It’s OK – It’s a Dry Heat – Part 1

It was kinda of sad leaving Sunny Valley. We had such a great time with Mike and Dawn (read Dawn’s take on our meeting here), it was hard to say “until we meet again”.

We spent the night in Kingman, AZ so we could have dinner with family…

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Our plan was to spend the next week exploring Death Valley. Death Valley is the 5th largest National Park in the United States and the largest in the lower 48. It covers 5262 square miles (roughly 3.4 million acres). It is 140 miles long and about 75 miles across at its widest.

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We decided Beatty RV Park in Nevada would be the perfect jumping off point for our explorations.  On our way to Beatty, we passed the Hoover Dam…

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And drove through Las Vegas. It was noon when we pulled into the park. We got set up in our site and headed into town, actually, to be completely honest, we were looking for a liquor store. The camp host told us we could probably buy liquor at the casino. My first thought was, yeah, what would THAT cost. After we drove around town a bit, we headed to the Stagecoach Hotel and Casino. Just for fun, we put $6.00 (big spenders, right?) into the one-armed-bandit and hit on the 3rd pull. Woohoo. Let’s cash out of this machine! And so it went. A few bucks here, a few bucks there and at the end of the afternoon, we were up enough to cover the cost of the bottle, which wasn’t as expensive as I imagined. When we got back to Waldo, there were wild burros across the street, which I thought was really neat…

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I can just hear the burro, “What, haven’t you ever seen an ass before?”

The next day, we headed into Death Valley…

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Once we passed through Hell’s Gate, the temperature started to climb. It was 58 degrees in Beatty and 75 degrees on the valley floor. The wind had been kicking up for days and it was really noticeable in the valley. I knew it would be hard to get great pictures of the overall landscape because of the haze…

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

So, I tried to focus on the smaller scenes…

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Our next stop was Mosaic Canyon, a 4 mile round trip through narrow slot canyons and polished rock walls…

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Looking back toward the parking area
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The canyon walls, smoothed by rushing waters
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Steve getting a picture of the landscape

From there, we walked the Salt Creek Interpretative Trail.

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Since it was only April, there was still plenty of water flowing. The water is 4x saltier than the ocean. In spite of that, it is home to the Salt Creek pupfish…

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Not a great picture, but you can see several pupfish

April is the beginning of mating season and the males were a beautiful shade of blue. As we were walking along, I could have sworn I saw a gorilla face in the mountains…

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Do you see a gorilla or was I imagining it?

I was in sensory overload, it’s hard to take in all the naked beauty at once.

It was several days before we got back to exploring. Before you get into Death Valley, there are 2 must see places. The first is the Goldwater Open Air Museum. It seems a strange place for an art museum, in the middle of nowhere, but it is definitely worth the stop…

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Fred Bervoets’s  Ode to Shorty
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Charles Albert Szukalski‘s Ghost Rider
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Charles Albert Szukalski‘s The Last Supper
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A very large metal origami crane
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Dr. Hugo Heyrman‘s Lady Desert The Venus of Nevada
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Onny Huisink’s The Beauty of Decay
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Sofie Siegmann‘s Sit Here

Just passed the museum we discovered several abandon homes and vehicles…

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This was a prelude to the ghost town of Rhyolite. The town boomed into existence in 1904 and had burnt itself out by 1916. Remains of several of the buildings give us an idea what town was like in its heyday…

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I thought one of the neatest buildings was Tom Kelly’s bottle house

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Despite the fact electricity to the town had been shut off in 1916, the last tenets of the house lived there until 1969. Tommy Thompson and his family added miniature houses to the property…

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From Rhyolite, we headed back into Death Valley. We drove along Mustard Canyon Road…

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Then visited Harmony Borax Works

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The iconic 20 Mule Team wagon used to transport the borax

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Even in this harsh environment, flowers still find a place to bloom…

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Our final hike of the day was to the natural bridge…

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I’m going to wrap up Part 1. There is still so much to tell you about! So here is my closing shot until I get to Part 2…

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Have you visited Death Valley?

Petrified Forest National Park

Since the Petrified Forest National Park wasn’t on the list of places we planned to visit, I hadn’t done any research. Sometimes this works out well, because everything is a surprise. For one thing, I didn’t know Arizona’s Painted Desert is within the 150,000 acres which make up the park.

We entered the park on the north end and drove the 28 mile road through the park. Our first treat was the painted desert…badlands2

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It is hard to give a sense of scale and these pictures don’t do justice to the beauty. We stopped at the Painted Desert Inn and took in the sights…

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I love how it blends in with the scenery

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You do not want to fall on one of these!

We stopped at nearly all of the scenic overlooks.

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Notice the white car near the top on the right

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We couldn’t resist stopping where Route 66 used to be…

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“Our obligatory selfie to prove we were there”

Another stop was at Newspaper Rock, there are over 650 petroglyphs in the area…

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Imagine a time when you wanted to leave a message for another traveler and the only way to do it was to carve it into the rocks using symbols. There is no “dictionary” for the symbols, so we can only guess as to all of their meanings. Another stop was the Puerco Pueblo. The remains of quite a few building mark the place where as many as 200 people might have lived. There are also petroglyphs here…

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The building in the background houses several exhibits about the history and culture of the Puebloan people

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When I look at this set, one of the things I see is a bird eating a frog, other people see a stork bringing a baby. What do you think?

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And I was worried about rattlesnakes
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Near the beginning of Blue Mesa

We were beginning to see more and more pieces of petrified wood…

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We were nearly at the end of the 28 mile road when I caught sight of a pronghorn antelope. I had been hoping to see one, but had almost given up.  Steve got this shot.

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At the south end of the park is another visitor center with a walking trail passing gigantic petrified logs…

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The man in the pictures gives you an idea of the size

What amazed me the most about the logs was the variety of colors…

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Have you ever visited the Petrified Forest? The Painted Desert?