Death Valley, again

We went back to Death Valley, as I said on Sunday, just because….

We still haven’t explored anything like all the paved roads, but everything we see is different from everything else –not at all monotonous.

The famous salt flats, aligned with Bad Water Basin, where the water is indeed bad (tasting), is the lowest part of the Park, perhaps the lowest place in the northern hemisphere (controversy alert — note the weasel word “perhaps.”)

dvbadwaterpanamintswThis is the walkway at Bad Water Basin. In the background are the Panamint Mountains (to the west) which are snow-capped. Jer walked out on this pathway; I stayed behind, in the shade of the car, and marveled. The photo was taken the first trip to Death Valley.

On our second trip we again went south, this time stopping at Golden Canyon, so Jer could hike. I had no trouble finding a place to paint — I just parked myself and my gear about ten feet up the trail, in the shade, no wind, with glorious rocks to paint. The painting isn’t ready to be displayed yet, but the rocks are:

goldencanyondeathvalleymar1The entrance to the trail looked like this from the parking lot:

mindmindingjunesgeargoldencA young artist named Mindy Hill watched my stuff as I carried my canvas back to the car. She also drew me as I painted. And we talked and talked. She was a joy to chat with and I think she enjoyed my company. She gifted me the drawing she did of me painting. Here’s what she looks like in front of the rocks of Golden Canyon:

mindyhilldrawermar1409wShe was just as charming as she looks.

Then Jer and I went off to lunch at Furnace Creek, where we’ve grown fond of the food (as well as the restrooms). We strolled through the Art Festival, and then launched off north, beyond the Beatty cut-off road, to Scotty’s Castle.

You can read about Scotty’s Castle — we were fascinated more with Albert Johnson, who built the castle for character and scam artist, Scotty — than we were with Scotty himself. The castle is in Grapevine Canyon, and is in a veritable oasis, with lots of water and even gnats, who apparently like the water as much as humans. It sits snug in its location, if one can say a castle can be snug. It was never finished, and the Park Service, which maintains it now, has kept it in its original unfinished state — the pool, alas, was never filled with water, and there were other areas that got stopped when the depression hit and the Federal Government discovered that Albert Johnson didn’t own the land on which he built. His land was a mile away. So much for land claim surveyors.

But the story is charming in spite of its creaks. We were reminded of the Hearst Castle, and Johnson may have had that in mind. He had Frank Lloyd Wright draw up plans, but he rejected them. Scotty had his own quarters at the castle, but preferred to live in the kitchen, which he filled with emptied cans and bottles when the Johnsons weren’t around. And he apparently often took off on his own, to the solitude of Death Valley, with which he was very familiar.

Here’s one view of the Castle, now that I’ve told you entirely too much of the story:

scottyscastle1wWe did not take the tour, we met a friendly coyote (an Official Greeter of Tourists), we followed a bunch of antique cars around the road to the Castle, and we thought it seemed a  far more fantastic endeavor than Hearst’s San Simeon, which looks like it sits in a vale of ease by comparison. While the Grapevine Spring made some trees spring up, the surrounding mountains are definitely Death Valley-ish. –June

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