Day 17: Death Valley Exploring
around 130 miles
After a stop at the newly remodeled Visitor's Center, we drove south along Badwater Rd to hike at Golden Canyon before it got too hot! More Geology Heaven for Lloyd.
It was a 2 mile round trip into the canyon along an interpretive trail that lead to spectacular views of Red Cathedral and Manly Beacon. By the time we were done, I'd finished the first of my recommended 4 bottles of water. One sure gets thirsty in the desert!
Badwater Basin is one of the world's hottest places, 282 feet below sea level. A sign marks sea level on the rock wall opposite the basin.
There's a shallow salty pool near the parking lot. An early surveyor of the area saw that his mule wouldn't drink from the pool and noted "badwater" on his map. The name stuck. We could see little insect larvae in the brine.
As we headed back towards Furnace Creek, we pulled off on Artist's Drive, a 9 mile one way road through some of the most beautiful low, narrow canyons cut into alluvial fan deposits. The brightly colored hillsides at Artist's Palette were incredible. Red, pink, yellow, orange, and bown colors are from two minerals common in rust: hematite, which is a red iron oxide, and limonite, a yellow iron oxide. The green and violet colors are from altered minerals in the volcanic ash. Mother nature is amazing!
By now we're thinking we need gas...and at well over $5 a gallon at Furnace Creek, we decided to leave Death Valley and head northeast to Beatty, NV, a little town we came through at the beginning of our trip. We got the gas, and some more ICE, and had a bite to eat at KC's Outpost Saloon and Eatery, a local establishment unabashedly proclaiming they had "The Best Food In Town". They roast turkeys for their sandwiches and make their own bread. Lloyd had a loaded BBQ sandwich, and I had the special, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, Best Foods mayo (she was specific)...basically Thanksgiving in a sandwich. It hit the spot. It was the waitress's first day. She was sweet.
All fueled up, inside and out, we headed back into the park via Rhyolite, a ghost town just outside of Beatty. Within a year after prospectors Shorty Harris and Ed Cross found gold in 1904, the town sprung up. It had a short life, with the 1906 SF Earthquake wiped out the financial district, mining funding took a hit. Then a financial panic in the east in 1907 pinched mining even more. By 1908, there were 8,000 people living there, and the mines began to fail. A few years later the exodus started and the mines did fail. The Post Office closed in 1919, and by 1920, there were only 14 people living there.
There still stands a fine Train Depot built in 1909,
the Kelly Bottle House (1906), which Tom Kelly built to raffle off,
and the Goldwell Open Air Museum with its outdoor sculptures.
The Harmony Borax Works, famous for using 20 mule teams to move the borax from Death Valley to communities nearby, was an easy 1/4 mile walking trail.