Author Topic: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)  (Read 1417 times)

Offline PBaruch

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Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« on: February 08, 2019, 12:35:09 AM »
The American southwest draws travelers from around the globe with an abundance of natural wonders, some of which are found nowhere else.  Having previously explored other parts of the southwest, I very much wanted to visit Death Valley National Park.  DW, while preferring to visit other locales, agreed.  In particular, I was interested in visiting off the beaten parts of the park accessible only by 4WD vehicle.  However, unless you want to experience earths oven,  which some deliberately choose to do, winter is the time to visit.  In summer, temperatures often climb north of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (Death Valley has the lowest point on earth in the western hemisphere).  In winter, the temperatures are mild during the day but chilly at night. 

A short time before our  trip, the government shut down which led me to question whether we should go to a national park.  My concerns, however, turned out to be completely unfounded.  Although there were a few closures, the majority of the park was open and empty (I can only assume others chose to stay away).  As a result, at times, we had the park all to ourselves.  The experience was extraordinary. 

Part 1 - Planning

We booked 5 tickets on Jetblue for a total of 103k points to fly from JFK to LAS, the closest major airport to Death Valley National Park.  Had I booked a little sooner, it would have been under 100k but I procrastinated in booking, and it cost me more points in the long run.  For accommodations and transportation, we decided to rent a 30+ foot long motorhome from El Monte with a bed over the cab, two bunks, and a bed in the rear.  A few days before our trip DW checked the prices online and saw that the price dropped by half.  I called El Monte and they honored the cheaper price without me having to rebook and lose my $150 deposit.  A link to the motorhome we rented can be found here:

https://www.elmonterv.com/rv-rental/rv-details/cabover-style-fs30-slide-out-rv/

We didn't want to be without hookups (water, sewer and electric) so we reserved 6 nights at the campground by Stovepipe Wells.  A link to the campground can be found here:

https://deathvalleyhotels.com/our-hotel/rv-park-and-camping/

For our final night, we decided to stay at a campground in Las Vegas, as we needed to return the motorhome early in the morning to catch our 12:00 p.m. flight home.  We chose the Sam's Town Campground, a link to which can be found here:

https://koa.com/campgrounds/las-vegas/

Since we wanted to do a fair amount of off roading, we rented a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon for 2 days from Farabee's Jeeps.   Link to Farabee's can be found here:

http://farabeejeeps.com/

We didn't have a set schedule and, with limited exceptions, decided on what we wanted to do each morning.

Part 2 - Flight and Arrival at LAS

JFK-LAS by P Bryan, on Flickr

We arrived at LAS at approximately 11:00 a.m., took an Uber over to El Monte RV (Uber was about half the price of a taxi), and picked up our motorhome.  We then made stops at Walmart, Trader Joe's, and Smith's Supermarket.  Smith's has a kosher take out counter and sells a variety of kosher foods, so we stocked up on food for the week.  Afterwards, we drove to Stovepipe Wells, where we would be principally based for the next 6 nights.

Smith s Food and Drug to Stovepipe Wells Campground   Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 3 - Death Valley National Park - Mesquite Sand Dunes

MVIMG_20190125_115306 by P Bryan, on Flickr

For our first full day in Death Valley, we decided to visit Mesquite Sand Dunes, located a short drive from our campground at Stovepipe Wells.  The kids had an awesome time playing in the sand and sliding down the dunes.

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley NP (DSC_4867) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley NP (DSC_4890) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mesquite Sand Dunes,Death Valley NP (DSC_4907) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley NP (DSC_4902) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Life still exists despite the harshness of the desert.

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley NP (DSC_4898) by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the walk back to the motorhome, my little one stuck his hands into his pockets and came out with handfuls of sand that he dropped, to "return it to its family."

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 4 - The Borax Museum

After the sand dunes, we visited the Borax Museum, which explains the history of borax in Death Valley and contains a large collection of pioneer-era mining and transportation equipment.  For quite a while, we had the entire grounds all to ourselves.

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4909) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4910) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4913) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4914) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4922) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4923) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California (DSC_4933) by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way back to the campground, we hiked the really short Harmony Borax Works trail (where my little one turned on his "booster pack" and nearly gave us all heart attacks when he ran off to the end of the trail all by himself).  It's a good thing I hadn't yet known there are mountain lions in Death Valley, or I might have really had a heart attack.

Harmony Borax Works, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Harmony Borax Works, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Afterwards, we passed by the Devil's Cornfield.

Devil's Cornfield, Death Valley NP (DSC_4950) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Of course, we all start coming down with colds due to the daytime heat and nighttime cold temperatures.  No place nearby to buy tissues but the Stovepipe Wells General Store.  A pocket sized pack of 10 tissues for $1!  We bought 12 packs over the next few days.

Part 5 - Rhyolite Ghost Town

On the following day, Friday, we decided to visit Rhyolite Ghost Town.  Rhyolite formed around 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills.  However, it declined almost as rapidly after the richest ore was exhausted.  By 1920, the town was in ruins.  It is now one of the most photographed ghost towns in the west.

Stovepipe Wells  CA to rhyolite   Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Crossing the border from California to Nevada (Rhyolite is located in Nevada):

Crossing the border (DSC_5007) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Welcome to the neighborhood:

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada by P Bryan, on Flickr

Photographs of Rhyolite:

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_4970) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Rhyolite  Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_4982) by P Bryan, on Flickr

An old caboose:

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_4983) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_4985) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The ruins of the Cook Bank Building:

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_4999) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Ruins of HD & LD Porter Store:

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_5002) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Ruins of a jewelry store:

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada (DSC_5004) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 6 - Shabbos in Death Valley

After returning from Rhyolite, we prepared the motorhome for Shabbos by covering the wheels, as is required.  DW purchased a set of wheel covers online (after being told the wheel size by El Monte), but when we fitted the covers on the wheels, we discovered they were too small:

MVIMG_20190125_153956 by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then began preparations for Shabbos.  As usual, I made a fried potato kugel.  I was planning on using our camp stove for this, but the WalMart in Vegas was out of butane, and we were unable to find it anywhere else.  (Come to find out, California has special regulations regarding butane, as they do with seemingly everything under the sun).  Instead, we used part of our portable grill rack placed on the motorhome stove to hold the frying pan over the burner:

MVIMG_20190125_160533 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DW made chicken in a crockpot, which was swapped out for chollent right before Shabbos.  We set the crockpot on a timer, I davened, and we ate our meal.  Being quite exhausted, I went to bed early.  At some point during the night, I woke up and realized that the power was off in the motorhome.  I quickly grabbed the cold chollent pot off the hot plate and placed it into the refrigerator.  Since the refrigerator runs on either propane or electricity, it automatically switches between the two and never turns off (assuming you don't run out of propane).  In the morning, the power was restored but the chollent was cold in the fridge.  I went outside and asked our next door neighbor if he would place the chollent pot back on its hot plate, which he did.  By the time lunch rolled around, the chollent was hot.  I later learned that there was a scheduled power outage for Friday night but no one bothered to tell us.

On Shabbos day we rested and I played "booster packs" and tag with my little one outside the motorhome.  It was certainly nice to have freedom to roam without being confined to a hotel for Shabbos.  Middle daughter woke each morning seeing the sand dunes out her window, and was hoping to walk over there, but we were pretty sure it was outside the techum.  We were able to walk over to the ranger station, which is where we first heard that the shutdown was over.  Being in the midbar during Parshas Yisro certainly wasn't lost on us.

Part 7 - The Racetrack

I had wanted to visit the Racetrack for some time now, having seen pictures online and being prodded by my friend Alex, who has fallen in love with the place.  This was one of the reasons we decided to rent a Jeep.   Since Farabee's Jeeps is located in Furnace Creek, about 25 miles away from where we were staying in Stovepipe Wells, we decided to overnight in a campground across the street from Farabee's.  As an added bonus, due to the government shutdown, the National Park Service was not collecting fees at this campground. 

While at this campground, we met "Jake" the cat, who liked to be walked like a dog on a leash.  Jake's owner told me that she had been walking Jake on a leash since he was a kitten, so for him, walking on a leash was normal.

After shuttling our motorhome to the Sunset campground at Furnace Creek, we walked the minute or so to Farabee's and picked up our 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.  The Jeep was lifted and equipped with large off road tires.  We were given instructions on the use of the Jeep along with additional instructions on the use of the included Spot Satellite Messenger device.  We were told to always carry the Spot device with us (even when we left the Jeep), which had a button to alert Farabee's if we were in trouble along with another button to alert 911 of an emergency.  Luckily, we didn't run into any trouble and never had to use the Spot device.  We then loaded up the Jeep with our cooler and clothes and were off to the Racetrack.

Furnace Creek  California 92328 to The Racetrack  California   Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Racetrack is a scenic dry lake feature with "sailing stones" that leave imprints in the mud as they slide.  The stones move when ice sheets just a few millimeters thick start to melt during periods of light wind. These thin floating ice panels create an ice shove that moves the rocks along the dry lake bed.

MVIMG_20190127_102749 by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way to the Racetrack, we saw many Joshua Trees:

MVIMG_20190127_110112 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Joshua Tree, Death Valley NP (DSC_5011) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Racetrack Road, Death Valley NP (DSC_5146) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Teakettle Junction:

Teakettle Junction, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Toilet in the desert (it was disgusting and hadn't been cleaned since the shutdown began):

IMG_20190127_121046 by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Racetrack:

DSC_5044 Corrected by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190127_133112 by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Racetrack, Death Valley NP (DSC_5061) by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190127_125041 by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Grandstand at the Racetrack:

The Grandstand at The Racetrack (DSC_5138) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Grandstand, Death Valley NP (DSC_5130) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 8 - Ubehebe Crater

On the way back from the Racetrack, we stopped by Ubehebe Crater,  a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across.

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley NP (DSC_5171) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then returned for the night to the campground in Furnace Creek:

MVIMG_20190127_170336 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 9 - Artist's Drive

The following day, we set out to explore various parts of the park, including parts we could not drive to in the motorhome (due to its length in excess of 25 feet) or those parts requiring a 4WD vehicle.  Our first stop was Artist's Drive, with colorful rock formations.

While driving, we saw a few coyotes along the road. I was told that the coyotes are very smart and they feign being injured, sick, or starving by the side of the road in the hopes of scoring an easy meal from a passing tourist.  I suppose it works for them, as we saw them by the side of the road on the way in and out. 

Coyote seen along the road:

MVIMG_20190128_084321 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Artist's Drive:

Artist's Drive, Death Valley NP (DSC_5202) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Artist's Drive, Death Valley NP (DSC_5220) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Artist's Drive, Death Valley NP (DSC_5238) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Artist's Drive, Death Valley NP (DSC_5260) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 10 - Devil's Golf Course

Afterwards, we went to the Devil's Golf Course, a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley:

On way to Devil's Golf Course by P Bryan, on Flickr

Devils Golf Course, Death Valley NP (DSC_5267) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley NP (DSC_5268) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 11 - Badwater

We then visited Badwater, a basin and the lowest point on earth in the western hemisphere. 

MVIMG_20190128_105816 by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190128_110120 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Badwater, Death Valley NP (DSC_5294) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Badwater, Death Valley NP (DSC_5297) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Badwater, Death Valley NP (DSC_5332) by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190128_112247 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Salt had cemented the walkway at the entrance to Badwater:

Badwater, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 12 - Dante's Peak

And then made our way up to Dante's Peak,  5,476 ft above the floor of Death Valley, with views of Badwater below:

Dante's View, Death Valley NP (DSC_5354) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 13 - 20 Mule Team Canyon

Afterwards, we drove through 20 Mule Team Canyon, a beautiful unpaved road through colorful, eroded badlands.  If this place looks familiar, scenes from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, were filmed here.

20 Mule Team Canyon (DSC_5386) by P Bryan, on Flickr

20 Mule Team Canyon (DSC_5387) by P Bryan, on Flickr

20 Mule Team Canyon by P Bryan, on Flickr

20 Mule Team Canyon by P Bryan, on Flickr

20 Mule Team Canyon by P Bryan, on Flickr

20 Mule Team Canyon by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 14 - Echo Canyon

We next drove part of the way through Echo Canyon, a rough 4WD road.  Since it was late in the day and about to get dark soon, we didn't have time to drive to the end of the canyon road.  While driving to the canyon on a rough 4WD road, we passed a middle aged woman sitting beside her truck with the hood up.  Seems that her battery died.  I made a comment that it was good that we came along, to which she responded that she lived out of her truck and could have stayed there for a month.  Not wanting to pry into her business, I gave her a boost and we went along on our way. 

Exploring Echo Canyon, Death Valley NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190128_162241 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG_20190128_162732 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Rocks at Echo Canyon by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 15 - Zabriskie Point

We ended the day at Zabriskie Point:

Zabriskie Point (DSC_5398) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Zabriskie Point (DSC_5405) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 16 - Long Way Home

After Zabriskie Point, we returned the Jeep to Farabee's and packed out of the campground by Furnace Creek.  We then returned to our campground, with full hookups, in Stovepipe Wells.  The following day, we packed out and drove back to Las Vegas.  On the way to the campground in Las Vegas, we stopped again at Smith's to pick up food for the remainder of our trip and the flight home.  Still needing tissues, we bought a box at Smith's.  Total we spent on tissues: $13.79.  $12 for the first 120, $1.79 for the second 120.

Afterwards, we checked into Sam's Town Campground in Las Vegas.  The campground was unremarkable but located a short distance from El Monte, which made it easy to return our motorhome the following morning.  On the next and final day of our trip, we returned the motorhome early in the morning, took an Uber to the airport, and made our way home.

As usual, we had a great time and really enjoyed the freedom of a motorhome.  Also, as usual, we had our fair amount of issues with the motorhome.  At first we couldn't get the interior outlets to work, until I figured out that the outlet in the bathroom had tripped and needed to be reset (all of these outlets were interconnected).  The shower leaked into the hallway, the kitchen sink leaked if we opened the water too much, and we weren't provided with a sewer end cap, which caused the sewer hose to pop out and leak poo all over (I learned to keep it in place by placing rocks on it to wedge it in).  Nevertheless, it was a learning experience and we wouldn't hesitate to rent another motorhome in the future.

Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed this trip report.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 09:33:46 AM by Something Fishy »
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Online Naftuli19

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2019, 12:53:32 AM »
Wow! Love the detailed TR definitely a dream vacation from me waiting for kids to get a bit older!
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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2019, 12:59:46 AM »
Wow! Love the detailed TR definitely a dream vacation from me waiting for kids to get a bit older!
And stunning pictures!
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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2019, 01:01:29 AM »
Thanks for a very well written TR and great pictures.
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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2019, 08:43:23 AM »
Amazing TR

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2019, 09:24:19 AM »
Incredible as usual!

Thank you!
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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2019, 09:41:22 AM »
Wow... looks like everyone had a blast... super well-written...

Thank you for sharing!!

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2019, 10:40:18 AM »
incredible as usual. and gotta say your kids are really sports!
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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2019, 11:58:04 AM »
Great TR as always

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2019, 10:15:54 PM »
Wow, awesome report!

How much was the Jeep rental?

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2019, 10:16:36 PM »
This picture gives me chills, not sure why.

It's amazing.

20 Mule Team Canyon by P Bryan, on Flickr

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2019, 10:38:36 PM »
Wow, awesome report!

How much was the Jeep rental?

Cost was 250 a day, plus another 25 per day insurance for the windshield and tires.  Since we did bona fide off roading, we decided to splurge for the insurance.

By the way, the Wrangler Rubicon (equipped the way Farabee's did it) was an amazing piece of machinery.  Not only did it excel off road, but highway ride was soft and luxurious.  Off roading was my favorite part of the trip.
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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2019, 12:02:09 AM »
This picture gives me chills, not sure why.

It's amazing.

יציאת מצרים ..

Amazing TR ! Thanks  for sharing

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2019, 12:50:41 AM »
Wow amazing trip report, really beautiful and the Picts are amamzing real talent.

BTW Iím no rav but I doubt your aloud to tell a non Jew to do a Malacha for you, by putting the Cholent back on the flame.

 

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Re: Desert Family Adventures, by PBaruch (January 2019)
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2019, 01:03:38 AM »


BTW Iím no rav but I doubt your aloud to tell a non Jew to do a Malacha for you, by putting the Cholent back on the flame.
lol was waiting for someone to say it, surprised it took this long.

If you don't care why would you comment?
HT: DMYD