Denise Goldberg's blog

A return to death
To the lowest place in North America

Thursday, November 20, 2008

From sand to carved rock... and on to a ghost town!

Hey, guess what! Denise didn't turn off her alarm yesterday morning - it didn't ring. She figured out the problem last night when she went to set our early early alarm so we could watch the sunrise this morning. When she adjusted the time Tuesday night, she didn't roll around the clock to the morning. So even though the alarm was set for the morning, the clock was on the wrong side of the day. I was right though; that extra hour of sleep yesterday was good for her.

On to today's adventures...

This time the alarm woke Denise, and I was ready with some bounces in case she didn't start moving quickly. We rolled out at 5:30 AM. It was still dark, but as we drove to the north I could start seeing the sky get lighter. When we arrived at the Sand Dunes, there was enough light to walk out onto the dunes without tripping over our own feet. We looked at the mountains hovering over our parking spot to give ourselves a clue for finding the car after we were done wandering, and then we started walking across the sand. Up, down, up again. Walking, a little further, a look around, walk some more... Ah, this seems like a good spot. Denise set up her tripod, and we waited a little longer. Oh! the sun paints pretty pictures in the morning, doesn't it?

The sky kept changing, colors appearing, then fading. After the sun was really up, we started walking further out on the dunes. We climbed up, we walked along the top ridge of some of the dunes, we looked for foot-print free sections, sand in wavy patterns courtesy of the wind on some day in the past. We saw some footprints, tracks of a beetle, tracks of a kangaroo rat. I would have preferred to have seen the little creatures, but we had to be happy to see footprints today.

As we were wandering, Denise looked up and saw two airplanes. One of the planes was shaped like a big black wing. Now that was a sight. I think it must have been one of those stealth fighters. At first we both thought we were seeing things, but the planes came around a second time. Very interesting.

And then... we meandered back to the car, ready for a warm drink before our next adventure. The general store in Stovepipe Wells was on the way to Mosaic Canyon, our next tramping spot. Ah, something hot to drink. That was good.

The first half-mile of the Mosaic Canyon trail is the most interesting part. The narrow trail winds through curving rocks, polished marble walls. Smooth walls, swirls of color, slickrock, places that needed a little scrambling. Denise was trying to be careful because she had her camera slung around her neck. I told her she might want to hide it in her pack for the slippery parts, but she didn't listen. She did slide down two sections on her butt - and the rock was so smooth she said it worked just like a slide. After she did that, I had to try it too!

Ah, two different hikes, and it's still morning!

And then... Denise surprised me by wandering out of the park. She decded that she wanted to see Rhyolite, a ghost town just over the state border in Nevada. We drove there, but left the car and wandered by foot once we arrived. There were pieces of old buildings, some single walls only, some intact structures - included a bottle house. You couldn't go in to the bottle house - remember Denise went through a couple of bottle houses on her trip to Prince Edward island a few years back. It's a shame that we couldn't wander into this one. The BLM employee who was working there today said they just replaced the roof on that building, using the same materials that were used years ago to build it.
To satisfy your curiosity about Rhyolite, here's a link to a wikipedia article about Rhyolite, Nevada.
We walked through the remains of the town, and then we walked to what I guess could be called a sculpture garden. There were several pieces of art there that were just amazing... a sculpture of a ghost holding a bicycle, more ghosts lined up on a stage, a sofa made out of pieces of glass, kind of a three-dimensional mosaic sculpture.
I hope that some of Denise's photos of these unusual sculptures are "keepers", but if you'd like to see the sculptures now, check out the goldwell open air museum site.
It was a bit of a drive to get to Rhyolite, but the scenery made it a very good stop for us. We climbed over the Amargosa mountain range as we drove to the northeast. A cyclist was flying out of the mountains as we were slowly climbing the grade to the top. He must have had quite a ride - and a good reward, since he had to have climbed the other side. The mountains were beautiful, but our pictures of those mountains are only in our minds. Denise didn't like the looks of the side of the road; she was worried if she pulled off to play with her camera that she might get stuck. Mind pictures can be good, right?

We looped through Mustard Canyon on our way back to Furnace Creek. That's a rather rough one-way loop road, unfortunately one without too many spots to allow us to park where someone else could still drive by. I think that should have been a walking trail and not a road. Maybe we'll wander back there tomorrow (by foot). But maybe not, because I think Denise already has too many places on her mind for tomorrow's wanderings.

Back at the hotel... you'd think it was time to rest for a bit, but not quite. Last night at the ranger program someone asked about the solar array at Furnace Creek Ranch. We found out that Xanterra - the owner of the hotel - started operating the solar array this year. It's quite large, and unusual in that the solar panels move depending on the position of the sun. Oh, and they moved some palm trees to make room for the solar array (which is supposed to be one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in the world). Denise decided she needed to see it, so we wandered over there after we were done walking. There was an observation point, but you really couldn't see much from there, so Denise decided we should go closer. It looked like there was a fence around the array - but you know what? The gate was open, so we walked right in. Wow. That was amazing!

Then it was time for a quick dip in that nice warm pool. Ah, that felt good.

it was still light out, but edging towards sunset. You'd think that Denise would be satisfied with sitting still for a bit. But instead... we drove up to Zabriskie Point to watch the sun set. I think we're going back in the morning for the sunrise too. At least it's close to here - I think it's about six miles instead of the twenty-three we needed to drive this morning.

Where next?

Go back to Photos: Golden Canyon, or jump forward to Photos: Sand Dunes sunrise.