Everyone who lives in the park year round is very surprised by the weather.
Normally, Pahrump has very little rain and even less snow. Well, we have been getting more than normal of both.
The mountains make for distracting views when the the rain stops. Especially when the tops are covered in snow.
Both east and west are mountain ranges that extend far to the north and south. Our plan before we arrived was to hike in the mountains in preparation of the Grand Canyon. More on that later. The weather did not cooperate.
Almost nothing grows on the mountains other than several types of cactus and some tough grasses.
The sky is clear this morning. We have to move the RV today to a different spot. The one we have been in was only available for 3 days.
BTW, We checked several times and no one ever used that site. It has become a common problem in National and State parks where people reserve a site and don’t cancel when they know they will not be using the RV site. So we had to pack up and move because someone was selfish. Also, they were selfish because the spot was not available for someone to use.
The RV is prepared to move and we are going out to go on a scenic drive. We need to be back by 12noon to move out of our current site to the new one.
Our first stop, Zabriskie Point. This was a walk up to an overlook of death valley and some very interesting geology. It was a cold morning.
Next was the 20 mule mine wagon route through a canyon. This was also a filming location for Star Wars Return of the Jedi as C3P0 and R2D2 were traveling to Jabba's Palace.
The palace was matte painted into the frames. Floods have almost erased the location and changed the background. There was someone setup with a tripod and camera in the location so we just passed by on the road. It has changed a lot over the last 40 plus years.
The area is still amazing and so different than the rest of the park.
Next, we drove up to Dante's Peak. The peak is at just over 5,500 feet and it was cold. When we got to the top it was 32 with a strong wind. This was the location that Luke and Obi-Wan stood to look down on Mos Eisley.
The Dante's view is at 5,475 feet above sea level and is directly above Badwater which is the lowest point in the park at -282 feet below sea level.
We still had a little time before we could move into the new RV spot so we drove to Artist Palette drive. The area is called Artist's Palette because of the varieties of colors which are caused by the oxidation of different metals. The red, pink and yellow are from iron salts. Green is from decomposing mica. The purple is manganese.
As we started, the tan and whites of the valley would soon change.
We did not catch this area at the right time but it was still amazing. The perfect time is a little before sunset.
This was another Star Wars filming location where R2D2 traveled alone in a narrow canyon and eventually gets captured by the Jawas.
The Jawas for this scene were children of the local Park Rangers. Originally all the scenes were to be filmed Tunisia but weather made that impossible. Only 2/3rds of the scenes were usable. George Lucas said that they were lucky to get as much as they did in Tunisia. He knew Death Valley could work as an alternative for the unusable scenes so several locations were used to fill in scenes.
With just a little more time till noon, we drove to the Borax Works.
Many areas of Death Valley were used by companies to mine natural resources throughout the valley. Borax was plentiful in one area and equipment was brought in to process the mineral. Borax was so profitable that it was called White Gold. It was used to wash clothes, for potters, farmers, meat packers, blacksmiths, and even by morticians.
Harmony Borax Works operated from 1883 to 1888. The primary work force were Chinese workers. They were paid $1.30 per day but from that had to pay back for meals and lodging to the company store.
Mule teams pulled processed Borax out and water into the valley. Drinkable water was rare in the valley. 36 tons of borax could be hauled at one time. 1,200 gallons of water would then be brought back with the empty borax wagon. All together there were 20 mules, a borax wagon, and a water tank. The largest wagon wheels were 7 feet tall and the entire thing was 100 feet long from the nose of the front mules to the back of that last wagon. The poor mules had to haul the wagons 165 miles across the desert to the nearest railroad.
Soil was put on small push carts and taken up to the top of the hill where it was dumped into vats. Water was added to the vats and boiled to remove impurities and concentrate the borax.
Next back to the RV to move and have lunch.
We decided to drive to the farthest point of the valley to hike the rim of a volcano. Well a cinder cone. It took over and hour to get there but the hike was incredible.
There are two small secondary cinder cones.
The hike was tough. A thick cover of cinder from the eruption covered the ground like small rocks and pebbles.
The wind was howling and the temperature dropped as we approached the top. It was a challenging hike but the views were amazing.
That hike was a wild experience. Like walking on another planet.
Back to the RV before sunset. The heading out in the morning to our campground in Pahrump, NV.
WIND! No, I mean really really windy. To the point that we had to stay indoors almost the entire day. We did drive over to the visitor center and ask about the weather but they told us if we could stay inside do so. Sand and dust were blowing and the mountains disappeared.
The sky got a sort orange look to it.
So we worked on the blog, edited videos, watched some shows I had saved on the TV,…
Not the valentines day we had planned. We were going to hike a crater which is what Shawna wanted. No dying flowers for her. She would rather hike and be in nature.
The sky started to clear in the late afternoon. Later the wind kicked up again. Wow, this is a very difficult place.
Today, we drove from Pahrump to Death Valley. Interesting drive across wide deserts between mountains. We dropped from 2900 feet to below sea level. The campground is at -190 feet. Our ears were popping a lot.
For Star Wars fans, this is where many scenes from the first movie, A New Hope, were filmed. The park service even has an Audio Tour for the locations. At the time it was being filmed no one knew much other than it was movie. Many of the children of the park rangers stood in for Jawas. Scenes filmed here include the background for Jabba the Hutt’s place, the cave for Luke's light saber training, the overlook for Mos Eisley, Jawas shooting at Luke, the sand crawler scene, R2D2’s lonesome trek and capture, Tusken Raiders riding Bantha, the sand dunes where R2D2 and C3P0 were lost. Oh, we are going to be at most if not all of these locations. Of course after 46 years, the landscape will have changed.
First stop the visitor center to get our pass. It was nice a day not hot or cool. It was late February. In August, it will be at least 40 degrees hotter midday.
The park is known during summers to be one of the hottest places on earth. It is not unusual for temps to exceed 120 degrees in the day and some summer nights not to fall below 100. OUCH! The mountains that surround the valley focus and contain the heat but the highest ones regularly are snow topped in winter. We are visiting in the coldest part of the year. The highs are in the 70’s and the lows may drop below 40.
The park is HUGE at almost 3.2 million acres. Bigger than the land mass of Connecticut.
This national park has the highest temperature on earth at 134 degrees and the driest national park.
It is also the lowest point in North America at -282 feet below sea level. The lowest point is not as low as it has been. Sand and silt has fallen down from the surrounding mountains and this has been filling valley for thousands of years. Two thousand years ago, the valley floor was much lower. Each earthquake causes the floor of the valley to fall even lower.
After setting up camp, we drove to the far south end of the park.
Badwater basin is one of only a few only natural water locations in Death Valley. Shawna remembered being here as a child. It was amazing.
From a distance the wide salt, calcite, gypsum and borax deposits look like water but there is actually only a very small creek and pond near the parking area which contain actual water. The water is so mineral infused that only a very a few plants and a small snail can live there.
The walk out was 1 mile but the landscape was bizarre. Large areas of mostly salt are folded up at the edges. The darker areas have a layer of dust and sand on top of the salt and curl as it absorbs heat from the sun. The bright white is where people have walked. Purer salt is pushed out along the outer edges of irregular shapes on the ground creating ridges.
The Sea Level sign is really big. Being over 280 feet above where we were standing I had to be big to even read it.
After the mile walk back to the truck, we decided to take a short detour. Along the highway back to the RV is a dirt road that takes us to a natural bridge. The drive out to the trail head was very difficult. That road needs to be regraded. I thought we were going to bounce the truck apart even at less than 5 miles per hour.
We almost could not see the canyon entrance from the beginning of the trail. But once in side it was impressive.
The natural bridge is deep in a canyon and the walk up is through a wash. The bridge formed long ago when the valley had much more rainfall than it does now.
The opening is about 35 feet high and the arch about the same diameter. The rock hanging over our heads is thousands of tons. The trail was not long being only 1/3rd of a mile out but because of the loose gravel and sand in the canyon it was tiring.
After walking a little further up the canyon, we decide we had seen all we wanted. It was interest seeing a huge wolf shadow on the canyon wall.
It was only visible from one location at a specific time of day.
Time to head back.
As we walked out of the canyon the view was pretty stunning.
It reminded me of a scene from Star Wars.
Back down the rutted road to the RV for dinner and some rest. Our campsite is paved but has no hookups. Boon-docking. Our batteries and solar panel should keep power up but we can run the generator if needed.
We stopped for a couple of days in Pahrump, NV to get ready for our time in Death Valley.
Looking both to the east and west, we have mountain ranges with lots of snow on the tops.
Pahrump is the closest city to Death Valley and has a Walmart and other stores. The Escapees RV park is great and close enough to town for easy access. They have a serious Club House with lots of scheduled activities. No pool or hot tubs but they have a meeting area, library, TV room, card/game room, craft room, and pool tables. Wi-Fi and a computer with printer.
We got our RV ready for 4 days boondocking in Death Valley. Cleaned tanks. Filled up with fresh water. Fully charged batteries. Pre-filtered water....
On our way up to our next stop, Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada (weird name), we saw a huge fire along the river. The smoke could be seen for many miles away.
Cal-Nev-Ari is a strange town. As you can guess, this town is right at the juncture of the three states. No stores or even a gas station but they have a small air field and lots of people have hangers next to their houses. I can only guess that they fly to work in Las Vegas.
Truck problems may delay our plans. The bearing holding the truck fan is failing. We had heard a sound that was off and drew attention but I just could not find what was wrong.
After a quick check by a mechanic here, he found that the bearing was bad. This could have been a big problem if it had failed while we were driving or worse hauling the 5th wheel. The belt would have thrown and torn up a lot of other things. Expensive!
The bearing was metal to metal. We both have no idea how it held together. Well for less than $600 parts and labor, it was worth it. A dealership would have cost $1000 minimum.
If something sounds off, get it checked. Not only will it save you a lot of money but save you from being towed or worse.
We have been relaxing with friends, Bill and Kelly, on the Colorado river. We are at Emerald Cove Resort which is west of Parker, AZ on the west side of the river.
Much of our time here has been visiting and playing cards.
We have seen wild burros but missed opportunities to take pictures.
Today, we decided to visit the London Bridge.
There was a nice pizza place overlooking the bridge so we got lunch. Below the restaurant, there were lots of tourist trap places to shop. We bought a magnet and post cards to mail to family. We walked around and under the bridge.
London Bridge was built in 1831. The bridge allowed foot, horse back, carriage and other traffic across the River Thames in London for over 130 years. As the vehicle traffic increased and overwhelmed the structural supports, the bridge began sinking into the River Thames. It was dismantled by the City of London and put up for auction in 1967.
Robert McCulloch won the auction with a bid of $2.4 million. He came up with the figure by doubling the cost of disassembly of the bridge plus $60,000 which was $1000 for each year of his own age. The myth is that he thought he was buying the Tower Bridge but that was not true he was very aware of the bridge he was buying. Over 10,000 blocks were shipped from London and through the Panama Canal to California and shipped by truck to Havasu City.
Reconstruction of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, was complete in 1971.
Re-assembly and dredging of a channel underneath cost $7 million. The dredged sand was used to raise and expand the new island formed by the canal. McCulloch made a lot of money from selling the island land and excess stone from the bridge.
The auction included lamp posts made from the melted-down cannons captured by the British from Napoleon's army, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The lamp posts line the London Bridge today.
The bridge we see is a surface over a modern style steel structure. This allows modern traffic to cross safely. In some places, WWII bombing damage can be seen.
The bridge looks pretty good being so old.
Next a little grocery shopping, a stop at a distillery and a brewery. Bill was the designated driver.
On our return to the resort, we drove across the dam that makes the river into Lake Havasu.
It is always good to be careful driving on the California side of the river because wild burros walk right out into the road. Today, we passed three.
This a great park but no hookups so we came prepared. Our solar continues to work great. It is very green here, too.
Next stop Parker.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...