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Death Valley: Day 3
The weather man appears to have exhausted his wrath on the valley floor, the wind is calm for the most part and there are the obligatory white puffy clouds far above the peaks of the surrounding mountains. As Ron White might say “It looks like it’s gonna be a nice day Tator.”

With the bike unloaded and several pounds of dust removed from it, the plan is to head north and see where paved roads will take me, the first stop being the Harmony Borax Works. According to the signage this is one of the places where they processed Borax for shipment out of the valley. What the signs didn’t explain was exactly what they used for fuel since the nearest tree is probably at least 50 miles away. I will assume that on their return 165 mile journey with “Triples” pulled by a 20 mule team that they not only hauled the necessary 1,200 gallon water tank but firewood as well. These wagons are impressive and included two freight cars as well as a water tank totaling 36 tons loaded. Stretch out a 20 up hitch of mules in front of it and the length exceeded 100’. I would venture to guess that the “Men” who ran these things were not to be trifled with on a Saturday nite in the local saloon.

The walk to the borax works is probably a little over a quarter mile and of course up hill. Normally I’m not one to run or even walk on purpose but given that I’m 200 feet below sea level I figured that there was enough oxygen in the air to support a modest stroll. Photos taken and knowledge gained about the process of refining Borax it was off to the next exciting stop and lunch in Beatty Nevada.

Climbing up Daylight Pass towards the ghost town of Rhyolite it becomes immediately obvious that the ecosystem changes abruptly as you ascend. Don’t get me wrong, you are not going to see lush pine forests shading the curves on the mountain road but the vegetation multiplies rapidly as you get up off the floor of the valley. Small wild daisy’s (Teri’s favorite) give way to blooming prickly pear cactus then Joshua Trees (not really a tree by Wyoming standards) and Creosote bushes, even though they get more rain on the upper slopes it’s still apparently not enough for real trees to grow.

A quick stop in Rhyolite to prove to myself that it really is a ghost town and it was off to a gourmet lunch in Beatty four miles away. Beatty didn’t exactly abound with the culinary excitement that I had anticipated, but they did have a Subway, next time I’ll spend more time in Rhyolite and maybe pack a lunch. With a full belly I zipped back across Daylight Pass and headed down towards the floor of the desert. It’s interesting to note that at least when “I” thought about Death Valley it was always in the context of nothing but low desert, sand, rocks and kitty litter. In reality this trip has provided more mountain pass crossings in one day than I normally would expect to find in the mountains of Wyoming and these things are STEEP!! The view on descent is spectacular and pictures just don’t do it justice but if you come here take your time and pull off to take it all in.

My final stop for Day 3 was to be Ubehebe, a volcanic explosion crater that apparently formed only a couple of thousand years ago. The road out is one of those that allows for plenty of in motion sightseeing, sweeping curves with long expanses of relatively straight road in between. The crater itself is pretty much as I suspected it would be, a large 500’ deep hole about a half mile wide. What I didn’t expect to see was tourists actually climbing down into it. I’m afraid that if my cap would have blown off while standing there I would have simply made plans to go buy another, walking down there simply to look back up at the top was absolutely out of the question.

The photo's below are of The Harmony Borax Works and Rhyolite.
 

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An El Nino year has ensured that the vegetation in this part of Death Valley is going strong. This is on the way down from Daylight Pass and heading towards Ubehebe.
 

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Wonderful writing Joe. You have the ability to create word pictures with a marvelous economy of words. You would make a trip to the garbage dump an exciting read. Keep 'em coming.
 
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