We got up at 7:20 and had scrambled eggs (carefully carried in!) with the leftovers from the previous night’s meal. I tried to put my contacts in but it was way too dusty — it’d be glasses for me for the whole trip.
Our first destination was Scotty’s Castle. probably the most tourist-friendly spot in Death Valley. It’s a big mansion in the middle of the desert built by some wealthy prospectors in the early 20th century and named after Death Valley Scotty, a notorious dirt-poor layabout who endeared himself to the wealthy with his outlandish tales.
The castle itself was actually pretty boring (though picturesque), although we did see a bunch of lizards and some huge dragonflies. The best moment was when we were at Scotty’s grave, reading the inscription on the monument (“I got four things to live by…”). This funny Asian tourist dude was walking amongst his friends, constantly saying “I have four advice for you!” with a huge grin on his face. Hmm… I guess it was more amusing in the moment.
That was our last bit of real civilization for a while. On the flip side, Ubehebe Crater was an exhibition in pure natural power. About 3000 years ago (only!), rising magma met a large underground body of water. The water instantly turned to steam and expanded, and the resulting explosion — as strong as that of a nuclear bomb — created a crater 500 feet deep and half a mile wide. That’s hardcore. The thing is enormous. It’s difficult to appreciate the size of the crater from these pictures; check out the tiny people on the trail in the bottom right of the first picture, and in the center of the second one. A little way away we found some clay flats that were remarkably smooth and silky. The whole surrounding area was littered with other, smaller craters, caused by explosions or falling debris from Ubehebe. The last picture is of Little Hebe, one such crater.
A narrow canyon with high walls, the floor of which (our “trail”) used to be a road. We ended up running back down the canyon after hiking up it. My attempt to simultaneously (a) cool off while running and (b) make all the cute girls on the trail swoon by taking off my shirt failed miserably, and what’s worse, my neck ended up all chafed from running with my backpack, haha.
That Night’s Campsite
We had some great views driving through the length of the valley, and ended up stopping in the south end, 50 miles from our previous campsite, and parked a couple of miles down a dirt road before striking out across the desert floor. We set up camp near a dried up streambed (the thing I’m standing in). Our dinner: mozzarella, tomato, and pesto sandwiches, and canned soup. That marked the end of our fresh food. We were asleep by 9:30.