Here's Death Valley Part 2, which I pinky swore in Part 1 that I would share. When I pinky swear, I mean it. I keep my pinky swears. I'm not sure what the cost is if you don't keep a pinky swear, but I don't want to find out.
We did a lot on our second day. Well, we did a lot on our first day. I guess we just did a lot on the whole trip. But the second day, we took the road more. We met some locals like Mr. Mule below. He had a friend, Mrs. Mule. They told me to say "hey" to you.
Oh man, the roads were crowded, I mean look at all those cars on the road in that picture. Crazy, right? Heh, got you. It was just wide open road folks, wide open.
The Open Road & Locals
Out in the middle of the desert, there is a castle. It's Scotty's Castle, but it doesn't belong to Scotty (I should turn this into some kind of riddle). But seriously, it's in the desert and Scotty did live there. It's a long, fascinating story and we heard all about it on the tour. Basically, it's about a con-artis, a banker, and their unlikely friendship. Funny how life works out and surprises us. Here's the story as it was told on the tour (there may be some inaccuracies ; hey, I'm not perfect):
Scotty was from Kentucky and at a young age headed to the West to become a cowboy. He joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows. After about a decade with the show, be ventured on his own and started to tell everyone he found gold in Death Valley. He convinced some Chicago investors to support his mining expeditions, but went on to use the money all up in San Francisco pretending to be a rich from all his gold. The investors got smart and wanted to see the gold mine with their own eyes. Scotty took them, but staged an attack before entering the valley. It didn't go as planned and the investors caught on to Scotty's scheme.
Luckily, this didn't phase Albert Johnson, one of the investors, and he went on to become friends with Scotty. When it came time to build a vacation home, Albert picked Death Valley (it helped his health and full of beauty). Albert didn't want to make a ruckus about his vacation home, he just wanted a nice place to relax, so Scotty got to call it his castle.
There were so many intriquite features of the castle - like the red gate really and the J-S seals. The JS made sense after the tour and learning the history - J for Albert Johnson and the S for Scotty.
Funny enough, our tour guide was named Scott - he was sure to clarify that it was not Scotty. The history and the beautiful surroundings made this one of our favorite sites of the park.
After Scotty's Castle, we drove to the nearby Ubehebe Crater. Just the name itself is fun to say; try it: Ubehebe. The crater was created from volcanic activity - specifically, a large steam explosion. As a kid, volcanoes both terrified me and fascinated me. I have to say, Ubehebe gave me the hebegebes.
The other photo below was just a random stop on the way to the crater. It's rather funny because there was nobody stopping, but by the time we left about a half dozen cars had also pulled over. People see you looking at something and assume it's cool then they pull over as well. If you ever go to Death Valley, see if it works. Pull over and check if others follow...I bet you it will work. Seriously, though it was gorgeous - the blackened sand was really cool.
Rhyolite's prime was just a mire six years - from 1904 to 1910. The town sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills. From there it boomed and people from all around flocked to the town. It even had a stock exchange and electricity. But it fell quickly, and is now a lonely ghost town in the middle of nowhere. My pictures show the casino, general store, bank, and a brothel (scandalous!).
There was a random Union Pacific train sitting in the ghost town. It's sort of sad to see a city just die and dwindle to rocks and rubble. I wonder if there are any ghosts hanging around. Oh my!
There was even a deserted truck (although, I'm guessing it's not from 1910 - just a hunch). And random cans and rust. But rust is pretty, don't you think?
One place still stands structurally intact in Rhyolite and that's Tom Kelly's Bottle House. No joke, this house is made out of bottles. Can you imagine living in a bottle house? I learned it was made out of about 30,000 bottles, and they were mostly Busch or medicine bottles (you know, Busch as in Budweiser). Pretty crazy stuff.
There are not very many places to stay when you visit Death Valley. There is the Furnace Creek Resort, which if you can afford, looks to be pretty nice (we had dinner there one evening). Or, the Furnace Creek Ranch, which is where we stayed. At the ranch, is the Borax Museum. We didn't go to the museum (there is only so much time!), but we did get a few pictures of the train used to transport the borax.
Red Rock Canyon
It seems backwards, I know, but before we left I grabbed a photo of t he Death Valley sign. Then we drove onto Las Vegas. Quite the change -- nature and nothingness to mega city and everything. We grabbed lunch at Honey Salt. It wasn't in the strip, just outside in one of the suburbs. And oh my it was good. I really loved the decor and the food was great.
We had some time to burn before our flight, so heck, let's see yet another National park. We did a quick drive through Red Rock Canyon. Yup, it's red. Actually, it's quite beautiful and we all agreed it would require a return but with more time.
We really fit a lot into two days at Death Valley. I would definitely suggest a visit, but maybe keep it to the winter season. The summers seem a bit hot, to say the least. I was also happy to be proven wrong about it being "just a desert." It's full of beauty and history - two of my favorite things!