Page 2 - Six days in Death Valley and surrounding areas
April 21 - 26, 2003 

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On our fourth day, we took another 5 mile off-road trip to visit the Keane Wonder mine which was discovered in 1903.  This is an interesting gold and silver mine in that it had a tram where loaded ore buckets from the mineshaft coming down the mountain would pull the empty ones back up.  There are pieces of silver-laden ore laying around.
Rhyolite is a ghost town in Nevada about 30 miles from the mine.  It is just another ghost town but across from it was a weird outdoor museum with these statues of the Last Supper.  The artist molded sheets around live people to make these "things."  Betty couldn't resist getting inside one of them.

After driving through Titus Canyon, I'd describe it as a one-way one-lane 27-mile 4-wheel drive test road.  Once you are on it you can't turn around and you'd better hope that it doesn't rain - or you might get stuck in the mud, slide off the mountain, or washed out the canyon!  It's quite spectacular, but the driver better pay attention to driving and let the passengers do the "oohing" and "ahhing."
Well Ray had enough off-road driving so we took to the freeway to Pahrump, Nevada.  Wheeler Pass is about 15 miles North East up a straight-line gravel road from Highway 160.  We found a spur road and camped overnight.  Hardly any wind, nobody around, and a beautiful area after seeing nothing but rocks and Creosote bushes in the desert.  Lots of Joshua trees with snow-covered Mummy mountain in the distance.  When we left it was a breezy 37 degrees.  As we drove down the road we noticed they'd posted signs that they were having a road race there that day.  We got out just in time!
As much as Ray was tired of 4-wheeling, he couldn't resist driving to see Saratoga Springs as we passed through the edge of Death Valley again.  The book said it was only 5 miles and was a beautiful oasis with lots of wildlife.  Well it turned it was more like 10 miles over more washboard and it wasn't nearly as spectacular as described.
We've all heard of a mirage.  Here's a photo of a nice lake in the desert - which vanished as we approached it.  It looked so real that Betty said "See the boat moving across." ... and Ray agreed.
With the dog deal up in the air, the terrible off-road roads, and the wind, we were told by the ranger to visit Granite Mountain and find a nice private spot back among the pines and boulders.  This was a perfect spot.  With  a light breeze, we pitched out tent between this boulder that would provide a nice wind break ... just in case.
For dinner, we had pasta with clam sauce.  As a Piece-de-resistance, Betty made us this chocolate cheesecake decadence.  She's such a good cook.

We watched the sun set over the hills then crawled into our sleeping bags around 8:30 pm as it got dark.  Gradually the winds started.  Surprisingly, they glided over the boulders and through the crevices; gusting from all directions.

By 9 pm the tent was shaking violently and it continued all night.  Based on the measured wind we get at home, I'm sure the winds were over 30 and gusted to 40 mph.  During the night, I had to get up several time to retie down the tent.  I didn't really get any sleep but Betty got some.  By 6 am it was light enough to pull up stakes, pack the truck and get out of there!  It was windy all over the desert.

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