Saturday, October 17, 2009

41-2009, A BONUS REPORT! from Nevada

41-2009  A Bonus Report

Tonopah to Beatty Nevada

Rhyolite, Nevada (a ghost town)

Death Valley and Scotty’s Castle

Campground:  Baileys Hot Springs.  $18 for elect and water.  If you stay a week or more they’ll give you a site with sewer hookup as well.  The hot springs are included in the camping fee.

Heading south from Tonopah the elevation drops thousands of feet into the dry desert landscape of the Great Basin.  I’m heading towards Death valley.  Nothing grows here except the ever present sagebrush.  Then about 40 miles south on 95, a major highway through Nevada, but looking more like a lonely two lane stretch of highway, I see my first Joshua trees.  Those wonderful cactus with multiple spiny arms looking ever so much like a tree.  They quickly fill the landscape with their unique tree like forms.  The lower elevation also means I’m back into much warmer climate.

After arriving at Baileys Hot Springs, under a couple nice cottonwood trees for shade, I go into the town of Beatty for lunch and to check out information on Death Valley.  My first excursion is to a ghost town called Rhyolite.  It’s just outside of Death Valley on 374 which leads into the park.

Just on the edge of the ghost town is an open air museum called Goldwell.  A Belgium artist who came across this region thought it looked a lot like the Holly Land and proceeded to create some unique sculptures.  The Last Supper being the most famous.  They are often referred to as the ghosts of Rhyolite.  After Szulkalski created these imaginative pieces (including the pink busted lady, he kept having to move them from the town of Rhyolite due to film crews coming in to film for movies.  He found out that a parcel of land on the edge of this ghost town was privately owned.  When he inquired of the owner, he discovered the owner was from Belgium as well.  Needless to say, he was able to move his sculptures to the site they now sit on permanently.

The next interesting story is about the couple that manage the small museum store.  Suzy McCoy and her husband who looks all of a prospector ready to dig up some gold, met some 21 years ago.  Having been divorced, each was encouraged by one of their relatives to go to a local singles get together.   Upon meeting, Suzy was asked where she was from, rather than say her current location, she said Casper Wyoming.  Her now husband said, “well, how interesting, that’s where I’m from as well.  Did you ever know the little girl who was written up in the local paper a couple of times for taking her fathers tractor into town?”  Suzy said, “yes, that was me, at the age of 5”.  She tells of how she was paid, I think a nickel, for helping her brothers with some of the farm duties so she could go into town to see the movies.  But her father forgot tell her she couldn’t go on Saturday, so she just up and took the tractor.

There are no coincidences in life.  Somehow we are led to those we should know or be with.  At least, that’s my thought on the subject.

Getting back to the campsite, Baileys Hot Springs, I was ready for a dip in their springs.  They have three bldgs. Each with a pea gravel floor with some of the rock outcroppings peaking through.  What an awesome feeling after touring all day to be able to soak in the warm super clear spring waters of this little oasis.  No sulfur smells of any kind, just pure clean hot springs.

Later I watched as the mountains changed from yellow to gold to crimson red with the setting sun. Nice way to end the day.

The next day…. I was up early, eager to take a loop tour to Scotty’s Castle and Death Valley.  A gorgeous castle built by Albert and Jessie Johnson of Chicago back in the late 1920’s.  It was designed as a get away and a character came along with the package by the name of Walter Scott.  Scotty loved to tell tales of finding gold.  After Albert and Jessie became friends, Albert let Scotty tell his wild tales to all his guests, including that Scotty owned the castle and had it built from the millions he made from his Death Valley gold mine. Scotty kind of reminds me of my friend back in Fla, Larry K.  Larry always came up with the best stories to tell around our campfires and I’m sure he’s still doing it today.

I was the first one at the castle this morning so I got a private tour, including the above ground and below ground tour.  They said they weren’t doing the below ground tours, but I gave them my best puppy eye sad look and the tour guide snuck me into the basement for the behind the scenes tour as well.

What a gorgeous castle built in the California Spanish style so popular during that era.  A must visit if you ever make it to death valley.  The stories about the house and the discovery that the land they owned was actually a mile away (they almost lost the place to the Government) go on and on.

I continued my tour of Death Valley, you know it’s the lowest place on the Continental U.S.  Having dropped almost 4,000 feet down down down into the valley itself through the mountain ranges that surround it.  And it’s also one of the driest and hottest places most times of the year.  What a strange place, both beautiful, forbidding and desolate at the same time.  Some plants are able to survive out here including the sage and I believe the ironwood tree, though on about an inch of water a year it’s hard to believe.

I came back through Beatty, had lunch and spent the rest of the day enjoying the desert scenery, reading a book in the shade of my big cotton wood tree and having another hot spring soak…. Life couldn’t be better.

PS, the hot springs are for sale, so if you know someone who would appreciate a great place, campground, restaurant bldg and springs, this is the place….

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