12 Mar Vegas Day Trip: Death Valley
The news around the West was abuzz with Death Valley’s “Super Bloom” which is a pretty rare sight. For the first time in 11 years, the national park will be home to millions of colorful flowers that will dramatically change the look of the otherwise arid desert.
Think about it. Death Valley is the hottest spot in North America with temperatures regularly reaching 120 degrees. The valley floor is below sea level. Rain seldom falls. The wind can be fierce.
It’s definitely not an environment you think about when you think wildflowers.
But every so often, a Super Bloom comes around, and you have to appreciation how hard these little flowers worked to show off in such an extreme environment.
When conditions are right, including well-spaced rainfall and low winds, the desert becomes carpeted with wildflowers. This year the conditions were just right. Rains were gentle and penetrated deeply into the soil to germinate dormant seeds. The ground warmed slowly, allowing roots to develop. A moist, El Niño weather pattern kept the flowers watered as they grew.
DJ and I stopped off for lunch at Timbisha Village Frybread Tacos and Shave Ice. We were really looking forward to an Indian tacoon delicious frybread. But, while the line wasn’t long, the wait sure was. And to top it off (quite literally) the ground meat was bland and tasteless. The best thing we got in our order was our child’s size bag of Doritos. Now, once I was done trying to make the meat and toppings work, we did take the remaining frybread that hadn’t been compromised with meat juices and slathered it with honey and cinnamon. And that, my friends, was delish.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
One hour from Badwater Basin (not in Death Valley National Park) you’ll find the Rhyolite Ghost Town. Some 2000 mining claims covered the area prompting the town’s boom into existence.
Rhyolite was the largest town in the Death Valley area with a population of 5,000-10,000 people, and buildings sprung up everywhere. During its heyday (1905-1911), it contained 2 churches, 50 saloons, 18 stores, 2 undertakers, 19 lodging houses, 8 doctors, 2 dentists, a stock exchange and an opera. These are just some of the buildings developed in those six years. The ever popular red light district drew women from as far away as San Francisco.
The financial panic is seen as the beginning of the end for the town. Mines closed and banks failed. Newspapers went out of business, and by 1910 there were only 611 residents in the town.
Today you can see the walls of that three-story bank building, part of the old jail, the train depot (privately owned), and the Bottle House (built by a miner in 1906 out of 50,000 beer and liquor bottles). Don’t miss the visitor’s center where a local sculpture artist has built some interesting pieces like the Lego woman featured below and a ghost interpretation of da Vinci’s Last Supper.
- Bring a camera.
- Plan your trip from October through March if you can. Death Valley is the hottest place in North America.
- Bring extra water in any season and some snacks.
- Wear comfortable shoes if you plan to hike.
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