It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Desert

image Death Valley

I don’t know what to expect as we arrive except for temperatures of over 100 degrees.

And yes, it is HOT and it’s hot! It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I am waiting for Pink Floyd to start blasting songs from outer space.

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Here’s where we are spending the next 2 nights… Furnace Creek Campground. We unhitch the car, park the RV, and hook up to water, sewer, and electric. What’s the first thing we do after? Turn on our 2 air conditioners!

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Just outside of the campground, Highway 190 continues offering views like the ones I capture below.

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We pass the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and then check out Furnace Creek Ranch where there is lodging, restaurants, gasoline, and propane. Guests can also picnic, tent camp, hook up RVs, and walk the Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail.

The temperature gauge catches our attention. What? It’s still over 100 degrees and the sun is getting ready to set!

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HOW DEATH VALLEY GOT ITS NAME

In January 1848 gold was discovered in the South Fork of the American River in Coloma, California while James W. Marshall was building a saw mill for Captain John Sutter. (coloma.com)

img_4692 dailymail.co.uk

img_4695 conservation.ca.gov

Although it was supposed to be kept a secret, word got out and the California Gold Rush of 1849 began. (coloma.com)

In October 1849 a group of wagons from the San Joaquin Company were faced with having to wait out the winter in Salt Lake City. (Salt Lake City was an important supply station for the ’49ers traveling to Sutter’s Mill in preparation for the long journey across the Great Basin Desert and through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.) Snow would make the mountains impassable. (nps.gov)

img_4693 in-the-desert.com

But then the travelers heard about the Old Spanish Trail. The good news was that this route went around the southern end of the Sierra Nevada making a winter trek possible. The bad news was twofold: 1.)No other wagon trains had ever traversed this trail before. 2.)Only 1 person in Salt Lake City knew the way. (nps.gov)

img_4700 holidaymapq.com

img_4701 irwinator.com

Captain Jefferson Hunt agreed to lead the group but he would only travel as fast as the slowest wagon. (nps.gov)

img_4697 californiapioneer.org

The slow pace frustrated some members of the group so they decided to try a shortcut pass across the desert that would cut off 500 miles of their journey and they could travel at their own pace. Upon encountering a gaping canyon, however, most of these wagons turned back to rejoin Captain Hunt’s posse.

Meanwhile, 20 wagons tediously circumvented the canyon. Without a reliable leader or the benefit of a map, these ’49ers held steadfast to their belief that if they continued west they would eventually find this so-called shortcut pass.

Eventually arguments arose over which way to continue so the group split up, some going south and the rest continuing west. Ironically both groups ended up in the same place. Today that junction just happens to be around Furnace Creek along Highway 190 where we are staying. (nps.gov)

img_4699 Death Valley Visitor Guide

By now it had been 2 months since these “lost ’49ers” had left the Old Spanish Trail. They were tired and discouraged. Their wagons were battered and the oxen were weary. They looked up and saw the Panamint Mountains enveloping them and felt defeated.

Once again the group split up. One group, deciding to walk north, slaughtered some oxen and used wagons as fuel to make jerky. This group found a pass to cross the mountains and headed south to civilization.

Meanwhile, the remaining group tried crossing the  mountains via a different route and unsuccessfully ended heading back into the desert valley. Mistaking the Panamint Mountains for the Sierra Nevada, the party sent 2 scouts across the mountains to replenish supplies, expecting a speedy return. A month went by, however, before the 2 returned after hiking more than 300 miles.

Several of the waiting families left to find their own way out. Two families, however, waited it out, suffering the loss of one person. As they made their way west, upon the return of the scouts, someone proclaimed, “Goodbye, Death Valley!”

It took the group another 23 days to cross the Mojave Desert and reach civilization, 4 long months after leaving Captain Hunt on the Old Spanish Trail. (nps.gov)

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