The Death Valley Trip
October 2017:

Click on any picture to see it full-size.
So in mid-2017, I was talking to my friend Mark, who wanted to go to Death Valley for research for a book project. We compared calendars, and decided that mid-October would be good. I put word out to my desert-loving peeps.

Then Mark decided that he could do the research from Las Vegas instead, where he was already going, so that fell through.

In August, I was having lunch with my friend Mike, who had been a couple of times and is now almost as big a DV fanatic as I am.

The October trip fell through, I said. What do you think?
Doggone it, he said...or maybe something stronger. Could we go anyway?
Me: Sure! Is it okay if it's just us? I'll ask around, but I don't think anyone else can go...
Mike: Yes! We'll have fun.

And so I did put word out, as well as making reservations at the Atomic Inn in Beatty, our new non-camping home base. And as I had thought, nobody else wanted to/could/would go.

Then a month before we left, I emailed him and said, want to rent a Jeep from Farabees and go to the Racetrack? (Mike had attempted this with Jerry in 2016 and the shock absorber mount sheared off about three miles down Racetrack Road, and they had to come back). HELLZ TO THE YEAH! said Mike, or words to that effect. And so it was planned.



The other discussion we had was the last day. He was flying in on Thursday night, we were leaving Friday morning and he was flying home Tuesday evening, and had to be at the airport at 5 pm. So we agreed to stay in Beatty for three nights, leave Monday, and go do some fun stuff on the Eastern Sierras, staying somewhere that night depending on what we did and where we were when it was time to hole up.

My list of stuff to do around the 395 was as follows:
★Devil's Postpile National Monument outside Mammoth Lakes
★The Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine (a family memory)
★The movie museum in Lone Pine
★The Olancha wierd art statues (which Mike swears he's seen off the 395 but I never have)
★Manzanar internment camp (I don't think there's much left there, though)
★The Trona Pinnacles
★The Lake Shore Inn in California City, an abandoned motel that's an urban decay photo place (I love those)
★A musical road in Lancaster


I have a camera that I LOVE, the Panasonic Lumix ZS-50. I am now on my third one, because I destroyed one in 2016 and one in early 2017, being outside and taking pictures when I really shouldn't (like in a wind/dust storm). I nursed my current camera, which I bought in early July, through three weeks of travel, dust and rain in the southwest, and I had just had it cleaned ($$) so I REALLY didn't want anything to happen to it.

And speaking of pictures, the ones I took were with that camera; Mike used his iPhone and got a lot of great shots. If you look at the name of any picture, if there's an m after the number, Mike took it.


On the way, something silly happened and Mike pretended to shove a microphone in my face, ask me what I thought, and say, That's a-MAY-zing! in a kind of hokey accent. When I obviously didn't get it, he told me about this TV series that had gone on for thirty years, California's Gold, hosted by Huell Howser; all the episodes are available here at the Chapman Colleges archives, and they're really fun. Howser did literally hundreds of these things, about everything you can imagine that there is to do in California. He's kinda goofy and aw-shucks, and after a certain episode, he says That's a-MAY-zing! at least once in the episode. Mike could do his accent really well; I wasn't very good at it, but not for lack of trying.

And I think I'm going to link to his Death Valley episodes from my DV home page soon, so stay tuned for that.


Many of you have met my wonderful truck, Boudika. She is the best truck ever, but like many of us, she's showing her age; as of this writing, 10 1/2 years and 185K miles.

At the moment, she has a nick in her windshield, her two back wheels are bent, the seal on the back end of her transmission is leaking, and her back shocks are going.

She is a valiant truck, and can be relied on to get us there and back again, and we don't worry too much about what happens to her on the way...but <foreshadowing> things WILL happen... </foreshadowing>


The Trona-Wildrose road had just reopened (it was closed in mid-July when Jim, Mike and I camped in Wildrose) after something like six years, so I wanted to drive in that way...and the Trona Pinnacles, on the Eastern Sierra list, happened to be on the way there. So we got up at <shudder> 6am and got on the road at 7 so we'd have time to see them.
This is what it looked like driving down the highway toward Bakersfield. Cloudy and overcast. It had rained like crazy the night before we left. Then we got on the other side of Ridgecrest and saw this dust storm, which we drove through and out the other side (thank goodness, because there was only about 20 feet of visibility in the middle...) We reached the turnoff for the Trona Pinnacles and found this, and said OOOH! but we didn't see any monorail a-frames. But a monorail! How cool is that? The road to the Pinnacles.
These are Mike's (left) and my (right) shots of the derelict trains on the rail lines that used to take minerals from here to be processed, which was supposedly the shortest rail line in the US at one time. You can see the pinnacles coming up, that was our first glimpse of them and they got a WOW from us.
These are the signs that tell about this amazing place; they were in two or three different places, but I lumped them all together here just because it worked better.

Also, the first set of signs was where we got out and found out how hard the wind was blowing, I'd say 35-40 was a pretty fierce wind, and although it wasn't cold, it was full of dust and grit. So anytime I was actually out in the wind using my camera, and couldn't shelter it with my body, I put it in a clear ziplock bag to protect it. This was not very successful, as you'll see, but on the other hand, my newly refurbished camera didn't get destroyed, so yay.

The wind was also yanking the truck doors open and holding them shut...and at one point, the driver's side door got slammed open and went now it makes a funny noise when I close it, and the window on that side will only go down about 1/3 of the way. Poor Boudika! she is so patient...

This one was shot through a ziplock bag. Not a great solution, but at least my camera survived.

Yes, the wind was fierce!

Two more shots of the awesome trains, and we leave for Death Valley, first driving through the really sad-looking town of Trona. The picture on the right is from Panamint Valley, before we reached the Trona-Wildrose road.
This is the road. The one that's been closed and is now reopened...I'm not sure what repairs were done to it, truthfully, because it's just as bad as I remembered it. But at least it's open.
And then we were almost in Wildrose Canyon, and we came upon this area...and I recognized it! When I was a young kid, my family would come and stay here in guest cabins run by the Allen family. I recognized the rock foundations and stairs. Below are pics of all that's left of it, and on the right is a picture from 1964. My sister thinks that's around the time we were there. We've been discussing it by email, and none of us are sure these are the actual cabins, but I do remember the site and the rocks and trees...
Emigrant Canyon Road, the Mesquite Sand Dunes, and the Devil's Cornfield.
The Beatty Cutoff through the Kit Fox Hills.

The cheesy neon-lit cow skull at KC's Outpost, where we went to have dinner; it was so crowded that we ended up in a table in the bar...and a guy who was having dinner there who works in the Stovepipe Wells store RECOGNIZED ME! I guess I'm an authentic Death Valley Character now...


Saturday! We packed our lunches and left for a day of fun. We had talked about what to do the day before, and decided to do hikes along the Badwater road.

But first, we stopped at the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center to talk to a ranger. Ranger Jan was there, and he was great. Our questions:

  1. How is the road to the Racetrack? A: Don't do it, it's the end of the season and there are a ton of sharp rocks out there. We convinced him that we were going to be careful, and he admitted that this time of year he just discourages everyone from trying it. But he said except for the rocks, it was fine.
  2. What's up with the Keane Wonder Mine? A: It's opening November 7, woo hoo! I'm so happy. Ranger Jan said he had taken a hike up there with a geologist a week or so ago and it was AWESOME. Can't wait!
  3. What about Ubehebe Lead Mine? I told him about going there and trying to hike up the disappearing trail a few years ago. A: No idea, he didn't know anything about it. Then he pulled out his phone, which had an app with USGS topo maps that was AWESOME. We found it and were good to go.

Thank you, Ranger Jan!

Looking down on Furnace Creek from the Beatty cutoff.

Mike on top of Mushroom Rock.

Badwater. You can see the line of cars and rvs parked in the parking lot. The red arrow points to a tiny white dot on the face of the cliff across the road from's a sign that says, SEA LEVEL...

Sidewinder Canyon

The sun, it burns...actually, it was about eighty degrees, pretty nice weather.

Lizard! Mike in one of the side canyons, and chasing his hat, which made me laugh.

Where's Mike?

You can see the canyon narrowing ahead. It was not spectacular, just a nice canyon. Supposedly it ends in a dry fall, but I've never been that far up it...the last time I got about 3/4 of the way up and ran out of steam. This time we decided it wasn't exciting, and turned around, then ran into a couple who told us that the slot canyon they had just come out of was we went up it. And they were right!

This was as far as I went; the crack ahead of me with the rocks sticking into it is about 8 inches wide...the couple who had told us to go into the slot canyon had gone through it, but they were skinny...!

And we're out of the slot canyon, on the way back to the car and more hiking fun.

And this canyon was where we both realized that we like taking silly pictures (like the one above with Mike peeking around the rock) and had fun doing it all weekend.

A pretty cool balancing rock. Me, hiking off into the distance... ...actually back to Boudika, in the right center of the pic. Waiting patiently, as always. And a grasshopper. Just because.
Then Mike wanted to do Artists Drive/Palette, which is a 9 mile one-way road that goes up and then back down a large alluvial fan, passing by beautiful colorful rock formations. At the top/midpoint, there is a very short two-way segment into the parking lot for Artist's Palette, which is the most colorful part. It's all really pretty, even at noon, the worst time to see the colors (because the sun washes them out.)
Then we drove a few more miles to Golden Canyon. Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch and Zabriskie Point form what is roughly an upside-down Y of trails, with Golden and Gower at the lower ends and Zabriskie at the top. I've hiked from Zabriskie to Golden many times, and up Gower to the split, but never done the loop. The parking lot is at the mouth of Golden Canyon, and there is a mile of trail along the alluvial fan to the mouth of Gower Gulch, which is what we did.

Unfortunately, my camera decided to reset itself to take pictures on Mars, so although the next few pictures are good, the colors are WAY off...all the pictures in the next set with normal colors are Mike's.

The trailhead (and the way we'll come out), our first view of Mars, the entrance to Gower Gulch, and me sliding down a rock (whee!).
Josie Looking Sexy On Rock™, more Mars canyon (although we were having so much fun talking that I didn't take any pictures of the cool dry waterfalls in the first half mile of Gower Gulch, sorry!), Mike targeting an old mine, and Mike hating the hot sun.
The new trail marker (replacing the old wooden sign), more uphill wash, and finally (about 1/4 mile after I expected it) the turnoff for Golden Canyon. And now we see Red Cathedral, yay!
Manly Beacon, Jo Shows How To Hike Like a Sign, the beautiful Badlands, and Jo crossing the face of Manly Beacon (thanks, Mike! I'm usually taking this pic and am rarely the one in it. Nice!)
They're both MANLY!

Red Cathedral and Golden Canyon.

And we stopped for a snack, and the string cheese had melted, so of course Mike took a pic of me eating it hanging down like a slug.

The first pic was a German RV, pretty cool.

The second was Corkscrew Peak, which we drove by every evening, and which at various times looked like a gorilla, an iguana or a badger.

The third is Mike learning how to fiddle that night, which was fun.


On the November 2016 family trip to Death Valley, Mike and Jerry had taken a Farrabee's jeep to the Racetrack. Or at least, they TRIED to take it there...but the shock absorber mount sheared off after a few miles and they had to come back. So we said to each other over and over, We're going to the Racetrack on Sunday. And we WON'T HAVE ANY PROBLEMS.
But first: a burro break. You'd think we'd be all blase and ho-hum about burros after camping with them in July 2017, but no. We saw this herd just outside Beatty as we were leaving and we were all OMG and Awww, especially about the ADORABLE FUZZY BABY BURRO. Awwwwwww.

And the burro butt? Mike said I had to take that picture and caption it, Great ass!

Part of the Kit Fox Hills, in the early light.

Farabee's Jeep Rentals, bright and early. When we checked in, Mike, who (being male) had checked out all the Jeeps on the way in, asked if we could have #1. Here he is, happy to be in (of course) the best Jeep on the lot!

This is the road to Ubehebe Crater, which the Racetrack Road connects to. The first half mile of Racetrack Road is like this, easy peasy. Not so easy later. This will become important when we come up behind the Volkswagen on the way back... Harem (barrel) cactus This is what we were driving by in the beginning.
I'm pretty sure this is Brittlebush. I think it was the only flower we saw this weekend in Death Valley. Our awesome Jeep and the road. It doesn't look bad, does it? We averaged 13 miles an hour each way, including stopping for pictures, and every time Mike tried to go faster, the road said NO NO NO.
Mike is driving! And there is one stretch of the road that has a lot of Joshua trees, which I just found out have a much wider altitude range than I thought- 1500-5900 feet. The last picture reminds me of old Westerns...Run! The Joshua Trees are coming over the hill!
More Joshua trees, and some lovely cholla.
And right around here was when we pulled over for a line of 4 wheel drive vehicles, Jeeps and Toyotas. There were 8 of them, in three groups (the first guy stopped to let us know how many there were, which was nice.) We pulled over for each two or three and let them go by; we were taking it easy and careful, and they were going fast.

The last vehicle stopped beside us and the guy in the passenger side (older and not in the best of shape, if you get my meaning) gestured for us to put down the window. If you go 35-40 miles an hour, you can cruise over the washboard, he said (because of course he assumed that because we were going slowly and carefully we were idiots who'd never touched a 4x4 before...) Mike, tactfully, said, well, we're just going to go slow and careful, we're doing fine. We've had cars break down on this road before, so we're taking it easy. And the other guy ACTUALLY SAID, What do you care? it's a rental. And he put his window up and they zoomed off.

We said in unison, What an asshole. We got out and took a break til their dust had cleared, and we quoted that guy and laughed at him the rest of the weekend. Sheesh.

Teakettle Junction! we're 20 miles in, with 6 to go. This is where the Racetrack road crosses the Hunter Mountain road. The sign has gotten much bigger, and leaving teakettles with messages on them has become a 'thing'.
A really nice harem cactus, another view of the beautiful surroundings, and...our first sight of Racetrack Playa! With a plume of dust to the right of it from the 4 wheel group...
As we approached the Racetrack (you drive all the way to the far end, nearly three miles, to see the moving rocks) I was looking at the simple map that Farabee's had given us, and I said, hey, this says that there's a BATHROOM at the campground, beyond the racetrack! Mike: Do you want to go there first? Me: Only if you want this truck to continue to be usable...! It's a long drive, and we had been drinking stuff all the way because it was hot and dry. The thought of a bathroom was heaven. So we passed the Racetrack and kept going over the low hills beyond it, to the campground; after that, it becomes the Lippincott Road, a rough road for experienced drivers. We got to the campground, which had several vehicles in it, and found...a portapotty. But it wasn't too awful, and was certainly better than hiding behind a Joshua tree. I had to take a picture of it, any bathroom with wind warnings makes me giggle.

We also found a bit left from an old mine...I had brought my favorite 'Mines and Hikes of Death Valley' book, and it was the Lippincott mine (hence the name of the road.)

Mike took the 'Kilroy' picture of me, which I quite like.

And driving back, I got a picture of Racetrack Playa from the south, something I had never seen.

The two signs on the road pullouts. The second one is pretty new, they only figured out how the rocks move about three years ago.
And of course we had to take some pictures of each other with the rocks...
We had lunch in the shade of the truck, and drove north about four miles to the turnoff to the Ubehebe Lead Mine. This was a lead and silver mine from the late 1800s to about 1930, and a lot of stuff is left behind...turns out there is no trail to the top of the hill, but we had fun hiking. And where the road to this mine leaves Racetrack Road, there IS a dirt road to the top of the hill that leads to the Copper Bell mine, so that's on for next time. Mike had fun jumping, balancing and climbing on and into everything he could...
And we drove away, tired and happy, after wandering around and looking at all the stuff left from the mining days. As we drove out, I read the history of the Ubehebe Lead Mine to Mike; amazing how much work they could do in the middle of nowhere!
The first pic shows a mine in the bottom of the Cottonwood Mountains on our right, to the right of the center of the picture. In the second picture you can literally see a green line where the vegetation changes and the Joshua trees start. The third picture is just the road ahead, and the fourth is our first sight of Ubehebe Crater in the distance.


Remember how I said the dirt road from the paved Ubehebe Crater road was not bad for the first half mile? We were coming back, and came up on a brand new Volkswagen mini-SUV, maybe a Touareg. And it was going VERY slowly, about 2 mph, and picking its way between the rocks. I think it was so new it had no plates, and it was spotless-no dust or anything. And it was going REALLY SLOWLY, even for the Racetrack road. We came up behind it, and it moved over to the side...but not to let us pass, oh no. Just to avoid rocks, then it suddenly came back into the road again. After it did this three times, with Mike getting more and more annoyed at these people who would NOT pull over (and who may have been so fixated on the road that they didn't even know we were there) he pulled around them, over the rocks, and passed them. I think they had seen the good part of the Racetrack road and thought the warnings were just for other people, and decided to try it, got in over their heads and didn't want to ruin their new car, and were trying to get out...which would have been fine if they had been courteous about it. Later, on the real road on the way back to Stovepipe Wells, they passed us going 70, which was taking it way too far in the other direction...
So when the wind bent my truck door backwards and made the window stop working right, that night I was emailing my hubs and mentioned that something had happened to my truck. Within a minute he emailed back and said WHAT? I spent the rest of the evening emailing him pictures of silver Tacomas that had been destroyed in various ways (because I'm evil), then finally told him what was really wrong and that it was no big deal.

So on the way back from the Racetrack Mike posed for this so I could send it to Doug and Diana with the subject line, Uh oh...
LOLOL. I am so bad.

Mike at Ubehebe Crater.

We returned the jeep early and in good condition, yay us! and then we decided to go to Salt Creek before heading back to Beatty. There is a year-round stream there, although this time of year it was very small; there is greenery, and wildlife. Mike had never seen Salt Creek, and I had never been there at dusk; even in October, with hardly any water in the creek, and the pupfish all hibernating, it was great. I've put it on the list for next year, to come back in the spring at dusk!
I think these are Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies; they were about an inch and a half long, and GORGEOUS in the setting sun.
A crepuscular (Mike's new word of the day) lizard, another pic of the local wildlife, and the fragmented and mosaic-looking mud.
And with one more bird sighting and a nice sunset we called it a day.

The Cheeseburger Conundrum

Q: What town in America does not have cheeseburgers?
A: Beatty, NV.

We went back to the motel and could talk about nothing but cheeseburgers on the way. We asked our local sources of information- the desk lady at the Atomic Inn and a couple of women who work at the Rebel Arco gas station. Denny's was mentioned, which is okay with me food-wise, but we would have had to drive across town (not very far), park, and walk all the way through a big casino (VERY far and a ton of cigarette smoke, ew) to get there, and then it's...Denny's. Mike wasn't thrilled at this. KC's Outpost was mentioned, but when I called them they said no, they don't do burgers. Someone said that the American Legion had the best burgers in town but not til November, not a lot of help. There were literally NO non-Denny's burgers to be had in an American town at dinnertime. Where are the Guinness World Records people when you need them?

So we decided to go to the Rebel gas station/mini-mart and see what we could find. Mike got them to make him a sandwich, which he enjoyed very much. I went to the freezer section, wanting something hot, and got frozen potato/cheese/bacon skins (remember, our room has a microwave) and I also picked up a packaged microwaveable roast beef/gravy/mashed potato thing as backup; Mike said he'd eat one potato skin (there were 6) so I wanted extra food in case he really liked them and ate half.

So we got back to the motel, unpacked, chilled, and I got out my potato skins. Which, although frozen and delicious-looking, were evidently the ONLY frozen thing on the planet that could NOT be microwaved, but had to be cooked in an oven. It told me this in tiny, tiny print on the back, instead of large, easily readable read letters across the front, which is the way it would have been in a sane universe. I did try to microwave them anyway and they were inedible. As was the roast beef and mashed potatoes. Ew ew ew. I ate veggies for dinner. Meh. All I could think of was the AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS burger I had had at Mono Cone in Lee Vining three weeks earlier. Sigh.


Our plan was to drive as directly to Mammoth Lakes as we could. We would start with Devil's Postpile NM, and after that work our way down the eastern side of the Sierras doing stuff from the list (at the top of this page) til we were done, then get a motel, and drive home by Lake Isabella and Bakersfield, the same way we had driven down. So we went north on the 95 and the 266, both roads I had never been on...the 266 goes through several different ranges, and in one of the valleys we saw this, and I pulled over to see what it was...a whole ghost town, just sitting there by the road!
And then we drove west, across Eureka Valley, to the 395, then north to Mammoth Lakes. The roads were beautiful on the way there, full of light and rocks and fall colors.
And as we drove up toward Mammoth Lakes, all the signs for Tioga Pass said OPEN! There will be snow at Mammoth Lakes, I said, but if we spend a long time at Devil's Postpile, staying the night there and going home through Yosemite might be an option...and I was right, there was snow above Mammoth Lakes, quite a bit actually. Luckily, the road to Devil's Postpile goes uppity-up-up and then steeply downity-down-down, so by the time we got to the entrance of the actual National Monument (there are many roads that go various places above Mammoth Lakes, and the NM is just one choice) we were down out of the snow, and the weather was sunny and warm.
SNOW! Last night it was 97 degrees at Furnace Creek, and now we're in SNOW!

I love California!!

There was a parking area right before the first entrance to the NM, where you could see the mountains and the huge valley, and of course we stopped to look. It was a big vista point/picnic area/information kiosk type of area.
Then we went down a steep and very narrow two-way road with barely enough room to pull over, and about 20 minutes later we entered the ACTUAL NM. Evidently this place is hella crowded in the summer, there were all kinds of kiosks and parking areas and stuff. We were there a week before most of it was going to shut down for the winter (remember that Tioga Pass had already closed once and reopened) so there weren't so many people, and parking was no problem.

We stopped at Starkweather Lake, which was very pretty.

And now we finally enter the Devil's Postpile National Monument proper. We parked in the Postpile parking area, and ran into a couple who gave us their map and said, if you take this trail, you can hike out to see it and there's a loop to the top of the postpile, which is worth doing. But don't take the trail out to Rainbow Falls; you can drive there and the hike is shorter. And we found this to be good advice!
FINALLY. Seriously, an hour and a half from the highway. Serious Hiker Man. The signs are ready for winter! I LOVED this tree with the curly roots.
One more photo of Curly Root Tree. Then we took a side trail to a bridge (selfie of shadows) with beautiful views on both sides. Mike was very excited because he was remembering the California's Gold episode about Devil's Postpile NM with Huell Howser and it was like deja vu for him to be here. I thought that was pretty funny.
More rock and tree photos. Sorry. I just love them.
So evidently this whole valley filled with lava. It cooled fast and fractured into long hexagonal shapes, then a glacier came through and removed most of it, leaving the line of 70 foot long by about 18 inch in diameter hexagons that are sort of hanging up there in the valley. You can also see the talus slope where they've broken off (and they do it pretty frequently, evidently!) and come crashing down.
It's silly picture time!

Josie Looking Sexy on Postpile

Mike Surfing on Rock Hexagon

Then we went to the far end of the postpiles, where there is a trail to the top; we kept looking to see if we could see anyone up there, but we agreed that there was probably a fence or something, or the trail doesn't actually get close to the edge.
Here's what the tops of the postpiles look like, and (just for fun) the end of a tree trunk.
Here's what the top looks like, and you can see that the 'pavement' goes right to the edge...
The 'pavement' sloped down toward the STEEP DROPOFF, and I have to say, I wasn't getting anywhere near it...til Mike realized there were two trees right on the we sequentially walked (and I crawled, and am not embarrassed to say it...) out to hold onto the tree and see...STRAIGHT DOWN TO WHERE WE HAD JUST BEEN AT THE BOTTOM. Wow. And yes, there was a warning sign, which Mike was happy to mock.

Then we went down the other side, which turned out to be MUCH easier to go up and down. Ah well.

More cool tree trunks.
And then we drove down to the Rainbow Falls trailhead, and left on that hike. Just after we started, I asked Mike, Did you lock the front of the truck? I locked the back. Mike thought a second and said, I'm not sure, let me go back and check...he came back with this picture, which is what he found when he got to the truck! He had been leaving the door open when we got out quickly for pictures, and I guess it just became a habit...good thing he went back!

Soon after this we ran into the nice couple who had given us the map and good advice; they came through for us again, telling us to be sure to go to the second viewpoint when we got to Rainbow Falls.

Mike liked this shot of the baby trees in front of the old tree trunks that had been burned in a fire fifteen years ago.

So we had just come downhill a mile and a half to this waterfall. The nice couple had said to go to the 'second viewpoint', and we looked and saw the sign for the lower falls, another half a mile down, and said, no, we don't want to go that far. Then we realized that the second viewpoint was right by the trailhead for the lower falls, and we were already there. So we were very happy to get an even better view of the beautiful falls.

The second viewpoint also gave us a view of the STEEP STAIRS DOWN to the lower fall, which you can see in this picture. Even I said oh HELLZ no...

And...back uphill. Adorable chipmunk cleaning his face and tail. And I have no idea what happened in the fourth picture, but it looks kinda cool, so I kept it...
And we drive an hour out, including through the snow again. Back at the top of Mammoth, there is snow, and the lifts are ready for winter...if you look, you can see the two in the second picture go waaaay up the mountain. Mike skis, so he knew how they work. Interesting. I'd ride them...IN THE SUMMER!
I'd been through here at the end of September and needed a cheap motel, so I stayed at the Travelodge; my room was on the second floor, and although the place looks bad from the outside (and even in the corridors) it was a perfectly nice room, with a bathtub, good wifi and a fridge and microwave. When Mike and I got back to Mammoth Lakes, it was 4pm. The next place on our list was Lone Pine, three hours away, so we decided to call it a day, stay in Mammoth Lakes and go home through Yosemite, which was an option since Tioga Pass was open.

So I described the room I had had to him, and Mike said, sure. We went to the front desk and said, can we have your cheapest room? Which was 70 bucks, okay, but it was the LAST ROOM THAT HAD NOT BEEN RENOVATED. So we had a key instead of a card lock, the door to the front patio had a cheesy little lock on it, and (as we found out the next morning) the microwave didn't work. We didn't find most of this out til we had settled in, so we decided to stay. Turned out that Mike's bed was a nightmare as well, so not a great decision. Ah well.

This is our front 'patio', which was full of dead leaves, but it made unloading the car very easy, there was a parking place right in front.

So then, after we went out for some beer (just because) and checked out this game-and-silly-stuff store that was right by the liquor store, we discussed dinner. And we were still fixated on BURGERS. We asked the guy behind the desk in the motel, but he recommended a place nearby that was more expensive than we wanted. We just wanted a decent burger, not a fancy meal. There was a restaurant right near the liquor store but the prices were still high because Mammoth Lakes is a tourist place, with commensurate prices. So we got back to the motel and I got on Yelp.
And after some discussion and a general feeling that twelve bucks was too much to pay for a burger, we found a listing for a place called the Delicious Kitchen. The reviews were good, the only bad thing people mentioned was that it is so small there are only six tables. So we decided to go take a look. And it was across the street from a Vons, so I said, if this doesn't look good, let's just pick up food at Von's and take it back to the motel.

And it is a small place. And luckily some people left just as we came in. And we had chicken and ribs and mashed potatoes, and it was both reasonably priced and (as advertised) delicious.


Tioga pass was indeed open. Yosemite was beautiful, and not crowded (we were through it by 10 am.) There was a hilarious pair of signs in Escalon. And we got home at 2 am, Diana and Doug arrived, we chilled all afternoon, and Diana took Mike to the airport.
And then we went to Sam's and you know what I had for was DELICIOUS.

A perfect end to an excellent Death Valley trip!