We all know that Travel is an adventure. Sometimes more than others.
I decided this November was the time for me to finally see Death Valley. Many of you have talked about it but I had never been. Death Valley – the lowest, driest, and hottest place on the Continent. About ten days before my arrival I had heard that they had had a lot of rain so some roads would be closed. Mother Nature was not done yet.
I came in the West side – from the town of Lone Pine – highway 136 which joins in to highway 190. There are a number of summits one must cross and all of them were encased in clouds. No view from the top. Was delighted to run into four coyotes in one flat area that still had water lying. The furry creatures put on quite a show for the tourists. Camped at Stovepipe Wells (just a parking lot really!) Sunday morning I drove north, past the sand dunes and on up the road to Scotty’s Castle. The highway had a lot of debris on it in places where it had clearly been flooded previously. Camped at Mesquite Spring – a very nice campground next to a dry wash and down quite a hill from the highway above. It was a lovely Sunday morning and I decided to wait till Monday to visit the Castle.
Clouds blew in and over the course of the day we had several rain showers – nothing much. Just before dark I walked to the wash as I could hear rushing water. The wash was a raging torrent of muddy water. Amazing. Just after dark there was a knock on my door and it was a Ranger telling me that they were asking people to evacuate the area and move on down to Furnace Creek as there were flash floods in the area. Well I do not like to drive at night but decided I had best suck it up and get out. I never want to drive another road like the one exiting that campground. It was covered in mud and rocks and a rushing river. By now it was pouring down rain with lots of thunder and lightning. Actually the lightning helped you to see the road!! The sixty miles to Furnace Creek was a very LONG drive – lots of bad spots on the road. Sheet lightning everywhere which only made the night darker when it stopped.
I was told by the Emergency workers at the road closure spot near Furnace Creek that I was the last vehicle to make it out of the campground before the road washed out. The rest of the campers and Rangers were stuck there.
Now Furnace Creek is 190 ft. BELOW sea level. I have much to learn but I do know water finds the lowest point so it seemed like a good idea to leave here. Several roads out were closed but I was directed to go a rather long route to get to Pahrump. Even that way did not work as there was a river rushing across the highway. The Policeman said this was the first of five crossings on this road so it was not going to be open for quite some time. And that would be if the road was still there to open!! Back I went to the Armagosa Opera House corner. They thought that #190 might open later in the day or tomorrow. I am in no hurry -I will wait. Later that afternoon we were told we needed to evacuate the area. Highway 95 was now open to Vegas with Pilot Car service. It was still closed to the north with five wash outs and a chemical fire caused by lightning! There were many semi-trucks waiting at the Pahrump intersection. I presume they were headed north where they could not go.
Taking a very long way around I arrived in Pahrump just before dark. I can say I have been to Death Valley but I have a hard time buying the “Driest place” description. There are no words to describe the sheer force of water on the land. It was a site I will not soon forget.
All is well that ends well. I have met some of the Solos group here and they have been very welcoming. Dottie arrives on Sunday as planned and we will all journey back into Death Valley for the 49ers celebrations in November.
Life is good.