The journey from Las Vegas started in a sea of traffic, steadily making our way along the I15 North through suburbs housing the croupiers, cocktail waitresses and bar-men employed by the casinos that line “The Strip”. Soon we were out in the middle of nowhere in the desert passing one horse Indian reservation towns and an US air-force base at Indian Springs. According to the official air -force base website, we were correct in seeing some drones parked up as we drove past the base or Assigned Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems as they are known on the Creech Air Force Base website.
The road turned left at a gas station alone in the desert as we crossed the State line from Nevada into California. We were at 3,800 feet and the road relentlessly followed a downward path, eventually it would lead us to Badwater at 282 feet below sea level. After stopping off at the Park entrance to buy our Park ticket we make our way to Zabriskie Point.
Walking up to a bluff we overlooked a quite remarkable sight – the desert in wonderful shades of yellows,reds and purples. The area completely devoid of vegetation looked like a Martian landscape. Whilst taking photographs, I thought of the infamous 1970 film by Michaelango Antonioni that I saw some 30 years ago under a series of films featured as “the 50 worst films of all time”. Zabriskie Point was described by Fricke, the editor of Rolling Stone magazine as ” one of the most extraordinary disasters in modern cinematic history.” If I remember rightly the film featured an orgy with people rolling around in the dust probably near to where we were standing, “performed” to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd in pre ‘Dark Side of Moon’ days.
The wind present throughout the drive down, had really whipped up, and it’s chill drove us back to our rental car. We continued on a downward course, as the car wound its way through the barren landscape until we reached Furnace Creek. On an overcast and windy day it was hard to imagine how the landscape must burn in the midsummer heat of 120F.
At the bottom of the road stood Furnace Creek Inn – literally an oasis in the middle of a desert, a mission- style inn built in the late 1920’s against the backdrop of the Panamint mountains. Details on the inn can be found here .
Just down the road was a golf course, water gives life and the creek enables grass to be grown year round in the most unlikely of places.
An early lunch beckoned, so we went next door to the 49er cafe and had a buffalo meat burger – well what else !
After lunch we took the road to Badwater via the Devil’s Golf Course, not another course, but a huge area of broken up salt flats.
Arriving at Badwater, it is a low as you can get at 282 feet below sea level. A huge salt flat goes on for miles against a backdrop of mountains rising to over 11,000 feet, truly awe-inspiring scenery.
It was time to leave, we had to get back to Vegas to get ready for the convention we were attending, but what great scenery we had seen in such a short space of time. Viva Death Valley !!