When we had to queue up for freshly baked bagels and freshly brewed coffee early next morning, we realized that we were not at all alone to start the day early in Vegas. Casino floors were still “pinging” signposting early morning gain or loss for either early gamblers or late ones who forgot all about the time, or sleep. Vegas is always buzzing whether its day or night. We already had evening and night planned out for Vegas excursions. And hence, given the proximity, we decided to visit death valley for a day.
Encounter of the third kind
Approximately two hour’s drive, as crow flies, from Vegas, road to death valley is as barren as it could be. “As crow flies” is as appropriate analogy as possible, given the fact that you could only observe ravens either picking away the skeletal remains of long dead road-kill or flying about around road in hope of fresh road-kill in the name of animal activity. Hot air rising above the hot tarmac late morning was giving much needed curves to otherwise long stretches of ram-rod straight drive. At one point, we passed correctional facility, only structure in vast barren land, with road sign warning against any hitchhikers. How appropriate location. Any escape would only result in more hellish landscape traversal on foot without any big town in sight. And if somehow escapee managed to reach Vegas then what could be more punishable then sacrificing your money (and will) at the altar of sin city and getting back to safe provisions of correctional facility. We stopped briefly at store themed on alien invasion that was selling nice novelties with big eyed green alien made famous by 80’s and 90’s nostalgic pop-culture as main attraction. Again, somehow store seemed fitting to the surrounding. Landscape around was equally bizarre and fitting for such fantasies. And considering the fact where we headed to, it was just the start.
We took US-95 N from Vegas to enter Death valley as we wanted to stop at Rhyolite ghost town before Death valley. It’s 10 minutes drive before Death valley national park. During gold rush boom, this town sprang up to support miners. And then abandoned. A classic story of making fortune and losing it, not far away from its modern incarnation. A deserted gravel road passing between half-erected and decaying structures definitely had ghostly chill to it. Some of the “ghost art” set up amidst backdrop of this spectral town devoid of any human presence were nice photographic touch. If not town then weather was sure to maintain chill factor in the air. As if our complained fell to ears of invisible spirits, air was started to warming up and by the time we entered Death valley, mercury had just settled down on most pleasing 70-75 F.
Death (“valley”) has many faces
Death valley is strange natural phenomena. Death valley national park sports so many utterly distinctive natural formations and lookout sites that each point seems cocooned into its own separate alien dimension, carrying with it, its own natural conditional pre-requisites. For example the first point we visited was large section of basin filled with desert like sand dunes surrounded by rock mountains. It was so bizarre and beautiful at the same time that it was used as backdrop of alien planet in one of the Star wars movie. Otherwise empty, due to brilliantly temperate condition, huge span of sandy dunes were dotted with colorful roaming dots of people anywhere your vision can permit to see.
Budgeting mind calculates: With 7-day validity, $30 per vehicle is nice price for Death valley national park given the fact that you have few more days planned for death valley. For us, it was expensive as there is no other option less than that for 1-day visit.
Quick tour to visitor center that resulted in bit of hassle for parking spot gave us warning what we should expect later. There were many spots to visit in death valley and we had planned quite a few before we head back to Las Vegas. But as the sun proceeded to its ascending arc in the sky, higher went the number of vehicles and visitors on otherwise empty roads. Brilliantly monolithic natural formations, made of rough but carefully considerate obsidian rock, had passed us on our way to much popular Badwater basin. We wanted to stop but had to curb our curiosity seeing increasing number of vehicles going towards Badwater basin. We also had to skip the sign that reads “Scenic drive” that takes you through geological rainbow formations via 9-mile one way drive in loop. When we reached Badwater basin, our fear was realized in shape of long bumper to bumper queue to get parking spot. We waited for almost 1.5-2 hours. Badwater basin is like a dent in the earths crust as if skin of earth has puncture wound that had been scratched time and again to not allow to heal. 85.5 meters low from sea level, it had been crusted with thick layers of salt due to high temperature conditions. Huge stretch of white salt track was muddied due to high frequency of visitors and we had to walk considerably deep into the basin to get the true feel of salt grounds. By the time we done with Badwater basin, sun had started its decent. And we did want to reserve our energy for Vegas. Admiring the beautifully sparkled rock faces in vanishing sunlight, we exited Death valley national park towards Vegas.
Light, camera, action
Vegas evening on Christmas was all glitz and sparkle. Since the last time we were in Vegas, we had our taste buds singed with lip-smacking burgers of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant. We had to do it again. So we got our fill of burger again in Gordon Ramsey’s burger. Later we had tried our luck on roulette till late. Beautifully illuminated light and décor provided ample opportunities to get our cameras out wherever we roamed. Next day was more relaxing as we had not planned anything special. It was more of Vegas.
Date of Visit: 25-Dec-2021