Sunday, September 5, 2010
Death Valley to Incline Village
Our bodies still being pretty much on Eastern Standard Time, We were both up-and-at-em at 4:30 am. so we dressed, did some computer work, awoke Stacy, our host and made our way through the Streets of Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada and out into the countryside.
Our first destination was Death Valley. We had seen enough cowboy movies to make a point to fill the camper with gas before heading across the desert where I expected to see the bleached out skulls of long horn cattle and a twenty mule team parade across my horizon.
It is with disappointment that I write that I saw neither, though here the disappointment stops. We were nearly overwhelmed with the size of death Valley and surrounding valleys and mountains.
The desert here was steep high volcanic mountains or flat white planes. Our descent was long and gradual to sea level.
It was 99 degrees out and sunny.
It us usually sunny in Death Vally but they do have rain. Road signs warned us to beware of water on the road. We saw several places where the water had obviously run over the road carrying sand and silt with it.
Two thousand years ago when the Timbisha Shoshone Indians arrived, there was still a large lake there. They prospered until the lake began drying up though it is still considered their ancestral home. At times, the area produced borax (hence the 20-mule teams) talc, minerals and precious metal such as silver.
From below sea level, the land rose to over five thousand feet and we rose with it, winding up around turns, some with guard rails, some without.
My stomach lurched as I tried to look down into the valley far below. Before we started to climb, signs commanded that we turn off our air car air conditioner to keep from overheating. Of course we didn’t believe that mean us, but soon our temperature gage started inching over the half way mark so turned off the air and rolled down the windows as up we went.
What goes up must come down and down we went at a 9% grade for miles and miles. I’m pretty sure that careening is the proper way to describe our action descending that mountain.
I did learn that you don’t necessarily have to see what your are photographing to get some good pictures as I clicked away blindly.
Finally we came out of empty, drying desert to a valley where we could once again turn on the air and breath a sigh of relief. We were tired when we stopped for lunch after six hours of traveling across, up over and through the desert.
Once we reached Bishop California, the desert finally started to slip away as more and more trees appeared at first along the creeks then finally, at Mammoth Lakes everywhere as we climbed into the Sierra Mountains back to over eight thousand feet.
The geology changed along with the altitude. This land had soil along with the huge trees. There at the top of the Sierras was last winter’s still unmelted snow.
While having an ice cream treat next to Mono Lake we contemplated the next two and a half hour trip to Incline Village Nevada.
As we drew closer, we were anxious to stop driving. What were once interesting rock-covered mountains began to look only like barriers to our goal.
Finally we saw it. There was the lake in front of us as the sun set on a long day.