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Death Valley National Park, Death Valley, CA

100_1786Louise Speaks:  Death Valley National Park is an attraction Patricia does mention in her book “1000 Places To See Before You Die”.  Like I had said in the Pahrump, Nevada post, I have a high school classmate that lives in Pahrump.  Since we don’t tow a car behind the RV, she offered to be our tour guide and show us the most well known attraction to Pahrump and that is Death Valley.  I had my list of things to see from Patricia’s book and she knew them all.  We got up bright and early and were on the road about 7:00 A.M.

Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California.  It is one of the hottest places in the world at the height of summertime along with deserts in Africa and the Middle East.  Death Valley holds the record for the highest  recorded air temperature in the world, at 134 °F  on July 10, 1913. I’m sure that’s how Death Valley got it’s name.   Death Valley’s  is also the point of the lowest elevation  in North America, at 282 feet below sea level.   This point is 84.6 miles east -southeast of Mount Whitney,  the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet.  So the highest and the lowest points in the United States are less that 85 miles apart.

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Death Valley is 60 miles from Pahrump.  Death Valley is known for the acres and acres of flowers that cover the desert floor.  We missed the full bloom by about two weeks but we were still able to see color for miles off in the distance.  I’m sure in the cooler months of spring, this place must just be a floor of color.  With our stops for pictures of flowers and mountains it was a good two hours before we reached the entrance to Death Valley.

img_0633Our first stop was Zabriskie Point.  This stop had a view of wrinkled hills and perfectly sculpted Safari sand hill dunes  .Zabriskie Point offers a stunning panorama of the badlands near Furnace Creek.  The overlook stands at the upper east end of a badlands terrain full of impressive canyons and gulches.  A short walk up a paved hill is all that is required to take advantage of this amazing vantage point.  The views from Zabriskie Point are impressive in every direction.  This should be considered a must-stop on any first trip to Death Valley.  The best time to visit is the early morning when the light is best.  Zabriskie Point is just a short drive from Furnace Creek and an easy stop en route to Dante’s view, which was our next stop.

100_1843Dante’s View is a viewpoint terrace at 5,476 ft elevation on the north side of Coffin Peak, along the crest of the Black Mountains , overlooking Death Valley.  Dante’s View is about 16 miles south of Furnace Creek .  From the Dante’s View parking lot, visitors can take several paths, one of which leads to the very brink of the edge, offering a dramatic panoramic view.  Another path leads north 350 yards to a rest area with picnic tables.  The best time to visit Dante’s View is in the cooler morning hours, when the sun is in the east.  There’s a reason Dante’s View is the primary overlook in Death Valley National Park.  The spot offers premier panoramic views.  Below Dante’s View is Badwater Basin,  the lowest point in North America.  Across the valley rises Telescope Peak, the highest spot in the park.  Under the morning light, the views are breathtaking in every direction, and it feels like cheating to be able to drive right up to such amazing views.

20160319_160556From Dante’s View we were off to Artists Palette, where mineral deposits have turned the sand to red, pink, orange, purple, yellow and green.  Now being from Arizona where we have the painted desert, this was not much to see.  However, someone who has not been to the  Painted Desert would have found this to be just beautiful.  To get to Artists Palette, you take the Artist’s Drive loop which is a one-way road traveling from south to north.  The 9-mile drive climbs above Badwater Road for an impressive perspective on the salt flat below.  Turnouts allow visitors to get out of their cars and have a look around.  The first major turnoff provides a short uphill walk to an impressive overlook with wide views of the basin below.

100_1809Being that we had our own private tour guide she took us to places not in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die”.  One stop was Rhyolite, NV.  Rhyolite is a ghost town in Death Valley.   It is  about 120 miles  northwest of Las Vegas,  near the eastern edge of Death
Valley.  What’s confusing is that Death Valley is actually in California, but Rhyolite is in Death Valley, but in Nevada.  The town of Rhyolite began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting  discovery in the surrounding hills.  During an ensuing gold rush  thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District.  Many settled in Rhyolite, which lay in a sheltered desert basin near the region’s biggest producer, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine.

Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose. After the richest ore was exhausted, production fell.   By the end of 1910, the mine was operating at a loss, and it closed in 1911.  By this time, many out-of-work miners had moved elsewhere, and Rhyolite’s population dropped well below 1,000. By 1920, it was close to zero.  After 1920, Rhyolite and its ruins became a tourist attraction and a setting for motion pictures.  Most of its buildings crumbled, were salvaged for building materials, or were moved to nearby Beatty.  In Rhyolite the railway depot has been repaired.

bottle-house3Also in Rhyolite there is a Bottle House made chiefly of empty bottles that has also been preserved.  As the sun hits the bottles, the colors just glisten.  The house was started in September of 1905 and was finished just 5 1/2 months later in February of 1906. Tom Kelly was 76 years old when he built the house.   Mr. Kelly used almost 30,000 bottles before he completed his house, he did not wash the bottles before he used them. People had to buy water in those days for up to $5.00 a barrel.  Everyone laughed and had a grand time as they brought their old bottles here for Mr. Kelly to build with, and of course, he retrieved most of them from the saloons in town. At the time there were over 53 saloons in Rhyolite so bottles were easy to come by.  Mr. Kelly never lived in the house.  He raffled it off and everyone was buying tickets.  They only cost $5.00 and you might just get a nice three room house to live in.  Mr. Kelly plastered the interior of the home, so you could wallpaper or paint.  You wouldn’t even know that you lived in a bottle house when you were inside.  The Bennet family won the drawing and lived in the Bottle House until 1914.  In 1925 Paramount Studios made a movie in Rhyolite, using the Bottle House.  The town was pretty well deserted by then and a few repairs were needed on the old house.  The Movie was called, “The Airmail” starring Billy Dove and Douglas Fairbanks.  It is believed that they are the ones responsible for the patchwork of bottles in the back of the house.

100_9087As you are leaving Rhyolite you come upon the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  A spectacular ghost town off the road leading to Death Valley,  a group of prominent Belgian artists, led by the late Albert Szukalski, created a self-described art situation consisting of seven outdoor sculptures that are colossal not only in their scale, but in their placement within the vast upper Mojave desert.  Goldwell exists because artists from afar chose the Mojave Desert as a place to make work freely, in contrast with their practice in Europe. Those experiences led several of them to create the large scale, on-site sculptures that define Goldwell as a destination. There are few other places where such art-making activities could have taken place; the desert is integral to their work.  This is a most interesting museum as the art work is outside on the grounds.  There are blank ghosts cloaks sculptures which you can go inside the cloak so that you become the ghost.  There are other items outdoors as well and it is free to explore the grounds on your own.

100_1797From Rhyolite driving back through Death Valley another stop was to see the Twenty-mule teams.  These teams were teams of eighteen mules  and two horses  attached to large wagons that ferried borax  out of  Death Valley from 1883 to 1889.  They traveled from mines  across the Mohave Desert  to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles away in Mojave.  The wagons were among the largest ever pulled by draft animals, designed to carry 10 short tons  of borax ore at a time.  The rear wheels measured seven feet high, with tires  made of one-inch-thick iron.   The wagon beds measured 16 feet long and were 6 feet deep ; constructed of solid oak.  They weighed 7,800 pounds  empty and when loaded with ore,  the total weight of the mule train was 73,200 pounds.

We spent the whole day here and we still  had a two hour drive back.  We weren’t rushed but we probably could have still spent more time here.  The thought of visiting Death Valley, the hottest place in the world, doesn’t really sound that exciting, but once you stop and visit these viewpoints the thoughts definitely change.  It was a great day and sites we saw you could never see anywhere else.  That being said, Death Valley gets an A rating.  There is no other place like this on earth.

AM…Page 811


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Pahrump, NV

Louise Speaks:  We stumbled upon the town of Pahrump while looking for places to go with our RV club.  Many of the members suggested Pahrump so we took a drive on one of our trips to Las Vegas. After our findings in Pahrump,we decided to host an RV trip, and here we are in Pahrump, Nevada.

Red Rock Canyon with snow

Red Rock Canyon with snow

Pahrump is 62 miles west of Las Vegas in the middle of nowhere.  Like many communities in Nevada, Pahrump has an unincorporated town status.  The town reportedly chose the name for Pahrump after the original indigenous name Pah-Rimpi, or “Water Rock,” so named because of the abundant artesian wells in the valley.  Until the 1960s, Pahrump had no telephone service except a radio transmitter phone in a phone booth next to the small market at the end of town.  There were also no paved roads in or out of the Pahrump Valley.  However, as Las Vegas grew, real estate speculation became more popular in the area, which led to increased interest in Pahrump.  By the late 1960s, the NV160, the first paved road, was finally constructed to make it drive able from Pahrump to Las Vegas.  Later this road was extended to connect to the US95.  The NV372 was later developed providing a link to Death Valley (to be blogged about separately) and to Los Angeles and other California locations.  In the 1960s there was a two room elementary school and high school kids had to go to Shoshone, CA for classes.  A high school was constructed in Pahrump in 1974, and there are currently 8 educational facilities including an Adult Education Center.

Since the late 1970s, Pahrump has grown almost exponentially, increasing from about 2,000 residents in 1980 to 36,000 in 2010.  One of my favorite high school classmates lives in Pahrump and just loves it.  Apparently she is not the only one.  Pahrump has also attracted a number of notable residents; including talk radio host Art Bell, and Michael Jackson who purchased a home in the area in 2008, where he briefly had a home studio and home schooled his three children.  Pahrump is also home to  the third co-founder of Apple Computer, Ronald Wayne.  Wayne now lives a quiet lifestyle  in Pahrump selling stamps and rare coins.  A wealthy Las Vegas casino owner, Ted Binion, buried a large treasure of silver in a secret underground vault in Pahrump.  In 1998 Binion died under suspicious circumstances and one of the parties accused of murdering Binion was apprehended while digging up the vault in Pahrump. If this town had ears, what a tale it could tell.

Mountain Falls Golf Course

Mountain Falls
Golf Course

Gold Nugget Casino

Gold Nugget Casino

Besides casinos there are many notable businesses in the area including Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, the Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch, the Mountain Falls Golf Course and the former Dragon Cloud Dojo, which closed March 1, 2016.  In addition, there are several legal brothels  such as the Chicken Ranch and Sheri’s Ranch.  As far as I know, Pahrump is the only town or city in Nevada with legal Brothels.  With Las Vegas being only 60 miles away, I’m sure these are thriving business.  Sheri’s Ranch also serves lunch and gives tours…we will have to do that another time, as this trip does not give us the time to do so.

Sanders Winery

Sanders Winery

 

Museums

Museums

Pahrump also has many wineries including Sander’s Family Winery and Pahrump Valley Winery.  There are also many museums and other points of interest in town.

 

 

Death Valley is about 60 miles away and the Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge is just on the outside of town.  Red Rock Canyon is a great place to go hiking and explore a piece of southern Nevada.  So altho0ugh a small town, there is plenty to do, so much so that we decided to host an RV trip to Pahrump and there was so much to see, we could not due it all during our 5 day stay.  So I guess that means another trip to Pahrump…you should visit as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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