I especially enjoyed seeing the stage coaches and buckboards that I saw on Saturday mornings as I watched the westerns on TV. Across the street, in the general store, I indulged in an ice cream sandwich. Oh my, how can something so ordinary taste so good in the desert? I had to have one again the next day. Of course I had to share with Oliver. And while enjoying all this, a coyote drifted within 10 yards of Oliver and I....only in the west.
Monday, we headed out to Golden Canyon where we hiked up Zabriskie Point. Here you could see a breathtaking view of the mountains and canyons. More adventurous, and strong people hiked into the canyon and up the mountains. After a hike up to the point, we felt that we had done our share. Actually, we tacked to both get up and get down. Tacking, walking diagonally rather than straight up or down is a maneuver we learned in our cycling days. It is serving us well every day! From Zabriskie Point we headed to the Natural Bridge. Of course that entailed another mile hike.
Badwater was our next stop. Badwater is 282 feet below sea level. It is the deepest place in North America, but not in the world. The name was derived from an old prospector who was leading his mule through the desert. He cam to a bit of water and was startled that his mule refused to drink the water....until he tasted the water himself. On his map, we made the notation "Badwater" and thus we have the name of the area. The water may be bad, but the air is good. There are more oxygen molecules there than at sea level. Altitude offers less oxygen Badwater offers the most.
These areas are crowded with foreign tourists, coming by private car and tour buses. English was the least spoken language! We noticed that those tourists would come to the site, glance at it, snap a picture with then at the sign identifying the site and moving on. All this was done in a matter of seconds. But at each place, we could have stayed for hours and not been able to see all. This gives us the excuse to come back next year.
As we traveled though Jubilee Pass, we were greeted white, purple and yellow flowers. Next year, we will come with a wildflower identification book. There were silver, bushes that had bright orange blossoms. After Jubilee Pass came Solsbury Pass with mountainsides that looked like layers of a cake.
Leaving Death Valley make me sad. What a beautiful place! Of course, this is late winter and not summer when the day temperatures reach 124 degrees and the cooler temperatures "fall" to 100. We have found though, that when leaving one place opens the gate to more beautiful sights. At first, the San Bernardino foothills and mountains did not offer the dramatic scenery for which Death Valley is prized. Ahhh, now we were in the Mojave Desert headed to Joshua Tree National Park.
First we stopped in Amboy to boondock for the night. At first we didn't think we would be able to sleep with a train passing about every 4 minutes and bombing exercises taking place a few miles away.....no problem! We were asleep in the wink of the eye and was awake to discover Roy's Diner and Motel a few steps from our motor home. Located on the old Route 66, they have been a fixture for longer than I'm old. The Amboy Crater was just down Route 66 and we turned off to do a little hiking. A little??? How about three miles in the desert and forgetting to take water with us. Not too smart, I'd say! We hiked to the crater and up a bit. John did not think he could make the entire climb, so we rested and made our way down. The way up was so curvy that I decided that going down, I'd try to make more of a straight shot to the motor home. All was well until I slipped on some of the lava and fell on my bumm and scraped my leg. What's a little blood anyway? Our walk treated us with Iguana, lizards, desert rats and mice, and NO rattlers.
Approaching Twenty Nine Palm, and one entrance to Joshua Tree, I has hit with a taco attack! My "informants" had told me that the best tacos are in southern California and Mexico and I had to discover that for myself. Yep, they are right. Now, I crave tacos, the good ones!
I will follow up with our Joshua Tree experience and bring this blog up to date later. For now, we are on the hunt for a grocery store and Long Horn Sheep!
See ya later!