The Family Trip to Death Valley

Click on any picture to see it full-size.

Oh, golly, is there anything better than a trip to Death Valley? maybe a trip to DV with a WHOLE BUNCH of wonderful family and friends that you love to be with! Jo the Extravert was in her element, and had a fine time.

The first nine of us stayed in the motel at Stovepipe Wells. I guess my description of it was kind of harsh; the two DV newbies (Kitty and Margaret) kept asking if they needed to bring stuff like toilet paper. It's a nice motel, clean and comfortable, and without phones or tvs in the cheap rooms (where else would I stay???) it's extremely quiet. Especially since cell phones don't work at all in the Valley, yippee! I love these motel rooms. Margaret was just happy there were no bedbugs, although both she and Diana ended up with nasty spider bites the day we all left.

Anyway. The motel is nice. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the attached restaurant, the food is not very good and it's very expensive. What to do? Simple: we brought all our own food in ice chests, enough for four days with one dinner out at the Exchange Club in Beatty NV, forty miles away. This is not only lots of fun, but it's way cheaper than buying all your meals. More food talk later.

The plan was for me and Doug and Margaret to drive down from the Bay Area in a rented SUV on Wednesday; Kitty would fly in from Connecticut that morning, and Diana (who lives near Long Beach) planned to pick her up at the airport and drive to DV. Linda and Ron were going to try to get a space for their RV, although due to my work schedule we were actually going to be in Death Valley for 49ers days, a whole lot of old fuds in rvs. We weren't sure if Linda and Ron would be able to get a space, but we all figured it was worth a shot, and they said they would leave word at the motel office one way or the other.

Then on Thursday, Bill and Signe would fly into Southern California, rent an SUV, and drive up, and Jo Nell and Tom would also drive up from the Riverside area. (Notice that I didn't say Perris, Nellie...).

So here's how it all went...and there was another reason we were in Death Valley...

We picked up our SUV late Tuesday night. Rental places won't promise you a 4 wheel drive vehicle until you pick it up, so that's always worrying. No need, not only did they have some, they gave us a CHOICE of SUVs. I talked everyone into the Toyota Rav4, having driven one on the April 06 trip. And it took a bit of shoehorning, but we managed to get all of our stuff (most of which belonged to me and Doug, and much of which was for other people we were meeting in DV) into the car and leave space for people to sit. But it was tight, and not because the vehicle is small, it's wonderful, has lots of room and drives BEAUTIFULLY. Doug is lusting to own one now, after driving it all weekend.
So we drove to Bakersfield, stopping off to revisit my misspent youth at a Del Taco (yum!) and then turning off toward Lake Isabella, a beautiful drive but pretty twisty/windy for the first 20 miles or so. These pics are of the road along the Kern River and the desert leading up to Walker Pass, where we join highway 14 north, then merge onto 395. Next stop: Olancha! Gas station, bathrooms and ice cream.
Oh, and a word about all these pictures: for the first time, EVERYONE had digital cameras. And I, of course, had brought The Laptop from Hell along, for amusement and also so I could do a picture dump every night. So on the last night, everyone who took pictures downloaded copies onto my laptop, and I have felt free, in this page, to use other people's pictures as well as my own. I'll give credit for all of them; if I don't say someone else took it, it's mine. But how nice to have actual pictures of ME on a trip that I took! And here's another way to tell who took which pictures.
Margaret took this, she was intrigued with the slogan. Turned out to be a Sherwin-Williams paint company truck. And here we are in Olancha. About to leave the 395 (=civilization, such as it is) for the wilds and the middle of nowhere. Why, they may not even have ICE CREAM out there! and here is the pathetic picture of Margaret, making one last call to her fiance before losing cell service (about 10 minutes later, when we turned east). This amused me, it's the Olancha Mobil station...with the Coke machine right out there so you don't even have to leave your car! And the sun is going down...pretty.
There's Margaret in the passenger seat... and Doug is I guess that means that I'm in back with all the stuff. Yup, there I am... A beautiful sunset. These were snapped through the side window of a moving car.
I do love my camera!
We got to the motel very close to 6 pm. While we were checking in, they gave us a note from Linda saying that they had gotten a space across the street, and giving their space number. And before we had finished...Linda herself came in with a glass of wine in her hand! she had been listening to some of the music outside the motel (49ers days, remember? music and stuff all the time, more on this later) and was having a great time.

We unloaded our truck and by the time we were done and having dinner, Diana and Kitty had arrived. We all ate and finished unpacking, then decided that we would get up early in the morning and leave for the sand dunes at 7 am.

Same thing, moving car, pretty good clouds. Nice. Margaret actually took a pic of her motel room so you can see that they're nice.
Here is ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE that I was up at dawn, and don't expect it again anytime soon. The ravens hang out outside the rooms waiting for breakfast, and start cawing when someone shows up.

That's our lovely Rav4 on the right.

And here you can see our meeting place. The walkway in front of our motel rooms (3 on Wednesday, 5 by Thursday night) was OURS. We met there with coffee and tea in the morning and had breakfast together, and the Dinner Buffet happened every night. Kitty took this pic of me, Doug and Margaret. My favorite shot of Diana from this trip! notice she brought the good china, just because. Then Kitty joined her... and I joined them. These last two are from Kitty's camera, probably Margaret took them.
Margaret got up early too, and went out walking and taking pictures and drawing in the early light. These nine pictures are hers, very nice. You can see the Stovepipe Wells Village on the right in the middle; the camera is pointed right at our rooms, behind the white cars.

Margaret's goal for this trip was to do at least two watercolors a day, plus whatever other drawings she could make time for. We'll see how she did...

And now she's drawing until Ron and Linda show up to go to the Sand Dunes.

The Sand Dunes are pretty close to the motel, a couple of miles. Big ol' dunes, very pretty especially in the morning light. One of the best parts (aside from the parking lots near them being closed, so they get fewer visitors) is that the sand is kind of silty, and holds impressions, so you can see all the animal (and people, and dog) tracks from the night before.

Gorgeous. We took a lot of pictures of these dunes with the mountains behind them; every angle and minute, the light is different. Margaret had problems with this when painting, since every time she looked down then up...the light had changed. This is Margaret's pic, her camera was very good at catching the goldenness of the light. We started off all walking together. Diana stayed at the car, so it was me, Doug, Margaret, Kitty, Ron and Linda. Here are our shadows... Kitty catches me as I vanish into trackless wilderness...
Kitty loves the desert. This is from her camera, which was a tiny little Kodak that really took good pics. Margaret finds beetle tracks! And Margaret documents my return. I'm back! did you miss me? Margaret sees everyone go off to explore.
More beautiful sand. Kitty and Margaret... Doug, Linda and Ron... and coyote tracks crossing several sets of beetle tracks.
The first is Margaret's, the rest are mine. Fun in the sand. We hiked around for over an hour, it was great. Not as easy to walk in as it looks, though, especially some of those hills.
The first pic might be Margaret, the second might be Ron and Linda, hard to tell. Kitty and I both liked the sand ripples. Left is mine, right is hers. I love the texture contrast between the ripples and the dunes.
Margaret takes yet another beautiful shot of the dunes. Oh no! Kitty is lost in a bewildering maze of footprints! Margaret communes with the desert. The tiny dot at the top of the dune is Kitty's head, she made it up the BIG dune! Yay, Kitty!
Yes, indeedy, we sure did take a lot of pics of these sand dunes, didn't we? all but the third of these are Margaret's.
Margaret liked this cloud a lot... and she got another beautiful shot of dunes. Doug looking thoughtful... and Margaret, meditative.
We were walking back to the car, and I was off to one side, looked down...and there were SIDEWINDER TRACKS, very nice ones. OVER the footprints from earlier this morning, which made Kitty look around for the snake...which was, of course, long gone.

You can see the parallel lines where it was moving itself (hence the name) and Margaret got a great pic of the imprint of its skin. Oh, and I also found some bunny tracks.

So then Doug, Diana, Kitty, Margaret and I packed lunches, piled in our SUV and went off to see Badwater. Here we are having lunch on the benches, and Margaret looking out over the salt flats.

Margaret took the best picture of the 'bad water', with the lovely mountains reflected in it.

This made me laugh hysterically. Tons of people came on a tour bus, and in this picture you can see them streaming out to the salt flats and back... ...and then I turned around and saw them all (as I thought) killing bugs with their shoes in the parking lot. What the heck? I thought. THEY WERE TRYING TO GET THE SALT OUT OF THEIR SHOES. There is a grating at the end of the salt flats for this very purpose, but either they didn't know what it was for or there were too many people using it. Hilarious! Margaret and I both took pics of this excellent raven, hers on the right.
The clouds were spectacular this weekend... Kitty gets a nice pic of Doug. Kitty and Margaret with Doug coming up very tiny in between them. A nice lady took a "We Were There" picture of us. My hat is blocking part of the sign, but we are 282 feet below sea level.
One more pic of Kitty and Doug, and we're off to Artist's Drive. This is a nice road into the hills to see Artist's Palette. Margaret took this picture showing where we came from... And Kitty took one to show where we were going. Here is Kitty, looking at the Palette, and you can see where the amazingly inaccurate sign (see the April 2006 trip for this story) USED to be...
And here it is! Artist's Palette! which is actually best toward evening, the colors show up better. But cool anyway. I catch Mr. Rees in a compromising position when we stop at Furnace Creek Visitor Center. They had concerts there every night, and I just liked these chairs, sitting out in happy anticipation. Kitty wanted pics of her in front of Old Dinah (a steam-powered borax wagon), so this one is from her camera...
And we left Furnace Creek for our motel. Hung out a while, then (since the people we were waiting for didn't come) Margaret and I decided to go hike Mosaic Canyon, which is on a road that starts right by our motel. Like FIVE FEET beyond the fence. And which we overshot and had to come back to find, ah well. is this one. Margaret found the old stagecoach and steam engine.
Mosaic Canyon. This is a canyon that goes for several miles, but the first half mile to a mile cuts through a lot of limestone. Which gets polished in the winter, when short but violent storms dump a lot of water in the mountains and it rushes down this canyon. And you know the other name for polished limestone, don't you, boys and girls? That's right, the walls of this canyon are made of beautiful MARBLE. It's beyond cool, really. So here we go...the pics are both mine and Margaret's.
Walking up the canyon, extremely beautiful rock. It's about 4 pm, so the sun is going down. This stuff is polished smooth, although not glossy.
Margaret listens to the heartbeat of the rock. Desert Rocknettle, but of course not blooming Polished and weathered, wow. Margaret tries to run, but cannot escape me...besides, I have the car keys...
Here I am sliding down a step part on my butt. Because it is steep. And it's fun too. Look! Here's the way out! And a shot from the end of the canyon; the white lines in the center are our motel.
Margaret and I had gone to hike, saying that we would meet everyone at Zabriskie Point (about half an hour of fast driving from the motel) at 5 pm, thinking that that would give us lots of time to see the sunset, and Margaret time to draw it. So after we finished hiking, we ducked over to the motel- sure enough, everyone was gone but Diana's car, the Catbus, was still there. Aha! we said, at least one couple has shown up!

So we booked on over to Zabriskie, which is easier said than done at that time of day...the road leads past Furnace Creek Ranch, aka Old Geezer Central (remember the 49ers?) and the traffic was SL-O-O-O-O-W. By dint of much cursing and fuming we managed to reach Zabriskie at the stroke of find that Bill and Signe had arrived, everyone had seen what sunset there was (not much) and they were all leaving!

So Margaret and I trudged up the steep walk, said Ooh and Ahh at what was left, and went back to the motel.

Here are Bill and Kitty's pictures at Zabriskie... they're certainly having a good time! ...and the four below are ours.
So back to the motel we went. And Jo Nell and Tom had arrived. Remember our friend the rock wall? that became our buffet table, as we all put out the food from our ice chests and shared it all- chicken, turkey, ham, sliced roast beef, veggies, fruit, chips, bread, rolls, and tons of pickles and olives and cheese. Oh, and don't forget the cookies...I certainly didn't! What a way to eat!
Diana and Nellie getting food out. Kitty, Jo Nell and Signe eating (and more importantly, drinking. I am afraid to tell you how many bottles of wine met their sorry ends during these dinners...they can join the forlornly empty packages of cookies and the bereft six pack cartons...) Here are the boys having a guy conversation... and the women fall about laughing. This was repeated fairly often:

the women always had more fun than the men when we were segregated...

And here everyone is, packed into our room for a performance of Hello, Sauron! (and if you don't know what that is by now, you are indeed lucky, we've been tormenting people with it for years...)

So we talked about what we wanted to do this day, and everyone wanted to drive through Titus Canyon. This is a one-way road that starts off in Nevada near the ghost town of Rhyolite and comes back toward Death Valley, through the Grapevine Mountains, and ends up on the Scotty's Castle road, not too far from our motel as distances go in Death Valley. The last two times I had been here, it was closed from bad weather three years ago, and now it was open again; we were all excited.

The 28 mile road is all dirt and washboard and rock. You don't need a 4 wheel drive, but it helps, as does high clearance.

The first 7 miles are pretty easy, level, nothing hard. Then you start going up into the mountains, and the road to and down from Red Pass (named for the color of the dirt) is pretty hair-raising. Otherwise, it's a good road.

And the drive is really interesting and beautiful. We had a pamphlet for each car that gives info at mile markers (on your odometer, which you start over when you turn onto the road). There are volcanic formations, beautiful rocks, Titanothere Canyon, an old ghost town, petroglyphs and then at the end the Narrows, rock walls that get pretty close to the road. And off we go...

Bill, Signe, Doug and Tom are in the white car (the BOY CAR, Signe notwithstanding), which passes us when we stop to take a picture. Tom took these, some kind of photo op on the way to the Titus Canyon turnoff. Here's the beginning of the road where it starts up into the hills. Not so bad...
Nice rocks, Bill! Look how blue the sky is. Ten minutes after this picture, clouds closed in and stayed overhead until just about the time we got out of the canyon. You can see the road here, I think that's behind; you usually couldn't see much of the road ahead... And Kitty catches the girls in the GIRL CAR having fun. Way more fun than the boys, I'm sure; we were laughing hysterically a lot of the time til the road got really scary. Nice shades, honey!
This made me laugh; Tom, Margaret and I caught this trail at four different times with different numbers of people on it. Reminds me of foraging ants: first one, then a few, then lots!

The other people were a bunch of nice old people in a van. I was talking to a nice lady who asked where we were from, and after I told her our various towns of residence, she asked me what church we all went to! did we LOOK like a church group???

MANY butt jokes were made with reference to the camera this day, and here are Signe and Diana, living the dream... ...while the boys pretend not to know them. We stopped for a photo op, and there were the boys halfway up the hill in front of us...we talked about mooning them, since they wouldn't be able to see it, but we didn't. Here's a closeup of the boy car. We thought they had stopped to jeer at us for being so far behind, but no- they were taking pictures of what was ahead. Which is what we did when we got there.
Nell took this: we're not in the scary parts yet, but close. And here we're starting up, and you can see the road behind us. Jo Nell got a pretty good example of the road: well graded but narrow, rocks on one side, dropoff on the other. And by the time we got to the top of the pass, the dropoff got SERIOUS. And here is one of the actual pictures taken by the white car when they stopped, and we stopped in the same place. This one is Tom's.
Bill sees cool rocks... and Jo Nell captures the road behind us, which is pretty far down now. Pretty colors, Nellie! One more pic of the road behind us from Margaret, before we go over the pass and lose sight of it.
Tom catches Bill and Signe being affectionate, with Doug pretending to look at scenery... Kitty, Jo Nell and Margaret take a break from the car. Beautiful view. Kitty is taking a picture of... the Desert Trumpet, which is indeed a wierd looking plant.
Jo Nell manages to catch the rock colors, not as easy as you'd think... and Margaret finds a beautiful little tree or bush. Nice! Lunchtime! Kitty scraped her knee, so we set her up in the van with ice and had fun waiting on her. And I did have to take a picture of the socks...she got up before dawn and didn't want to wake Diana by turning on a light...oddly enough, she has another pair of socks just like this one... (Tom made me put that joke in).
We had lunch in the ghost town of Leadville, which existed for something like eight months. Evidently the guys who owned the land salted it with lead ore to try and get people to buy property there, and once people figured this out, they left. But it was here long enough to have its own post office... Our moveable feast, yum! You can walk all over where the town used to be, and even (with care) into the old mines. Here's Bill coming down the pile of tailings...And Bill meets up with Margaret, who is taking a drawing break.
Everyone took pictures of the cool rocks.
And here we are passing up Bill's car, which led us to an interesting observation: in the morning, the lead car had Tom, Doug, Bill and Signe. They stayed in front of us, and we only caught up when they were doing a photo op or when they stopped for lunch (we had most of the lunches, so we weren't worried by this...)

Then at lunch, we swapped Jo Nell for Doug. Bill went down the road...and after passing him twice (here is photographic evidence) we had figured it out: THE CAR WITH JO NELL IN IT HAS TO BE IN BACK. She makes the driver stop for pictures FAR more often than anyone else. So remember this if you go on a trip with her.

We stopped for cactus and rock pics. On the left are Jo Nell's picture of the colored rocks, very cool, and mine of the pretty cactus. On the right, you can see Margaret angling for good closeups of the cactus and her pictures of them.
And here are a bunch of pictures, mostly Tom and Jo Nell's, of the last section of the canyon, aptly called the Narrows.
And there we were, in the parking lot at the end of the Narrows (which is two way for foot traffic, and is a great place to hike). Waiting for the other car. Waiting. I walked up to where the road disappeared into the rocks, took a picture, and waited, thinking it would be a great shot to take as the white car came out of the Narrows.

And then I saw movement on the rock near me...

A great big ol' honkin' LIZARD! It ran down the rock in front of me (and Kitty, who came over to see it), hung out a while, and ran back up. And, amazingly enough, my husband correctly identified it as a Chuckwalla. I had barely even HEARD of a chuckwalla, but I sure know what one looks like now. It's a teenager, the bands give it away. Older ones have a very pale tail. And, folks, this lizard is about 18 inches long. It was GREAT.

On the (thirty minute) drive back to the motel, we were talking about hiking. There had been some discussion of doing the hike from Zabriskie Point down to Golden Canyon, which is about 3 miles, and takes about an hour and a half if you don't push hard. The last time I did it, we took two cars and left one at Golden Canyon, then drove the other up to Zabriskie and hiked, picking up the second car afterwards. The hike back up is steep, and not as much fun.

So Margaret and I thought we'd like to do this. Now, there were three considerations:

  1. We needed a second car or someone to pick us up. Doug volunteered to simply go with us, read and watch the sunset on Z Point, then drive down and pick us up at a designated time.
  2. We didn't know if anyone from the other car (Tom, Jo Nell, Bill and Signe) would want to come, and
  3. We needed to start from Z Point no later than 4 pm, because there are parts of that trail near the end of the canyon that would be dangerous to try to crawl down in the dark. And we knew exactly when it got dark from our experiences at Zabriskie Point the night before.
So we got back to the motel a little after 3, and Margaret, Doug and I decided that we'd wait for the other car (also know as the SLOW PEOPLE CAR) until 3:30, then go. Zabriskie Point is just about exactly half an hour from the motel, if traffic isn't slow near Furnace Creek (as it so often was this weekend). We put on our hiking boots,and got water, some snacks and ipods in case we finished hiking before Doug got there, made sure Doug knew how to get from Zabriskie Point to Golden Canyon (not without some trepidation, he can get lost walking down the hall toward the bathroom...) and were just getting in the car to go when the white car pulled in. I stuck my head in the window, said, you're welcome to come but we're leaving now! and they passed on it. So Margaret and Doug and I left them to relax, and to decide what to do about dinner.

They had stopped for photos at the Devil's Cornfield.

We got to Zabriskie Point at 4, made sure Doug knew he was to pick us up at the canyon parking lot between 5:15 and 5:30...and off we went. These pictures are, of course, Margaret's and mine.
Two views from near the top of Zabriskie Point toward Manly Beacon, the face of which we'll cross on this trail. At the beginning, a lot of the trail was like this. There had been a lot of rain (well, for Death Valley) earlier this year, and the first half mile or so of the trail was unmarked. I had hiked it once before, so I knew to bear right and downwards to the wash. This is looking up one arm of the wash we were hiking down, and where we finally found the trail markers.
Manly Beacon again, closer this time Animal burrows And yet closer. Margaret's camera brought out all kinds of nuance of color, beautiful! This is the trail. No kidding. There's a trail marker. It got better on the other side of the big wash, but there were still times we had to look hard to figure out where to go next. Luckily, Manly Beacon is hard to miss (don't you just love that name? Manly Beacon. Sounds like a cowboy star from the 30s.) so we kept going toward it.
Another of M's pictures, that beautiful gold color. It's a lovely hike. And Margaret is hiking toward Cathedral Rocks, with Manly Beacon out of sight on the left. Wow! Look at that sunset! These are the clouds to the east, catching the last glow of the sun. We looked and took pictures...and then said, oh my God, that means it's going to get dark soon! so we really hiked hard after that. But <foreshadowing> Margaret said, well, if the little flashlight I brought along doesn't work, we can use my ipod as a flashlight. I thought she was kidding... </foreshadowing>
And now I have to confess to being an idiot.

Margaret doesn't like heights. And we set out on this hike, and it wasn't til we were part way into it that I remembered that the trail crosses the sheer face of Manly Beacon with a straight drop on one side and rock on the other, and a foot wide trail to walk on. I told her (after we had started hiking and I suddenly remembered that part) that we could go back if it looked too awful...but she did it!

Margaret approaches Manly Beacon. And here's this wierd little lintel-like rock, with the softer rock being eaten away around it...looks pretty fragile. But the last time I did this hike was 5 or 6 years ago and I remember it from then. Who knows how long it's been like that? And here's Margaret being brave!
More sunset, you can see how dark it's getting now, and a pretty face of rock right before the parking lot. And we got down the three foot crumbling cliff where there used to be a paved road (80 years ago) and in the last twenty years they've just been letting it go...we could just barely see well enough not to fall on our faces, and when we got out to the parking lot...there was Doug and the car waiting for us. Lovely. Brave girls got to hike like crazy, and it was fun!
We got back, and found everyone in Diana and Kitty's room, including Linda and Ron. We had said that we would be happy to either do the buffet again, or make this the night we went to the Exchange Club in Beatty. Well, Linda and Ron had been to Beatty that day, and there is no more Exchange Club. In fact, they couldn't find anyplace that looked good for dinner. So we had the dinner buffet out in front of our motel rooms that night and the next...and I can't imagine Beatty being more fun than that. Here are the nine of us:

Doug on top.
Signe, Diana and Tom in the second row down.
Third row: Bill, Kitty, Jo Nell and Margaret
And me at the bottom, where I could scurry after setting my camera on the timer.

And after dinner, Bill and Signe said, we're going to Zabriskie Point to see the stars, does anyone want to come? Doug and I did. So the four of us took off, and after an amusing interlude where a strange light came on on the dash of Bill's rental (NOT a good thing in Death Valley, especially) and after we stopped at a closed gas station and checked the tires, which was Bill's best guess as to the meaning of this glyph, we continued on our way.

And we got to Zabriskie Point. And (as we knew) it was a new moon, which meant it was really really dark, which meant that the stars were GORGEOUS.

And then we all realized that we had to walk up a steep (albeit wide) path with switchbacks and dropoffs in the dark...and looked at each other, and said, did anyone bring a flashlight? Of course no one had.

And then I remembered what Margaret had said earlier, about using her ipod as a flashlight. And I whipped mine out (I just happened to have it with me) and sure enough, it made a GREAT flashlight. So kudos to Margaret for the idea!

We got to the top, and were looking at the huge and beautiful stars...then a car pulled into the parking lot and two guys came up and joined us.

They were astronomers. From Ohio. Teachers. They had been at Dante's View and it was too cold and windy there, so they had come here instead. And they showed us ALL KINDS of stuff, like Comet Holmes and the constellation Taurus. And we all saw a HUGE shooting star. Death Valley is the only place the stars are clear enough for me to actually see shooting stars.

And the Little Ipod That Could helped us get down when we were ready to go.

Saturday we all kind of slept in. Oh, except for my SISTER, who POUNDED ON OUR DOOR at SEVEN-THIRTY IN THE FRICKIN' MORNING to let us know that the FRICKIN' COFFEE WAS READY. I don't even DRINK coffee.

But we all sat around and had breakfast and talked and laughed, it was actually pretty nice.

Linda and Ron came by and we all piled in our vehicles and drove the 50 miles up to the north end of the valley to Scotty's Castle, aka Death Valley Ranch, which was a winter resort built by a millionaire and his wife in the 20s, and (after a brief stint of belonging to some church organization, who took good care of the place) now belongs to the National Park System.

More beautiful hills on the way north. A moocher looking for a handout. Linda's cool socks.
A good view of the grounds. Construction stopped when Johnson (the millionaire) lost a big chunk of his money, so things like the huge incredible swimming pool never got finished. But the place is still very cool. Tom found this petroglyphy thing near the fountains. I love this door, which I took many pics of in April 06. Bill is trying to convince his camera to stop acting oddly, and Kitty wanted a pic of herself next to it.
Here's Kitty in front of the wishing well, while we wait for our tour. Kitty, Margaret and I took the house tour, while everyone else but Tom, Doug and Signe took the basement/underground passage tour. First the pics from inside the house, mostly tiles and doors. Very nice door. The Girls with the Matching Shirts
Vertical sundial, tile and ironwork.
More ironwork, two views of a lovely fountain with tiles from Spain, and an ironwork screen.
GORGEOUS tiled fireplace. The tiles in the house and grounds come from all over, including LA. This is the console that controls the carillion bells. More cool ironwork on the door. Part of the kitchen, which was rarely used.
Nice tiles, but I couldn't get a picture of the huge six-burner three-oven stove, too many people milling around. Mrs. Johnson's bed. Evidently she was short and slept seperately from her hubs. The bed has this fold-down desk and built-in bookcases (or basket cases!) very nice. Great mirror! tried to catch myself, ah well.
LOVED these tiles, of course. View of the inside of the atrium from a bridge between the two parts of the house.
Another great door. Bathroom tile. Have I mentioned how much I like the doors in this place? They are so cool. And yet another...
More beautiful tile. One of the fun parts of this tour is that the rangers who lead it all take on characters of household staff and talk as if it's still 1939. The guy who did our tour talked about being a mechanic who was a friend of Death Valley Scotty.
These eight pictures were taken by Bill and Jo Nell on the underground/basement tour. The tile was all waiting to be installed, and they talk about the electric generators and all the batteries that kept the place running. Next time, I'm taking that tour, it sounded really good.
And we all went back to our motel, and left for Dante's View at 3 pm. We dropped Margaret off at Zabriskie Point to paint, and promised we'd be back by 5:30 at the latest.
Jo Nell climbed up onto the hill behind the house and took this. Dejeuner sur l'herbe. A bit windy, but a nice lunch. Especially after Diana thought of picking up the picnic table and moving it into the sun. Boys and their cars. Bill took this, of course.
Here's the hill Bill picked to do our family thing at Dante's View A beautiful evening...Bill took this one. and here we are afterwards. The wind is blowing, and it's cold. 5500 feet in November. Luckily we remembered what the astronomers told us the night before and we all brought warm jackets.
Two views down over the edge, looking onto Badwater, where we had lunch on Thursday. Diana is so photogenic! Another nice one from Bill's camera.
And as the sun went down, it got COLD. Signe and I bailed on waiting to see if moonset happened right after sunset, because we were freezing, so we went back and got Margaret early (she was very happy to be picked up at all, of course!) and went back to the motel.
We were all taking pics as the sun went down (Bill and Jo Nell took the best ones) and we shared the lovely bottle of port that Diana brought for a toast.
Two pics in the twilight on the way back to Zabriskie to rescue Margaret Tom is being interesting! And the group shot. All 9 of us plus Ron and Linda (who brought over a WARM HOMEMADE BERRY COBBLER AND ICE CREAM, unbelieveably good) at the top. What a wonderful bunch of people!
Well, it was the last morning. Doug, Margaret and I had an eight or nine hour drive, so we were planning on being the first ones to pull out. Margaret had the brilliant idea of checking out the night before so we didn't get caught in a long line. The Southern California people (except Ron and Linda) were leaving later in the morning, and Bill and Signe were staying through Wednesday. So the night before, Doug and Margaret and I had talked. I had given them the choice of leaving by 9 and driving home, just stopping for gas and Del Taco (natch!), or of leaving earlier so we could go about 50 miles out of our way and have breakfast at the REALLY GOOD breakfast place in Lone Pine. Margaret made noises about having to get to work early on Monday, so we all said, good, we'll just go straight back to Olancha and get home as soon as we can...
So of course we all got up early and milled around having tea and coffee and breakfast and trying to pretend the weekend wasn't over. Margaret put out all the watercolors she had painted over the weekend. The Art Criticism and Tea Society And we were driving...and when Margaret said, Pancakes and bacon, in that longing tone of voice THREE TIMES before we got to the Lone Pine cutoff, I said, that's it! and we went to breakfast. And we were all so glad we did. A delicious hot meal, oh my. Lovely.
Driving through Lone Pine and down the 395, the Sierras were covered with clouds. The clouds over the desert were beautiful, the shadows on the hills were lovely, and we were sad to leave Death Valley. It was a wonderful weekend. Or FRICKIN' GOOD, to use my favorite phrase from this vacation, which I was teased for using so often. Because everything was. It was a frickin' good weekend, and I am sorry it's over.

What are you all doing in April of 2009? because you know where I'll be...and I'll have the tea hot and the beer cold, and the food out on the ledge, and my 4x4 will be rarin' to go...

Happy camper Jo, signing off.