Sometime Tuesday morning Karla and I piled into the Dodge pickup and drove. And drove. And drove some more. About quarter past nine in the evening, we arrived in Furnace Creek and were greeted by Hilary and Luke at their winter home. The dogs, the famous Sioux, the not as famous Sallie, the so far unknown Bella, and the two cats, Boots and Florence, were beside themselves with joy at the sight of us. We were beside ourselves with joy at the sight of a nice king size bed!
Wednesday was spent recovering from the trip and being shown around the facilities. It consists of an entire square mile of private land smack in the middle of a National Park. (Sounds familiar, huh?) We toured the stables, of course, and got reacquainted with many of our horses. Hilary drove us around the nearby hotel and the facilities such as the Borax Museum with its wonderful mineral exhibits and the huge collection of old machinery, wagons, a steam locomotive and much more (more on that later), the million-watt solar power installation that’s just a year old, and the nearby airport. The Park Service’s visitor center was well-designed and had a three-dimensional model of Death Valley that was simply amazing in its realism.
That evening, Luke treated us to front-row seats on the hay wagon, with about 25 young girls from a Waldorf school filling the benches and bales behind. It was a terrific ride, part of it through a tunnel formed by tamarisk trees alongside the 18-hole golf course, out to the airport, and back through a grove of date palms. Two very good mules, Bill and Rocky, provided the power.
Today, Thursday, Karla and I piled into the truck with Hilary and she drove us south to Badwater, the lowest spot in the United States. The sign with the cigarette and dog probably means either that dogs aren’t allowed to smoke, or that you shouldn’t smoke your dog. I’m sure there’s a park ranger who can explain which it is. I saw a human smoking, so he probably wasn’t breaking the rules.
We headed back north and up a nasty dirt road to a parking spot, then hoofed it a mile up canyon to a natural bridge. It was made of conglomerate rock, the crumbliest kind of formation on earth. We didn’t stand under the bridge too long. It’s huge and thick, which is probably why it hasn’t collapsed yet. We went further up the canyon to where it met bedrock, which felt like steatite (soapstone) but probably wasn’t. Most likely marble. Then we drove to Artist Palette, which is a collection of every kind of mineralized soil and rock in a huge variety of colors. The time of day wasn’t the best, what with the sun coming in right behind our backs, so my pictures show mostly color, not texture.
When I get all this stuff together, I will definitely have more to show. For now, it’s time to rest and recover (I walked a mile with a rock in one shoe, and need to get it out before it ruins my sock).