Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Las Vegas and Death Valley: Death Valley Day 2

We met Michael and Mikie in the dining room around 8:00 for breakfast and then got on the road for today's activities.  Our first stop was the Furnace Creek Ranch store where we picked up ice, sandwiches and supplies for the day.  Then it was off for a drive through Echo Canyon, actually we would only do part of Echo Canyon as the last section is very difficult and according to the rangers, you need a winch to get through.  The first part of Echo Canyon is pretty easy and could be driven by any high clearance vehicle although there were a couple spots of gravel where it felt good to have 4-wheel drive, but nothing too bad.

Recently I purchased a GoPro camera for use on our upcoming South Pacific cruise.  The GoPro is a small, rugged camera often used in in outdoor activities to capture the action.  It comes with a waterproof housing and many mounting options.  It shoots full 1080P HD and has a very wide angle lens which allows a very wide angle of view.  One of our guides had one on our Grand Canyon rafting trip and was very impressed with how well it worked so I decided I needed one to use underwater when we are snorkeling in the South Pacific.  I decided to try it out on our off-road excursions in Death Valley by mounting it to the hood of the car with a suction cup mount and see what happened.

My GoPro camera mounted to the hood of the 4-Runner.
Here is some video I shot on our drive through Echo Canyon.  It's not terribly interesting, but it gives you an idea of how the camera works (I had to reduce the quality to get a small enough file to load here).

Rather than describe our drive, here are some pictures we took along the way.

The "Eye of the Needle".
There were very few wildflowers in Death Valley, but we did find a few.
After stopping to look at the "Eye of the Needle" we drove up the canyon a couple of miles further and stopped to look for the old mining camp of Schwab.  After a 3/4 mile hike we found Schwab, but all that was left were a lot of old cans, all the buildings and foundations were long gone and buried.

Michael and Mikie on the trail to Schwab.

Just a few cans were all the was left on the old mining camp.
Further on down the road we came to the abandoned Inyo Mine site.  Some of the mill and outbuildings were still standing and you could hike up into the hills and see some of the old mines.  We didn't do that, but we talked to someone who did and they said you could actually walk back into them quite a ways.  I don't know whether I would be brave enough for that.

We ate lunch at the Inyo Mine site and decided we had gone far enough up the canyon for the day and headed back.  After getting back to the main highway, we headed for Badwater, the lowest spot in the US and one of the lowest spots in the world.  Badwater is 282 feet below sea level and it's interesting to note that it is only 85 miles from Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.  It's an eerie feeling to look up and see the sea level marker on the hillside knowing that you would be almost 300 feet underwater if you were in the ocean.  Below is a picture showing the Sea Level marker, it was a little hard to see so I added a white line to the photo showing sea level.

Val and Mikie 282 feet below sea level.
The salt flats at Badwater.
Val and Mikie.
From Badwater we headed back to Furnace Creek, but did take a side trip up though Artist Drive.  You drive up through the hills where the pastel colors of the rock formations look like an artists pallette.

Val, Mikie and Michael on the trail to one of the scenic viewpoints.
Looking at the hills colored by different mineral deposits.

After Artist Drive we returned to the Furnace Creek Inn to clean up and get ready for the evening.  We again met on the upper deck and since it was such a beautiful evening, we decided to forgo dinner in the dining room and just have   hors d'oeuvres for dinner.  Thanks to Mikie supplying most of the food, we really had an enjoyable evening sitting out in the balmy evening talking and enjoying the amazing display of stars above.  We called it a night early as we had a lot to do the next day and would have to get an early start.

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