A Quick 24 Hours in Death Valley

Old Feb 5th, 2003, 04:39 PM
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A Quick 24 Hours in Death Valley

After a week at a convention in Las Vegas, staying at the opulent Bellagio, we left on Friday afternoon at 5PM. We drove south out of town on the 15, taking exit 33 from Las Vegas, Hiway 160, direction Pahrump. The sun set shortly after we got underway, and in the slowly fading light, we saw vistas of barren landscape with few signs of life. By the time we reached Pahrump, it was dark, and we saw nothing of the landscape the rest of the way into the park. We took Bell Vista Road from Pahrump to Death Valley Junction, then 190 on to Furnace Creek. Arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch a little after 7pm, checked into our "Park View" double, $175 per night (more expensive than the Bellagio). Reservations were made on the internet on their web-site. www.furnacecreekresort.com It was bare essential, nothing fancy, all the comforts, but no hair dryer.
We were hungry, and the filet mignon with all the fixings at The Steakhouse was excellent. It was a very complete menu, and appeared to offer something for all tastes. The Ranch area contains several accommodation options, from camping, RV spaces, and several types of room choices. The restaurant was very good. There is a golf course, horses, tennis, pool, a little museum, and all that could be desired for a resort stay in a remote area. Nestled in amongst trees and date palms fed by the Furnace Creek Springs, I got a feeling of being off at camp. The ritzier Furnace Creek Inn is located up on the hill, about a half-mile away, and prices are considerably higher.
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Old Feb 5th, 2003, 04:41 PM
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We were tired, and slept until 7, missing the oft-touted sunrise opportunities. Breakfast at the Furnace Creek Café was substantial and excellent. We could have spent an hour or two in the nearby Furnace Creek Visitor Center, as there are several exhibits and a good size book selection. We watched the free 12-minute introduction movie, paid our $10 park fee, got some local info and a map from the helpful ranger, and off we went.
The road to Badwater was subject to construction delays, and the Badwater parking lot was closed, so we opted for Dante's View, about 5,000 feet above Badwater. On our way, we detoured through the 2 mile "20 Mule Team" vehicle trail. It is a neat little one way dirt loop road through little canyons, and ends up back at the main highway in about two miles. This is a pretty tame little road, 4wheel not necessary, but the clearance of our SUV was. On our way back down, we stopped at Zabrisky's Point. At both places, we took the requisite photos of the incredible vistas.
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Old Feb 5th, 2003, 04:42 PM
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Our next destination was Scotty's Castle, about a 40-minute drive from the Visitor Center. On the way, we took another little loop road through mustard colored mountains. We got to Scottys about 1:45pm, had time for a quick burger and coke at the snack bar, then took the 50 minute guided tour of the Castle ($8). There are picnic grounds frequented by coyotes looking for handouts, several signs saying not to feed them. We saw a coyote in the picnic grounds, and he walked right up to our car. We neither fed nor encouraged him, but got some great pictures. The tour was very interesting and worth it.
Leaving Scotty's about 3, the next stop was Stovepipe Wells, for a final gas-up ($2/gal) and supply of water on our way out the west entrance. We had the timing perfect for sunset views back across the Valley. Unfortunately, it was clouded over and hazy, so no stunning views. The trip out of the Park, then south through Panamint Valley was through more incredibly desolate territory. How did the pioneers make it? Course, many didn't.
24 hours is not enough time for Death Valley, but hey, we saw some of the high points. You can sense the danger, and see the awesome desolation. I would like to have stayed another two night's minimum, picked up a copy of "SUV Trails" at the Visitor Center, and done at least half a dozen relatively easy 4 wheel drive jaunts. There are hiking opportunities galore, and though we don't hike, can sure appreciate the lure there in the Valley of Death. Go and see, it is truly awesome, but be careful. This inhospitable place is still killing foolish people just like it has done for more than a hundred years.
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