Thursday, March 7, 2013

Las Vegas and Death Valley: Death Valley Day 3

We were up early again (at least early for us), it was our last day in Death Valley and we had a lot planned.  After a quick breakfast in the dining room, we headed east towards the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada that is just outside the Death Valley National Park boundary.  Rhyolite begin in 1905 when prospectors moved into the area after the discovery of gold in the nearby Bullfrog Hills.  The population peaked at around 3500 to 4000 from 1907 to 1908, but began to decline as the nearby mines were played out and closed.  By 1911 the population had dropped to less than a thousand and by 1920 it was practically nothing.  The town was mostly dismantled for salvage and some of the buildings were moved to nearby towns, but what was left became a tourist attraction and still is today.  Here are some pictures of Rhyolite.  You may notice that the buildings are mostly constructed of rock and stone since there was no source of wood in the area.

After visiting Rhyolite, we made a quick run into nearby Beatty, Nevada to top of our gas tanks, Death Valley is no place to be low on gas.

Next we drove back through Rhyolite to pick up the road to Titus Canyon.  Titus Canyon is the most popular, and interesting back country roads in Death Valley and is mostly suitable for any high clearance vehicle.  You don't need 4-wheel drive unless the road has been damaged.  The road is also one-way from east to west as it is quite narrow in places particularly at the end.  This makes it an easy, but enjoyable drive, particularly though the last section called "the narrows" where the canyon walls tower almost straight up from the narrow road.

Near the start of our journey, we are headed up and over the mountains ahead.
You can see the switchback we'll be taking once we descend into the canyon.

Here is another video I shot with my GoPro of the middle part of the drive through the mountains.  (Once again, excuse the poor video, I have to down grade the quality to get the file size small enough.)

About halfway through our trip we reached another abandoned mining town called Leadfield and decided to stop for lunch.  Today we opted to buy box lunches from the Inn and they were a big improvement over what we bought at the store yesterday.

Michael and Mikie hiking out to the mine (upper left).

 From Leadfield it was on to "the narrows", the last section of Titus Canyon.

The drive through the narrows is quite spectacular and as we drove on, the canyon kept getting more and more narrow, but then suddenly the canyon ended and we were looking out at Death Valley.  Here is some video of the last section of the canyon.

After finishing Titus Canyon and getting back to the main highway, we turned north towards our last destination of the day, Scotty's Castle.  One of the many unusual characters that seem to fill the history of Death Valley was Death Valley Scotty.  He was more con man and entertainer than anything else, but a very colorful character.  Scotty's Castle was actually built by Albert Mussey Johnson as a vacation home for he and his wife Bessie.  The fact that Scotty told everyone that it was his house built with the proceed from a (non existent) gold mine under the house, didn't seem to bother Albert Johnson. He considered the friendship and entertainment he derived from Scotty as payment enough for Scotty's exaggerations.  Mikie had purchased tickets for the tour for all of us (thank you Mikie and Michael) so soon after we arrived we were touring the house.  It was an interesting tour, the inside of the house was both elegant and rustic in a western style.  It's a very odd sight in such a desolate landscape.

Scotty's Castle

After our tour it was time to head back to Furnace Creek and dinner.  The weather had been near perfect during our stay in Death Valley, but on our way back the wind really started to blow, there would be no dinner on the terrace tonight.  After getting back to the Inn, we cleaned up and met Michael and Mikie for dinner in the dining room.  This was our last night so we lingered a bit over dinner and then decided to walk down to pool.  Normally they have fires burning in two fireplaces around the pool, but it was just too windy so after a short stay we said good night and headed back to our room.  Tomorrow we head for home.

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