Before officially heading into Death Valley, we stopped at the Rhyolite ghost town right outside of Beatty, NV.
Thanks to Google, I learned that Rhyolite began as a mining town in the early 1900s. The city offered things like running water, electricity, and transportation as well as a bank, school, and stock exchange. The town thrived for a several years until a financial crisis forced everything to shut down.
All that remains are abandoned buildings and a random assortment of art installations from the 80s.
If you ever travel to Death Valley, be wary of the weather sites that you use. We got to the park thinking the weather would be hot during the day and cooler at night, perfect for camping. The plan was to scope out the area, do some sightseeing, and set up the tent. So, you can understand how surprised we were to learn that all of the campgrounds had closed due to extreme heat.
It turns out that our weather sources had lied to us. They took the coldest temperature at the highest elevation and the hottest temperature at the lowest elevation and left us in the lurch. The cool weather we expected was actually a face melting 100 degrees! Neither of us expected to walk into the visitor center looking for a campground and leave with directions to the nearest hotel.
Lucky for us, the hotel was less than five minutes from the visitor center. We got a room at The Ranch at Furnace Creek and unloaded a car’s worth of supplies. Dinner would be PB&J sandwiches and carrot sticks.
At sunset, we spent some time at Bad Water Basin. Mike’s plan to photograph the Mesquite Sand Dunes at night had to be postponed because of Sidewinders. What are Sidewinders, you ask? Just a snake deadlier than a traditional Rattlesnake and one that calls the dunes home. The words “death” and “alone” were used enough times to describe them that I had to put my foot down. Bad Water Basin was the next (safe) option.
Since we couldn’t leave without seeing the sand dunes, we got up early the next morning and made our way to the vast mountains of sand before breakfast. I didn’t see any snakes but there were enough burrows/ holes to convince me not to venture off on my own. I think this is where my new fear of holes comes from (a.k.a. Trypophobia).
The sand dunes were probably one of my favorite parts of the trip (despite worrying about various reptiles the entire time). I truly felt like I was in the desert.
We took care of a few things at the hotel before making our departure. Breakfast was our first priority, followed by hitting the gift shop, and sneaking ice for the cooler. Furnace Creek was nice and probably the only place nearby that had rooms available. Though camping would have been interesting, we were glad to have a bed and shower.
On the road, I spotted the Zabriske Point overlook. The eroded rock and blue sky made it the perfect stop to end our time in Death Valley.
Only five hours to Joshua Tree!