funny I think we’ve driven by there once or twice but as i live in the high desert it wouldn’t mean as much since except for a few notable exceptions its the same terrain …and yeah summer is a bad time to be anywhere north past Santa Clarita …
I did go to palm springs and the reaction was " look a town in the desert without even Joshua trees …
Fascinating and somewhat sad story. One thing that came up a couple times was the expense of staying at the Furnace Creek Inn. There is another location, Stovepipe Wells about 20 miles away by road, that has fewer amenities and so, is somewhat cheaper.
When I stayed there circa 1985 I think I may have discovered one of the last places in the US to get direct dial. For reservations, the Yellow Pages listing (remember those) said to dial 00 and ask for operator 54. I did so and with the help of the two operators got connected to the inn and made the reservation.
I think I’ve been in every month outside of June/July/August. Hottest was 112 degrees in mid-May at Furnace Creek, coldest was 16 in December just outside of the park north of Ubehebe.
As far as favorite places, I’m more inclined to recall specific moments in many of the same places mentioned above.
At Dante’s View, at sunrise on a frosty morning on the trail north of the parking lot, seeing bats fluttering around.
Watching pupfish mating at Salt Creek.
The most amazing sunset out by the Devil’s Golf Course, the entire sky was red, coloring everything in the valley.
Driving down into the park from Towne Pass and seeing a huge sandstorm sweep across the valley from the south. At the campgrounds unsecured tents were rolling away like tumbleweeds.
Hiking to the summit of the tallest sand dune, a raven sitting at the very top, squawking at us…either beckoning or teasing until we got about 10 feet away and then flying off.
Driving the Titus Canyon Road the first time, heading up that narrow dirt road into Red Pass, wondering what I had got myself into and feeling both relieved and excited when I made it out the other side.
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park – been there a few times. It’s gorgeous. It’s been used on two science fiction collections that I know of
Bryce Canyon – lotsa places in here. I’ve camped here and hiked through it. If I had to choose one site, it’d be the Amphitheater
The Flume Gorge, White Mountain NH – Been there too many times to count. Always a good place to get away. Cool on hot summer days
Lost River Gorge, Lincoln NH – Cousin to The Flume, but with more climbing and spelunking
Red Rock Park, Lynn MA – Not a great piece of natural scenery, but it’s close enough by that I can cycle there to decompress.
Purgatory Chasm, Sutton MA – A nice little workout of a hike over some severely uneven ground
Lake Wiinnipesaukee, New Hampshire. For definite spots, Weir’s Beach and Wolfeboro
Salem MA – The town. No natural wonders here, but a lot of history and some quirky shops
Funspot – Laconia NH – Again, no natural wonders. The world’s largest collection of operating and usable pinball and video arcade games (three floors!), and the National Museum of Arcade Games. If you want to play Pong or Dragon’s Lair, you can do it here. Also has some restored (but not open to play) games from WAY back.
I’ve never ventured into DV. Closest was China Lake on the western edge of the valley, and that was for a military exercise, so scenery wasn’t on the agenda. But there are a lot of places that people dismiss because of location/reputation. Eastern Oregon is fairly boring, but there are real gems there like Smith Rock, Painted Hills and the Wallawa Valley. Mile for mile, there is more wonder in Utah than in any six states, and Arizona is slot canyon central.
I’ve got a framed poster of the Mesquite Flat Dunes (?- I think -?) in my house as wall decoration. The wall poster includes an extract from a 1919 travel book, quite poetic:
“Here, Time and all things of Time seem to have ended or not to have begun. The sun rises, flames through the sky, and sets; the moon and stars look coldly down; the traveler seems to himself the last life on the planet. Awe that is close on to terror grasps him; he feels himself alone in the universe—he, and God…
…From almost snow-white they have taken often in rapid turn, all the hues of gray, of blue, of rose, of chrome, of brown, and purple, reaching even, under gloom of storm, an approach to absolute black. Sand is actually as responsive as a chameleon, and I could never tire of the vagaries of those dunes.
But most they charmed me at sunset — that hour when the soul itself is suffused with changing hues, and comes to its best perceptions. Then none but warm and gentle shades are seen, and the mind, like a tranquil lake, receives them and renders them into something clearer and deeper than thought…” J. Smeaton Chase, California Desert Trails, 1919
Just for kicks, I checked the current prices for the Furnace Creek Inn -now the Inn at Death Valley- and had a small heart attack. It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve been there and while it wasn’t exactly cheap (the rates varied seasonally) the first digit in the nightly rate was always a 1. There’s also a motel -(Furnace Creek Ranch, maybe) really close by, down by the golf course - and I think it’s a little cheaper.
When I was vacationing there, I’m pretty sure all the hotels and motels were owned and run by the National Park Service. I’m not sure if that’s still the case.
I think the normal arrangement is that the Park Service owns the tourist facilities (lodging, dining, etc.) in National Parks, but typically does not run them. Instead, they award contracts to run these to “concessioners”. These pay a bid amount to the Park Service (collectively, something approaching a billion dollars) and in return are more or less free to set the prices they charge and the services they provide (no doubt with some Park Service oversight).
The prices thus tend to be at market rate, which can be steep. A room at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley can easily exceed $600 a night in season. I have a friend who went there for a conference and reported it was nothing special (except of course for the location, which is well above 5 stars).
Not cheap, but at least as far as DV goes, it seems like they’ve invested a ton of money into improving the facilities. When I was there, we stayed in one of a number of brand new casitas that they added below the pool area.
A quick perusal showed that Furnace Creek seems to be in the neighborhood of $650(!) a night and Stovepipe Wells about a third of that – not exactly cheap in my view but yeesh! $650? The problem was finding available nights at Stovepipe Wells.
That’s why the campervan was half of a good idea. I was comfortable and cozy. And could stay wherever it was convenient (and allowed) for me to stay for the night.
But there were still too many roads that I wasn’t driving that thing on and I am too lazy to add the hike to the trailhead on top of the actual hike.