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DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

San Jose...
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DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

Hello All,

My wife and I are visiting DVNP next weekend, reaching LV on Wed (Nov 27) at 1130pm and leaving LAS at 930pm on Nov 30. Here is our tentative plan.

Nov 27: Spend the night close to LV airport.

Nov 28: Day 1:

LV -> Dante’s View -> Zabriskie Point -> Visitor's Center ->Devils Golf Course (Currently Closed) -> Badwater -> Artist’s Drive -> Golden Canyon -> Ranch at Furnace Creek (Have reservations). Prob drive to Zabriskie Point for sunset.

Nov 29: Day 2:

Ranch at Furnace Creek -> Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (sunrise) -> Mosaic Canyon -> Scotty’s Castle -> Ubehebe Crater -> Ranch at Furnace Creek

Day 3 is currently open. We can either take the Titus Canyon tour by Farabees (if road open and seats available) or drive to Beatty/Ghost towns and back to LV.

Does the plan sound reasonable? Have we missed anything? Any other suggestions?

Also, currently I have reserved a Jeep Wrangler with Avis. I was wondering if the above could be done in a more driver friendly car (like a Mustang or a regular sedan)?

Thanks in advance.

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San Francisco
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1. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

Looks good.

For your first day, I presume you’re coming in from Pahrump. Be sure to take Bell Vista Road in Pahrump, NOT the major left turn marked for Hwy 372 and Death Valley. That will add some miles; go past it about 4 miles to Bell Vista, which becomes Stateline Road to Death Valley Junction.

It is the Dante’s View Road that is currently closed, not Devil’s Golf Course. You can go up to Dante’s View (if it's open) even if you have not yet paid the park entrance fee, which you can do at the Visitor Center. There is an automated pay kiosk on Hwy 190 just inside the park, before you turn off for Dante’s, but you don’t have to use it if youre going on to the VC. The order of your itinerary on Day 1 is good. Since you’ll be arriving around midday, you have time to also go through 20 Mule Team Canyon on the way in; it’s a 1-way road eastbound from 190, so you’ll pass the exit intersection first.

On Day 2, when you go to the Sand Dunes for sunrise, look for wildlife tracks. Much of the Valley’s wildlife is active at night, so while they are fresh, you can see tracks from birds, coyotes, kit foxes, and even beetles the size and shape of a black olive (the tracks resemble zippers). Prints that look like loose S shapes are from the sidewinder rattlesnake, which moves in springing motions like a Slinky toy, so only small patches of skin touch the ground at any time. This protects it from hot surfaces in summer because reptiles cannot regulate their body temperature by sweating, panting like dogs, or radiating heat from veins near the surface like rabbits do with their ears.

Along with the Castle and Ubehebe, you might have time to see the west end of Titus Canyon. At this end, it is a dramatic narrow gorge, just 20 feet wide, with sheer walls that show the force of flashfloods rushing through. The road is rough gravel with a parking area at the end.

Farabee’s does not give tours. They rent Jeep Wranglers for you to drive. The vehicles are equipped for backcountry use, including heavy-duty tires. You could rent a regular car in Las Vegas and then rent from Farabee’s just for the time you want to go out to the backcountry. If on Day 3 you went from Furnace Creek to Rhyolite and Beatty, then to Las Vegas, that’s about 170 miles (give or take). Rhyolite is an early 20th century gold mining town with a lot of stone, brick, cement remains, a graveyard, and a collection of modern eccentric sculptures called the Goldwell Open Air Museum. Beatty is also a mining town and has a history with the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. It isn’t a ghost town, but it’s one of the towns near DV that I like because of its atmosphere. It has a museum and some local shops that might interest you, especially the Death Valley Nut & Candy Co., one of the biggest such stores in Nevada or California. It is at the north end of town on Hwy 374/95 North.

You could go to Beatty and Rhyolite, then into Titus Canyon after Rhyolite. The canyon trip usually takes 3-4 hours, to see everything. There is a lot in there. You would need to go back to Farabee’s to return the Jeep and pick up the passenger car you parked there, so you’d go back to the park and down Daylight Pass to Hwy 190, and return to Las Vegas via Pahrump. If you did this, I’d allow about 6 hours for the whole trip fom Farabee’s back to Farabee’s, not counting the drive to Las Vegas.

All main park roads (Hwy 190, Badwater Road, Daylight Pass, Beatty Cut-off, Mud Canyon, and Castle Road) are paved. So are the roads to Beatty and Rhyolite. Most secondary roads are fine for any vehicle. A few are graded gravel, meaning they aren’t paved but are maintained regularly and are OK for any car driven carefully. These include Devil’s Golf Course, Mustard Canyon, and Mosaic Canyon. These are not high-clearance; you just want to go easy to avoid getting a flat tire. The only road you’ve mentioned where a passenger car is not suitable, especially in winter, is Titus Canyon.

San Jose...
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2. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

Thank you Frisco for the detailed repl especially the tips on park fees and the routes. On the Farabees website (http://www.farabeesjeeprentals.com/) I see that they offer jeep tours but its pretty expensive. So we are planning to drop it.

We have been to Bodie (Ghost town in Mono County). Rhyolite seems similar to it. Is there anything else we could do in DV itself without renting a 4x4?

Camp Sherman, Oregon
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3. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

I like your plan. Day one might add Natural Bridge for the hike up to the dry falls. Day two might only add somehow Salt Creek and drive through Mustard Canyon. Your Jeep Wrangler will be perfect. No need to rent from Farabees. Their Jeeps are extreme. Your rental Jeep is perfect for Titus. As Frsico says do Rhyolite first(after getting gas in Beatty, so close), before Titus. Sounds like a perfect trip. Keep your jeep rental.

San Francisco
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4. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

Rhyolite and Bodie are not entirely similar. They are both late 19th-early 20th century mining settlements and they both thrived for a short time in extreme environments, but they are actually quite different.

Bodie is high up in the mountains at over 8000 feet, and it gets snowed in during the winter. Most of the buildings are of wood, because there are forests nearby. It was even more isolated than Rhyolite, which might be why so much of it is still there.

Rhyolite at least was on a railroad, and had quite a lot of commerce going on. It was much bigger than the ruins suggest; historic photos show a fairly large settled area and neatly laid-out streets. Most of its remaining buildings and ruins are of stone, brick, and concrete. Wood was hard to come by in the desert, and many of the wooden structures that were there were dismantled and moved to other mining camps that later sprang up around Death Valley. One building material that was abundant was bottles. Every mining town had plenty of saloons. So there is a bottle house, made of bottles in layers of mud, laid perpendicular to the plane of the wall. You can't go inside now, but I was in it in the past, and in the summer it is pretty uncomfortable, with the glass magnifying the sunlight. In winter, I imagine it would be cozy because of the insulation provided by the trapped air.

Rhyolite did not become a ghost town because the gold was exhausted. In the early 20th century, much of its financial backing came from San Francisco investors. When the 1906 earthquake and fire pretty much wiped out San Francisco, the funding went away, because the backers either lost their assets or began investing in rebuilding the city. So Rhyolite went bust too. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, there was another bonanza in Rhyolite, because there was still lots of gold. This was a big industrial-scale operation, where they essentially chopped up the mountain behind the town and refined the ore from it. The technology to do this wasn't available or affordable in 1900.

You can still see remnants of the 20th century bonanza. Across Hwy 374 from the road into Rhyolite (best seen coming from Beatty) are the remains of leach ponds, where ore was processed by using sodium cyanide to make the gold chemically separate out from the rock matrix. I'm not a mining engineer so I don't know how to describe it precisely. But cyaniding is a nasty and toxic process. The leach ponds were (we hope) lined with impermeable material to protect the soil and groundwater. Leach ponds are hell on birds, especially in the desert, because they look like bodies of water, so they are usually screened. Other reminders of the modern Rhyolite gold rush are the terraced hillsides where the ore-bearing rock was carved out; and the spot at the northeast corner of the intersection where refinery buildings used to be.

If you go to Rhyolite, stop just before the townsite to enjoy the Goldwell Open Air Museum, a collection of eccentric and fanciful sculptures. You can see what living in the desert does for people's creative impulses. :^)

San Jose...
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5. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

Thank you Frisco, Jes for your inputs. We have decided to go to Rhyolite on Day 3. Also, the report today shows Dante's view is now OPEN!

Frisco, I was looking at one of your older posts on star grazing where you suggested Dante's view as a good location. Is it safe there at night (I am pretty sure I can handle the drive) in terms of wild animals/snakes or even other people? The maps show it to be approx 50 minute drive. Is that accurate.

Atlanta, Georgia
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6. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

I feel certain that Frisco_Roadrunner would not recommend an activity that she did not feel was safe (at least not without some caveats).

Dante's View is as safe at night as any other area of the park. Wild animals are everywhere - no place is any less likely to have them than any other. There is also some pretty good star-gazing at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and also at Badwater - no place in the park is really bad for that, as long as the sky is clear.

-JimG

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7. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

Dante's is about 35-40 minutes from Furnace Creek. The reason I sometimes exaggerate the travel time is because people like to go there for sunset. I always suggest getting to your chosen spot a good 20 minutes before the official sunset time because of the mountains that surround the park, meaning the sun is out of view earlier than the official time.

For star-gazing, unless there is planet ot some other specific object you want to see in a certain position, you can be looser on the travel time. The drive is all paved, and the top quarter mile is steep and twisty but no problem for any passenger vehicle (anything longer than 25 feet is prohibited).

Dante's is as safe as any place in the park. There is a large paved parking area at the top, where there won't be that many wild animals lurking because it's too exposed for them. If you go walking on the ridges, there might be critters but not really dangerous ones. Snakes don't typically come out at night when it's very cold, for the same reason they are cautious on really hot days - they have no physiological way to regulate their body temperatures the way mammals do, so any extremes could kill them. I've never seen a coyote up there, maybe because it's too cold for much of the game that they catch for food.

I do not suggest walking on the ridges at night because there is no lighting, and if you trip or lose your balance, depending on where you are, you could fall a very long way.

People shouldn't give you any trouble. Most national parks are pretty safe, especially compared to cities, and Death Valley may be safer than most. The average visitor is a pretty nice person, and the typical opportunistic criminal isn't going to drive all the way up to Dante's View to prey on people when it's easier to pick pockets or purses in the general store or restaurant. You'll be able to see people coming up the road because the entire area is dark and their lights will show for a long distance.

Be sure to wear (or bring) something warm. The rule of thumb for temperatures is that every 1000 feet of elevation change means 3-5ºF difference. So if it's in the 50s at Furnace Creek (typical in winter), it mght be near freezing at Dante's. If you want to read a map or star chart at night, use a light with a red lens or fasten some red cellophane over a regular light, to avoid disrupting your night vision.

Edited: 27 November 2013, 03:38
8. Re: DVNP Thanksgiving weekend Trip plan help

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