After a comfortable stay in Bishop, my trusty traveling companion and I began the drive south. Today’s destinations would include another ghost town, Death Valley, and finally, Las Vegas. To hit all of these spots would require us to take a rather unusual route, swerving into and out of Nevada. A good portion of the morning was spent climbing through the mountains of the Inyo National Forest.
I Am All Up Inyo National Forest.
Had we really wished to, we could have stopped to see the place where the oldest tree in the world lives, but we had more spectacular sights to see. Eventually, the twisty roads of the pine forest of gave way to the arrow-straight roads of the anonymous desert. I queued up the Space Mountain theme and punched the gas.
We reached civilization in no time. It was at this point that I really began to grasp how different Nevada is from California. One of the first buildings I spotted proudly proclaimed itself to be a brothel. There were cigarette machines. There were slot machines in convenience stores. There were places promising fireworks by the case, by the pallet. There was also this sign directing me to the restroom.
What did you eat, little girl!?
After a well-deserved bathroom break, we drove a bit more and found the ghost town of Rhyolite. This was a mining town that boomed in the 1910′s. Rhyolite was quite civilized, having electric lights, water mains, telephones, newspapers, a hospital, a school, an opera house, and a stock exchange. But it was not to last. The mine’s high-grade ore was quickly exhausted, and the the city was abandoned by the 1920′s.
The ruins of Rhyolite were a slight disappointment after having visited Bodie. There were a handful of buildings in various states of collapse, although the train station was remarkably well preserved.
We hopped back into the car and headed back to California, to dare our fates in Death Valley. Though the place has a bad reputation, the heat isn’t quite so bad when visited later in the year. Temperature at the Furnace Creek visitor center was only 89°F, though this was at sunset. The visitor center was also the point of lowest elevation we’d visit this trip, at 190 feet below sea level.
I was rather suprised to learn that Death Valley wasn’t the abandoned wasteland I’d envisioned. In fact, it had been mined extensively, most notably for Borax production. The famous “forty mule team” hauled the ore to a processing plant. Though I’d heard the expression before, I’d always assumed it was a simile.
Darkness fell as we left Death Valley behind, but a glittering new adventure lay before us: Las Vegas. We checked in to New York New York late that night, and wandered around the resort until much, much later. Viva Vegas!