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Monday, February 13, 2012

Pahrump, Nevada and Death Valley, California

Completing our home-health regimen and our visits to various doctors, dentists, and other pokers, prodders, and practitioners, we finally left Soledad Canyon and California for Pahrump, Nevada.

Pahrump, for those of our readers who are unfamiliar with it, lies just on the outskirts of Death Valley, California on the Nevada side.  It is an ideal location to conduct day trips into Death Valley National Park while still enjoying some of the comforts of home at a reasonable price.  While everything in Death Valley is expensive from gasoline to groceries, Pahrump has a Wal-Mart supercenter, and a few casinos with reasonably priced buffets.  Our RV resort, Charleston Peak, is located next to a winery with a fine dining restaurant, a wine happy hour, and wine tasting (the first seven tastes are free …  that’s about 2 glasses of excellent wine … free!).  The spaces are large enough and very level and our site looked out on the Spirit Mountains.  We give the park a nine or a ten.  We stayed there using our ROD membership so it was “free” with an additional fee of $3.00 a day for 50 amps.  From our front window we were treated to some great sunsets.

One of our trips into Death Valley took us to China Ranch Date Farm.  The route to the farm took us down a dirt road between abandoned mines and through a most inhospitable landscape. 

 We emerged to the hidden oasis that supports the date farm.  They grow numerous varieties from dates that are a deep red to the more common yellow variety.  We were able to wander through the groves and read about the plants at our leisure.

At the end of the tour we visited one of the tiniest museums in the United States.

We stopped at the Crowbar Café in Shoshone, CA.  It made for a nice picture, but the food was not too good and overpriced.  The entire town of Shoshone is comprised of four small buildings, a few houses, and the regional school.  Don’t believe the hype about this town …  drive on by … there are better places to visit in Death Valley.

Our next day trip took us to the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV.  Rhyolite was a booming mining town from around 1906 through 1912, having a population as large as 8000.  When the mining didn’t pan out, the people moved on leaving the town deserted.  One of the most interesting buildings there is a bottle house constructed for a lottery drawing in 1906.  Other buildings include the school, bank, mercantile, train station, and a few homes that are still standing, but also deserted.

The Glass House







A number of canned goods were left behind when the people pulled out and can still be seen around town.

Cans & Bed Springs

Cans with Bank in Background
 One of the highlights of Death Valley National Park is Scotty’s Castle located in the far northern part of the park.  There is a small fee for a tour of the “castle”, but it is well worth the price.  The castle actually belonged to Death Valley Scotty’s wealthy benefactors: the Johnsons, but was famous for the great stories told by Scotty as he regaled the castle’s guests with wild and tall tales of the region.  We had a great time at the castle and enjoyed our tour, provided by Park rangers dressed in period clothing of the 1930s and 1940

 The area of Death Valley surrounding Furnace Creek is the most popular portion of the site for tourists.  There are some beautiful views to be seen and the pictures we took do not do them justice.  We stopped by on our way back from Scotty’s Castle but returned again another day to see some of the sites. 

One of the most stunning views in the park is at Dante’s View.  It is a thirteen-mile drive each way, and quite frankly it is not too interesting … but when you finally round that final curve and reach the parking area, Death Valley stretches out below you.  The white seen in these pictures is salt. 

Another of our favorites was the loop drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon.  The road is not paved and we were thankful for our four-wheel drive in places, but with caution a regular car can make the drive.   The scenery is eerie and haunting and reminded us of the planet Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet in Star Wars.

Don’t miss pulling off the road and taking the short hike up to Zabriskie Point.  It is the most often filmed place in Death Valley for good reason.

 Another interesting day trip took us to Death Valley Junction, CA, the home of the Amargosa Opera House.  Marta Becket who, at age 85, still lives on the property and owns the entire town (literally) founded the Opera House.  She was a well known New York model and dancer who arrived at the deserted town in 1970 and stayed on, renovating the town and creating a venue for her dancing.  However, nobody was there to see her perform so she hand painted an audience inside the opera house over a period of years.  It is a wonderful piece of art and you can definitely see she had a sense of humor (she painted a group of nuns in the box next to her “ladies of the night”).  When she completed the opera house she moved on to the hotel and began painting it room by room.  Her last performance was in January due to a broken hip and failing health, but it is reported that her mind is still very sharp.  Death Valley Junction is easy to drive by … but don’t do it!  The food at the café is worth stopping for (the peanut butter pie was great!), and the tour of the opera house is a “must do”.

King and Queen Watch from the Back of the Hall

A strange tumbler enjoys the show by standing on his head



Gypsies on top see the show

One of the winds on the ceiling

Cherubs on the ceiling

Cherub on ceiling

Lynda stands out front

A bedroom in the hotel

The clown room in the hotel

From the hotel

Panel in the hotel

Panel in the hotel

Until next time ... keep doing what you love.