Some of the lows: 68 degrees (Winterose at the Charcoal Kilns), 282 feet below sea level (Badwater), a flat tire coming down from Picacho Mines in Imperial County.
Some of the highs: 117 degrees (Furnace Creek), 5400+ above sea level (Dante’s Overview), expansive views, cozy Stovepipe Wells Village, the look on the kids’ faces as we walked on salt, looked into a crater, and the sad realization that it could be just as hot in the shadows, and that a breeze does not always mean “cool.”
We started in Anza-Borrego and took out the last historical landmark in San Diego county (San Gregorio) –thanks to all those that went before us…and provided a map! We stayed at the Casa Del Zorro and as usual it was amazing –I cannot recommend this hotel enough!
We followed up with a drive into Imperial County to take out the remaining site there (Picacho Mines). Thankfully we made this time. The location of the plaque was picturesque. However, I was left in complete awe by the actual site of the mines and the makeshift cemetery for the miners. It had once been a thriving mining town, and like all the others it has been forgotten to time. Standing over those graves (stones piled one on top of each other) put into perspective what life must have been like. Before we continued our tour north, we had to stop over at the local Discount Tire store –a rock punctured our rear tire. Before I could tell the clerk what happened he took a look at our dirt covered car and said: “did you go up to dome castle?” (yes, just on the other side) It seems everyone gets a flat tire here.
We continued north, drove up the entire length of Arizona (all 101 miles on one very desolate route) and ended up staying the night in Lake Havasu. We “crossed” London Bridge and made our way down to the river where, to our surprise, we walked into a swarm of bats!!! Charlotte turn up her squeaky voice another decibel and it ensured that the bats got even closer.
The next morning, we started towards Death Valley! I kept an eye on the rising elevation and the rising temperature. Needless to say, by the time we hit Death Valley Junction the temperature was already well past 100 degrees. Death Valley Junction is famous for a lot of things, one of those is the Amargosa Opera House. It looks like the bates hotel except in a Mediterranean motif. Frankly, it was awesome to look at –we walked around a bit and then made our way into Death Valley.
Given the hour, our first-priority was to hit the 3-4 historical markers we could while we had light. When I exited the car to take pictures of the first site, the reality of the heat finally hit us: it was 117 degrees. We continued to Stovepipe Wells knowing that a few of the sites where “in/around” that area. Our hotel was at the Stovepipe Village and we honestly fell in love immediately –like the Casa Del Zorro. Let me say that the historical markers where on either end of the property so knocking those off was easy. We meandered around the “village” for the rest of the evening. We ended up at the saloon and at 7pm went to the restaurant through a connecting corridor decorated as an abandoned mine shaft. You see, dinner would not be served until 7pm –SHARP!!! We had a great time. The room was large, clean and comfortable…and equipped with industrial strength air conditioning. It was 104 degrees when we went to bed…
…it was 102 when we woke up the next morning. I got up early to knock out an off-road site –16 miles off-road! Go check out site #444 on our web page for perspective. On my way back I stopped at Shorty’s Grave and was overcome by emotion. Shorty was a prospector who died in 1934 and wanted to be buried next to his friend in the valley he prospected all his life. The dedication and simplicity of the site against the salt flats and mountains as the sun was coming up was simply amazing.
We spent the rest of Sunday and Monday clearing the last of the Inyo County historical markers. We also took in all the sites: Zabrinskie’s Point (awe-inspiring) Badwater (lowest point in the contiguous US), Golden Canyon, Devil’s Golf Course (a must see!), “the” Stovepipe Well, Dante’s Overview (super scary and cool), the Charcoal Kilns (I cannot put this into words), wild packs of donkeys crossing the road (yep!), Furnace Creek and the Visitor Center, the Borax Works ruins (a ¼ mile in that heat feels like 10 miles), Hell’s Gate (absolute despair –if you are in a wagon having just crossed Arizona/Nevada and then seeing this desert), and Christine’s favorite: 20 Mule Team Canyon.