World Exploration: Death Valley

Day 1

In a ten hour drive across the length of California, Lauren and I visited Death Valley. We took highway 395 and went around Lake Tahoe and ascended to heights of over 7,500 feet. We got some great pictures of the Sierras before descending to the depths of Death Valley.

We visited the valley in the spring, when the air was cool and the wildflowers in bloom. We saw yellow, white, purple, lots of green, and we even found one red flower. All the flowers grew right on the side of the road -- we hardly saw any out in the expanse of wilderness. Maybe the wildflowers like car fumes?

After amusing ourselves with the flowers, we traveled to the north end of the valley and toured Scotty's Castle. Briefly, Death Valley Scotty was a con man in the early 1900s. He acquired a couple gold nuggets, found an investment banker in New York and said, "I've got a gold mine in Death Valley. Look at the ore it produces! Could I have a few thousand dollars as a grubstake?"

Well, Scotty got his money and took it straight to Los Angeles. He lived the high life, bought everyone drinks, left huge tips, and did what he did best: told stories. He said his wealth came from his gold mine in Death Valley, and he sold shares in the mine.

Scotty was one helluva storyteller, apparently, because he got enough money to build a castle in the valley.

Our guide on the tour of the castle had a great personality. He stayed "in-period" for the late 1930s. The eccentric collection of furniture, photos, and weapons throughout the castle was fun to see, and none of them were replicas.

After we had seen Scotty's castle, we paused to consider the warning signs. We didn't see any coyotes (or road runners!) but the signage seemed to suggest we should be on the lookout.

Just up the road was Ubehebe crater. Apparently it was formed by a steam explosion about 2,000 years ago, making it one of the younger points of interest in Death Valley. It's quite deep, and a lot harder to hike out of than it is to hike into. Dozens of people had gathered at the rim to take in the sight, but only Lauren and I were willing to hike into it!

We retired to Stovepipe Wells, one of two villages in Death Valley. It's situated directly at sea level, and several ravens liked to hang out near the restaurant. Our room had an A/C and a fridge, which was good because we brought a lot of food and drinks! For the next day, we made plans to view the sunrise over the sand dunes just a couple miles away from Stovepipe Wells. Lauren suspected something was up, but she wouldn't know for sure I was planning on proposing until I actually did it...