Our fifth wheel and the truck

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Natural wonders and then man made wonders!

Hi everyone and welcome back.

As predicted in my last blog, this week, one of the highlights was Death Valley. What an absolutely stunningly diverse part of the world! It really blows you away - literally, when you visit Ubehebe Crater.

But wait,I am getting ahead of myself. The road into Death Valley is an interesting drive on its own. We were heading back the way we had arrived yesterday but had to turn off towards the Valley. The Amargosa Opera House was right on the corner as we turned off. Talk about out in the middle of nowhere or at least it seemed that way. This beautifully painted building was surrounded by many derelict and deserted buildings. Then as we continued down the road we were surprised, to say the least, when we saw a sign warning us that the road was subject to flooding! As there had been a few drops of rain in the Valley the previous night it made us hesitate- NOT!

Death Valley is part of the Mojave Desert and includes the hottest, lowest and driest places in North America. The lowest point is only 86 miles from Mt McKinlay which is the highest point in the US.

We stopped at Zabriskie Point on the way in and the view was just stunning. The mud hills are just so interesting. We were also able to see the 'track' that was used by the miners when mining was still permitted in the park. I for one wouldn't want to work there!

We entered the Valley past the Furnace Creek Resort. This was a beautiful resort with palm trees and beautiful gardens just as you enter the park. Talk about an oasis in the desert!

Then we arrived at Furnace Creek Village where we went to the visitor's centre only to be told that if we wanted to see everything (just like every other national park I guess) it would take us more than one day!!!

So we decided to take the drive up to Ubehebe Crater and then on the way back we could do all the stops we wanted to. Ubehebe Crater was formed by a volcano many years ago. It was a long drive up there but so worth it. When we got out of the car we were just about blown away by the wind. We literally had to stand with one foot in front of the other so that we weren't blown backwards. Just as well the wind was coming across the crater. If it had been going the other way who knows Norm might have been blown in! Oh well!

On the way back towards Furnace Creek Village we stopped at a number of fascinating views and even started to drive up to a canyon but after about 1/2 mile on a loose stone track we decided not to proceed. The only trouble with that was trying to turn around as on each side of the road there was a 2 feet high bank of large rocks! So we found the widest part we could, I hopped out of the truck and did my usual trick of running from the front to the back of the truck guiding Norm forward and backwards till he could drive back the way we had come. Not more than a seven point turn and we were right.

The desert was so beautiful but oh so inhospitable. There were parts where nothing was growing in what looked like a salt lake, there were sections where nothing could grow because the ground was just covered with rocks and then there were places where very low shrubby bushes were clinging to life in very sandy areas.

Before reaching the Village we took a turn off to have a look at the sand dunes. As we drove along we passed an area that looked like corn bushells that had been tied together and then right next to that, were the sand dunes. It was so unexpected and I hope the photo does it justice. People can walk all over the sand dunes and I just wonder how long it will be before so much damage is done that no one is allowed to walk there.

It is so hard to reconcile all the different geological features and land forms in Death Valley.

I have to tell you about Furnace Creek Village. This is an oasis with a motel, golf course and a lovely village but what really amazed me was the number of motorhomes, travel trailers (caravans), tents and fifth wheelers that were parked everywhere! I kid you not, there were RV's all over the place - some were in parks but many were just parked in the desert. There were thousands of them!!!! Obviously this is one of the snowbirds' favourite places to spend the winter. Even as we were leaving the park there were so many RV's driving in. And they certainly weren't cutting through, there is nothing on the other side of the park in California. If it is the hottest place in North America I don't think the summer would be a good time to stop there!

Why aren't the days long enough to see everything you want to? Because daylight saving has just finished (last night)and the sun sets in this part of the world at 4.30pm.

That is another thing I can't come to grips with - by 5.00pm it is pitch black. It really throws the body clock out of whack! You think it is 8.00pm and then you realise it is only 6.00pm - feels really weird!

Our next excursion was to drive through Las Vegas (we didn't stop) to Hoover Dam and the new O'Callaghan - Tillman bridge that has only just been completed.

When we were here in 2007 they were constructing the bridge and had put in some gigantic pylons that we saw. Because the drive across the dam was the only way to get from Nevada to Arizona and was very crowded we didn't stop. With the completion of the new bridge there is no through traffic across the dam so it is much more pedestrian friendly.

Hoover Dam has been built across the Colorado River and forms the state line between Nevada and Arizona. Lake Mead has been formed as a result of the dam and the surprising thing is that it took 6 years for the dam to fill after completion so that may give you some idea of how big it is.

We had a lovely day. We walked across the bridge and then the dam - both are brilliant constructions.

Some of the residents of the SKP park where we are staying told us that we HAD to go to have a look at the China Ranch Date Farm so our next excursion was back out into the Mojave Desert to locate the date farm.

You actually have to see the desert and the land formations on the drive to actually believe it. The date farm is in the middle of one of the most uninviting and driest landscapes that I have seen. We had to drive down a one vehicle track (slowly) into a valley where, when you drive around the last corner, there before you is a beautiful oasis with hundreds of date palms.

It had been suggested that we should buy a date smoothie and I was all ready to try one although Norm decided that he didn't want one. The trouble is I ended up with Norm eating most of mine because they were so yummy! I told him he should get one for himself but he didn't take the hint. He was happy just to eat mine! They also sold fresh dates, date biscuits and cakes. We were able to go for a walk in amongst the date trees and in the photo the things on the trees are items of clothing that are used to protect the dates from birds. Quite a sad story about the farm and the lady who planted the first dates but the current owners are certainly doing some terrific stuff. All the goodies tasted really lovely too.

We have had a great stay at the Pahrump,SKP park in Nevada and the folks there have been so lovely. We have really enjoyed the coffee time each morning and the happy hour every afternoon. Norm had lunch out with the fellas and I had lunch at the golf club with all the ladies and we had dinner out a couple of times when happy hour went a bit longer than 4.00 - 5.00pm. They were a fantastic group and we will be sorry to be moving on but we know that we will catch up with some of them on the road.

Our next stop will be in Congress, Arizona as we continue to move further south to stay warm.

I hope that you are all staying healthy and happy and would love you to leave me a comment. And thank you to Therapy Passion who has left quite a few comments! You are a wonder Penny!

Till next week I say farewell, take care and stay safe.

P.S. I took too many photos this week so you may need to scroll a bit further down to see the few I have put on the blog. Usually I can pick just a few but Death Valley was just so wonderful I kept taking photo after photo.


  1. Gday, Death Valley, i was expecting Vultures, cadaver's, rolling spinafex, and was there NO Sticky Date Pudding. I hope you left them the recipe. I love your blog and will keep reading it, just don't keep me hanging. LOL.

  2. Hi Paula
    Again your pictures are fab! I had never heard of the date farm, sounds like a very interesting place to see. We really love your blog-you always seem to pick such interesting places to visit. It is great for us Americans to see the USA thru your eyes.


  3. Hi Paula and Norm,
    Love the blog and great meeting you two in Pahrump... Hopefully our paths will cross again down the road.
    Hugs to you, Diane (and Andy too)