Our 3 Trips to Death Valley, California
Death Valley, California is a three million acre National Park, with a number of famous places. It is also the lowest place in the United states. The floor of Death Valley is more then 190 feet below the level of the sea!
Death Valley is a VERY HOT place in the Summer time! The hottest temperature ever recorded in the United States was 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. The average high temperature in July is 117 °F (47 °C) with temperatures of 122 °F (50 °C) or higher being very common. In December, Death Valley can be a very cold place, with night time temperatures falling to less then 32 °F (0° C). The lowest temperature on record at Furnace Creek Inn is 15 °F (-9 °C). If you plan on visiting this place, then go only from late fall to early spring. For more information on Death Valley, go to http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm or http://www.death.valley.national-park.com/
One of the things that made Death Valley famous is the 20 mule team hauling Borax out of Death Valley, shown in this old photo. Their trip was 165 miles (275 km) and this method was used from 1883 to 1889. The weight that these mules pulled was 73,200 pounds (33.2 metric tons) total, including the 2 solid oak wagons, 10 Tons of Borax in each wagon, and the water tank with 500 gallons (1900 L) of water. With the mules, the caravan stretched over 100 feet (30 m) in length.
Here is a photo of the famous 20 mule team Borax plant, as it looks today.
Because of the expense of the 20 mule teams, The US Borax Company had this monstrous steam tractor built to haul the 2 oak wagons with Borax. Apparently, this tractor started hauling Borax in 1889. Now it sits on display at Furnace Creek. Death Valley is home to the Timbisha tribe, who have inhabited Death Valley for at least the past 1000 years. Some Timbisha tribe families still live in Furnace Creek. In the building in the background with the big white roof are several nice restaurants, where Jelim & I had our first thanksgiving dinner together (2007).
Here is a photo of Jelim and Mity, standing in front of the Drive wheel of the Great Steam Tractor, to give you an idea of it's size.
In this photo, Jelim poses with our trusty 1989 Chevy Celebrity in front of an old building at the entrance of Ballarat, Death Valley. As with most settlements in Death Valley, this place was a mining town. If you like old mines, or the ghost towns that go with them, then you will be in heaven, because it is said that Death Valley has over 6000 old mines in it!
Here is another mining place in Death Valley. Here are 2 photos that I took of Pete Aguereberry's place. A nearby sign tells this story about Pete Aguereberry. It says that "He nearly died trying to cross Death Valley in June 1905. He was found and nursed back to health and lived to work his claim in the Eureka Mine for over 40 years. During its peak, hundreds worked the mine, its gold ore being assayed as high $500 a ton." Although Pete Aguereberry is now gone, his home still exists.
Above is part of the workings of Pete Aguereberry's Eureka Gold Mine. This timber structure was most likely a combination chute (At the top and part of it missing), a screen in the middle to separate the fines from the course materials, and at the bottom, most likely a gasoline driven crusher.
If you don't visit any other place in Death Valley, you must see "Scotty's Castle" at the north end of Death Valley. It is truly beautiful, and a jewel in this bleak land. The National Park Service maintains Scotty's Castle and provides tours for $11.
I took this South facing view from where Scotty is buried. From left, the closer buildings are guest houses. The larger building behind the other small one's is the visitor center, with a souvenir shop & self serve cafeteria. Next is the main house, with the unfinished pool in front of the house. In the right is the clock/chime tower and in the background is the road going down into the floor of Death Valley. The elevation here is over 3000 feet, so it is not as hot as it is in the valley below. For additional information about the great migrations of people to the south, go to http://www.desertusa.com/mag03/trails/trails10.html
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