Leaving our beautiful boondocking spot in Goldfield was difficult, but we soon found ourselves down the road and entering the town of Beatty, NV. To say Beatty is a one-horse town would be a bit of an understatement, but it’s touristy cute and definitely gives off a ‘western town’ vibe.
Beatty is also a junction in I95. We were supposed to turn left when we reached the crossroads. When Mike deliberately missed the turn and continued straight through town, I immediately pointed out the error. (I get blamed a lot for wrong turns.)
(Well, probably because it’s usually my fault, but I still get blamed a lot.)
“We’re taking a detour” he tells me.
“What detour?” I ask.
“Did you miss the sign back there?” is the only explanation I get.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign
Apparently I missed the sign. What sign, I don’t know, but I missed it.
In a few minutes, I have my answer,
as we pass through the entrance point for Death Valley National Park. Awesome!
As a small girl, some of my favorite memories are watching old western movies with my Dad. He was a huge John Wayne fan (and most of the other cowboys too) and through him I came to love them as well. I still love to curl up with a good oater or two.
And because of all the cowboys and horses, Death Valley is someplace I’ve always wanted to see. (And Monument Valley, and Tombstone, and Boot Hill. . .but I digress.)
So here we were, scaling the Amargosa Range that borders the valley to the East. The up side didn’t seem that far, but down seemed to go on and on and on as we dropped into the Valley.
We stopped at the first visitors center, which is just a rest stop really, at Hell’s Gate to let poor Hank’s brakes cool down a bit. Here we learned that the Gate received it’s name from the settlers who were looking for a trail to California. The heat rising from the floor of the valley could be felt so intensely that the settlers’ horses actually refused to move forward.
In actuality, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest recorded temperature on Earth. 134°F (56.7°C), on July 10, 1913. No wonder the settlers felt they had found the passageway into Hell itself.
Even in November, the temperature difference from the hills to the valley floor was remarkable. Hank’s outside temperature on the dash read 67°F (19.4°C) when we entered the park. It read 87°F (30.6°C)as we were leaving. Of course, elevation has a lot to do with it as well. At the highest peak entering the park the GPS read 5800 ft above sea level. At the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, it was 220 ft below. My poor ears sounded like Orville Redenbacher had moved into my head. But what a view!!
We spent the better part of the day in and around the Visitors Center at Furnace Creek.
They have terrific hands-on exhibits featuring both the mining history and the natural sciences that the park features.
My favorite was the diorama featuring how the desert comes to life after dark, and that the Valley has some of the darkest skies on earth (no light pollution), making for excellent star gazing, a particular hobby of mine. Mike even bought me a t-shirt at the gift shop that shows the constellations seen from the park, and how they earned a designation as an International Dark Sky Park. (But the best part is that it glows in the dark. I’m such a nerd.)
We made plans to return and explore further, and then started back for Beatty. But the surprises weren’t over yet.
Gold in Them Thar Hills
Between the park entrance and the town of Rhyolite, a gold rush boom town that was founded in 1904. At it’s peak in 1907-08, it was home to 5000 people, prospectors, businessmen and families. The town featured electricity, piped water, rail lines, telephones, a hospital and a school, even an opera house and a stock exchange. But in a few years, the main mine had been exhausted, investors had dropped out and the company’s stock crashed. By 1911, the population was below 1000. By 1920, it was close to zero.
Now all that remains are a few partial buildings and foundations. We got to poke around an honest to goodness ghost town.
In the hills around you could see shaft openings and tailings from different mines that had been worked. Forgotten ore carts and other machinery was visible at almost every angle.
At one end of town was an open air museum with these ghostly figures.
The medium seems to be fiberglass sheets forms into the shapes of figures and then allowed to harden. Strange, but really interesting.
So, as someone who had always wanted to be a cowboy when she grew up, the day could only get better if there were horses, lol.
And there were. Well, sort of.
What we discovered were herds of wild donkeys, also left over from the ghost town. Escapees or abandoned by the miners who had used them, the donkeys flourished in the hills surrounding the town. Their descendants can still be seen everywhere in and around Beatty. And if you can’t find the donkeys themselves, the proof they’ve been there is rampant. Little road apples everywhere you look.
Jumped On That Faster’n A Duck On A Junebug
The late afternoon light was fading quickly and we found a dispersed campsite on the other side of town. A pretty little spot surrounding a very small lake with a few other RV’ers already settled in. We quickly found a spot, set up camp and got on with supper. I mentioned to Mike how cute the ducks were that were cruising the lake.
I should have realized that this campsite, being as popular as it was, the ducks would be used to people. Very used to them, it turned out.
The next morning we were getting ready to break camp when I heard Mike call me. I came to the door and this is what greeted me. Click here to see the video.
Nothing like getting shook down for breakfast by a marauding gang of ‘wild’ ducks. And it didn’t stop there. While we were loading and hitching, I had to keep flinging small handfuls of Cheerios off to one side of the site, just to keep them out from underfoot and getting run over. When we were finally ready, I threw the last few bits of cereal from my hoodie pocket and made a break for Hank, which Mike already had in motion, I think. I’m not sure if I was out of breath from running or laughing. And while the box of cereal took a hit, I’m sure there are worse ways to start a morning.
Next stop, Quartzsite, Arizona. Oh, and trying to get the last of the Cheerio crumbs out of my hoodie pocket. 🙂
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