Click on oversized text to see what happened there.
Here's How It All Happened...
First I talked to Jo Nell and Kathy about a girls' weekend in Vegas. They were both excited, and Jo Nell said, we have this timeshare we never use, let's get that for a week. We figured out a good weekend and she got it, and I put the word out: free elegant lodgings in a really great part of Vegas (the Jockey Club, right by the Bellagio, on the strip) and FREE. And...NOBODY ELSE CAME.
Which surprised me, I mean, free hotel and all..but whatever. We were good with it just being the three of us. The room was booked for Wednesday to Wednesday, but we were just staying a long weekend. So it turned out that Kathy and I were going to drive down and spend the night in Barstow on the way, and Jo Nell would drive in from Riverside the next morning, and we'd meet on Friday in Vegas.
Then I said to Kathy, you know how every time I put together my family trip to Death Valley you say you want to come but you aren't really sure if you can hike or handle the heat, and you don't think your family would like it? What if, after we leave Vegas, we go to Beatty, stay two nights in the Atomic Inn there, and spend the day in between in DV, seeing the famous/touristy stuff but driving in the air-conditioned car and not hiking, just looking? She thought that would be a great introduction to the place (although she had been there when she was a teenager, she hadn't been since) and we set it up.
So here's how it went, and (of course) much fun was had!
A Word About Cameras
I brought my camera, but didn't take many pictures til we got to Death Valley; I had damaged my camera on the March Death Valley trip, had it repaired and was giving it a test run on this trip. So I took some pictures here and there, but I didn't pull my faithful Lumix out reliably until we got to Death Valley. All the other pictures were taken by Kathy, either on her fancy camera, or her iPhone. My pictures are named dv and a number; hers have a k at the end to tell them apart.
Calico Ghost Town
Red Rock National Conservation Area
The Neon Museum
Out On The Town
|We left Las Vegas on a Tuesday morning and stopped in Pahrump to have lunch with a friend, then got to Death Valley around 3 pm. Since it was later in the afternoon, I thought we'd just do Dante's View and Zabriskie Point, then go on to our motel in Beatty, leaving a lot of stuff to do the next day. One of our goals was to get a picture of the two of us at every single place we went...let's see how we did!|
|Dante's View is 5400 feet in elevation, and you can look down to the valley, which is below sea level. So it's a heck of a view! We were in sundresses, and it was cold there, so jackets were a necessity. But it was beautiful!|
|Yellow Tackstem, Wishbone Bush, Desert Pincushion, Desert Gold Poppy.
We drove down a couple of miles at a time and got out to look for flowers, on the way back to the main road.
|The road to Dante's View. Very steep and windy, but cool.||Yellow Throats aka Fremont Phacelia||Purple Chia||Cholla|
|Kathy in the wide open spaces
|So we got out of the car and I walked about 10 feet over to a creosote bush, hoping to find a creosote gall to show Kathy...instead I found the front half of a horny toad (which is, of course, actually a lizard) on a branch where some bird had left him for later. What are the odds that we would park right there? but he was WAY cool.|
|Kathy taking a picture of creosote||Notch-leaf Phacelia||Desert pincushion with a beetle||Very cool bush|
I think these two pictures are some kind of milkweed, but I can't figure it out...
|Then we drove to Zabriskie Point, which was beautiful, even on a cloudy day.|
|And here is the picture of us at Zabriskie Point. As you can see, it's MUCH warmer here...although nothing like how hot it's going to get...
After this, we drove towards our motel in Beatty NV.
|We drove through Hell's Gate toward Daylight Pass...and came to a screeching halt here (well, we pulled over, at least!) The WHOLE VALLEY is full of Prince's Plume! I had hardly even seen it before, maybe one stalk on one plant...and here were huge plants and a whole valley full of it. It was GORGEOUS.|
|More Prince's Plume||Indigo Bush||Gravel Ghost||Prince's Plume|
|This is all Desert Trumpet, and I have never seen it blooming. The flowers are tiny but beautiful|
|One last Prince's Plume, Desert Paintbrush, I think this is Desert Daisy, with a lovely black and red beetle...and we're on our way again.|
|The road to Beatty is really pretty. We checked into the motel and unpacked and went looking for dinner.|
|It was my night to choose dinner, so I picked KC's Outpost, of course. AMAZING French bread crust pizza. And the sunset was beautiful.|
|I learned from Jo Nell last year in Arizona that these are Mexican Bird of Paradise flowers. They were growing near the motel, and they were lovely.|
|The Atomic Inn is a fun retro-style motel that's been there forever; we discovered it in 2016 when we were looking for a place to stay that wasn't horribly expensive, and a friend recommended this motel. The rooms all have cool art; we had a couple of different pictures of Jane Fonda as Barbarella. The washcloths were folded into scary birds, and there were little glowing globes in the parking lot. Whee!|
|We were on the way to Death Valley for our whirlwind tour when Kathy said, Burros! and there they were, several ADORABLE wild burros.|
|First we went up the Grapevine Road to Ubehebe Crater. As you can see, it's clear and sunny...and it's going to get hot!
On the way back down, we stopped to look for flowers; not only is the Crater at a higher elevation than much of the rest of the park, but the soil has all the volcanic nutrients, so it's a good place to look. And we were not disappointed!
|Many of the plants that grow here are very small. The first two pictures, the pink ones, are about an inch high, and are Bigelow's Monkeyflower. Desert Sunflower. tiny Desert Star|
|Purple Mat, and a good view of our gallant car (Kathy's Prius) and the number and size of flowers we were looking at.|
|And we were about to go when Kathy said, look there, at that insect...and OH MY GOD the CUTEST ONE EVER. This is a Master Blister Beetle, and is about two inches long. I'd seen regular blister beetles a year ago, which are about an inch long and were all over a flowering bush in which they were mating...but I had never seen one of these bad boys before. What a cute little face! However, I'm told their name comes from what happens if you pick one up and they secrete their fluids on you... Still cute. His little face!!! He was having a wonderful time wandering around in the Purple Mat plants and eating a bit here and a bit there.|
|I climbed up a slope, and there were taller plants in the wash. Desert Sunflowers, Bristly Gilia, Gravel Ghost|
|Popcorn Flower||This was SO HARD to find! It's a Woody Bottle Washer.||Hairy Sunflower||Desert Star|
|Caterpillar on a leaf||Kathy at the info boards at Grapevine||The road to Titus Canyon|
|Titus Canyon narrows, and three shots of a Desert Rocknettle. There are a LOT of insects in the flower, I assume eating the seeds...pretty interesting!|
|A bee or wasp in the pretty sunflower||Kathy in Titus Canyon||Lizard! What a cutie!|
|Beautiful rocks and canyon, and a notch-leaf phacelia. The canyon is the end of a one-way 26 mile drive; the three miles between the parking lot at the end of the narrows (where we came in) and the main road are two way, so people can drive up and park and hike in. Otherwise, you are committed to the whole thing once you start, ending up here. Either way, it's gorgeous.|
|We've turned back, but remember to take our selfie (actually, I think someone took it for us.) The canyon is still beautiful.|
|One last shot of rocks in Titus Canyon.||Lunch and a cold drink at Stovepipe Wells!||Mosaic Canyon is next...||and of course: Josie Looking Sexy On Rocks!|
|Mosaic Canyon and another insect-filled rocknettle.
Then we went to the Mesquite Sand Dunes. It was about 1 pm at this point, and about 100 degrees. It was HOT. And you know me, I'm mostly impervious to heat...but Kathy isn't.
|So I'm running around the sand dunes, taking pictures of trees and rocks and the LOVELY Desert Iguanas that were under the creosote bushes...and I caught up with Kathy, and she did NOT look good. I don't feel so good, she said. Uh oh, I said, and we went back to the car, I gave her a big bottle of water to drink, we turned the A/C on full blast and she had the good sense to soak a towel in ice water and cool off with that...by the time we got to our next stop, she was feeling better. Oblivious Girl felt bad about being oblivious, but Kathy rallied very well!|
|Here we are at Badwater, the lowest place in the continental US. You can see the SEA LEVEL sign, WAAAAY up on the rocks across the road. And we finally figured out that the sign with the faucets actually means, NO DRONES.|
|Artists Palette, a beautiful colored rock formation.|
|Mushroom Rock and the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center. Note the temperature, it's about 4 pm now. Kathy's cold towel has become her BFF.
The 'do not feed the ravens' sign is from the Furnace Creek market.
|And we are on our way back to Beatty, but we stop for this beautiful Apricot Mallow.|
|We stopped in Rhyolite for the Goldwell Open-air Art Museum. Here's a raven, posing on one of the artworks.|
|Selfie on the tiled couch!
And a view from Towne Pass over Panamint Valley as we left the next morning.
|On the way home by Lake Isabella, the Kern River was running high and wild!
It was a fast trip to Death Valley, but a lot of fun with Kathy.