Thursday, June 14, 2012

Death Valley -- the LOW point of our trip!

 Death Valley is about 60 miles from where we are staying in Pahrump, NV and is well known as the lowest place in North America. What we did not know was that Death Valley is a huge area and includes some 5,000 square miles of land (larger than the state of Delaware)! Much of this land is the very definition of desert as seen above.

Incredible combinations of sand, rocks, very hardy plants, and mountains. These sum up Death Valley, a place like no other we have seen. The scale is overwhelming as you travel through the 3+ MILLION acre park. You will want to be sure your car is in good shape and that you have plenty of water available to drink.

 We knew we were entering the Death valley area when we saw this sign -- on the TOP of a hill! Death Valley, so far below sea level, is only about 84 miles from Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous USA. This is indeed a land of extremes.

 In the middle of Death Valley, amazingly enough, is the resort town of Furnace Creek, which even includes the world's lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level. Having 24 citizens in the 2010 census, this is a surprisingly lush area as this oasis provides substantial water, including spring-fed swimming pools!

 Furnace Creek offered a glimpse into the past borax mining and transportation. In the late 1800's 20 mule teams were used to move the 36 ton rigs 165 miles in 10 days.
This is a replica of one of the wagon trains -- imagine 20 mules pulling this thing at about 2 miles an hour through the desert heat. Of course, it was all up hill too since they started well below sea level.

Modern technology replaced the mule teams with this huge steam tractor rig that could do a better job of moving borax, but Rick wondered how much fuel this must have taken. I guess it was either feed the mules or feed the tractor.

This is part of the borax mining facilities that are just about gone. There was quite a bit of other mining operations in the late 1800's, but we would not have enjoyed working in the desert heat everyday!

As we passed through Furnace Creek, the temperature was increasing, although it was cool the day we visited (only got up to 96). The ranger at the Visitor Center noted that it had been over 120 the week before and that the hottest temp recorded was over 134!

Hitting 100 feet below sea level was amazing for us since we had just been at 6,000' a day or so before. The wind also began to blow and apparently, it can really howl here. This desolate environment can be totally different if there is any rain (rare, but possible), indeed we were told that just a couple years ago, wild flowers were thick after heavy rains. We sure did not see any flowers during our visit.

All around the valley floor are imposing mountains that made a veritable wall to easy travel. Today, there are good roads for us to travel though the area, but we could not imagine trying to cross this area with horse and wagon.  This is a beautiful, but very forbidding area that we are glad to have been able to experience.

1 comment:

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

We enjoyed our visits there. Your pictures brought back great memories.