|Stovepipe Wells Motel|
Since we arrived in the evening we didn't have time for much that day, but managed to check out the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at dusk - just down the road. We also checked out the pool at the motel and met a friendly Canadian guy who said he "love[d] this country" because it's too cold in Canada and he met some loose women in Las Vegas. Just don't get sick dude.
|Artists Palette (purple rocks!!)|
Followed that up with a drive up to Dante's view to cool off and get another view of the Badwater Basin. The Basin was probably about 100 degrees, while Dante's view - a 20 minute drive away - was a comfortable 76 or so. The heat has a way of sapping your strength, so after that we headed back to the motel for a siesta.
After relaxing a bit in a 68 degree, tv-less room and drinking an ice-cold beer, we ventured out to the heat and took the Honda FIT onto our first unpaved road of the trip - just around the corner to Mosaic Canyon. If you ever wanted to walk through a smooth, striped, marble canyon, this is the place. It was one of the highlights of the trip - we didn't see another person except a few folks leaving as we arrived and a few folks arriving as we left.
The next morning I noted that we hadn't seen any mammals since we arrived - no squirrels, no coyotes, nothing - except humans of course. On our way to the charcoal kilns we stopped in a random dry stream bed and took a walk in a mild, scrub-filled valley, where we surprised the first of 3 rabbits we'd see on the trip. Out another unpaved road to the charcoal kilns - some old structures that were used back in the 1870's to create charcoal for use in smelting or something - which led to a steep trail featuring cacti growing among pine cones and another incredible view of the Valley.
|The old jail in Rhyolite.|
That night, the Stovepipe Wells Ale hit the spot.
There are lots of ghost towns around Death Valley, but most are in more desolate areas at the end of rough, unpaved roads, and we only had a few days. Rhyolite is conveniently on a paved road and one of the better-preserved ghost towns. The highlights include a 3 story bank that is still standing, sort of, and a house some crazy dude from the 1800's made out of bottles.
|Salt Creek pupfish|
We sunk into the Valley a few hundred feet to see the pupfish in Salt Creek - ancient fish that only live in that creek. Walking around the boardwalk - built to protect the sensitive habitat - felt like walking in a dry sauna. I would imagine that at that temperature with only salty water available to drink, a human would die within 90 minutes. Seriously. Luckily our car and A/C were both nearby.
I actually liked the heat, but I think we could have done a lot more and hiked a lot further if we had gone in March. We could also have gone a lot more places if we had a 4x4 vehicle. So maybe next time we'll go in March and rent a 4x4. There's still a lot more to see.