There are stops to make on our way out of Death Valley and the first is Zabrinski Point, with its waves of rolling, layered rock in different hues. The landscapes out here are so unique.
Death Valley is not “nice.” That is definitely not an adjective for this place. “Sublime” however, is. So is “otherworldly.”
Groups of leather-wearing, Harley-riding Danes and Germans are on tour. This must be great fun. On the road, playing Easy Rider. Heh heh.
20 Mule Team Canyon is a narrow winding dirt road through a narrow canyon of roundy-moundy beige hills. It is dry, without any visible vegetation. It’s Hell, again!
We pass the ever-present cyclists on the super steep climb to Dante’s Peak. Ugh, thinks Big Dog, at the prospect of cycling up the steep incline, but it’s not as bad as he thinks. They turn out to be part of a tour with a support car carrying water (and probably food.) Still, the last quarter mile or so is a 15% grade, so it is not for the weak. Even Sprockets has to work!
It’s Wildflower City up at this elevation. Just a few hundred feet increase in elevation and suddenly the flowers appear. Purple, orange, white, red, lavender. Mesquite and other shrubs have flowers, as do strange cyclamen-leafed things with spindly flowers.
From the Peak you can see the entire basin. It must be so impressive on a clear day because even on a hazy one like today, it’s quite a spectacle.
On our way out of Death Valley, we see some streams with rushing water. It’s not as dry as you might think out here!
We go north, through desert and a tiny town. At the junction where we turn east, there is a casino, brothel, gas station and store. Everything you need, right?
We don’t want to drive through Vegas, so we skirt it on the north end, getting gas and then a Subway sandwich in a shopping center. It looks like a dicier (more dangerous?) area of Las Vegas. Or maybe it’s just like Lancaster. There is so much development, so much housing, so many shopping centers and strip malls in what was until recently only desert. This is also Foreclosure Capital, and like Big Dog says, when the water runs out, it’ll be part of one enormous ghost town.
We’re heading to Lake Mead, but a bit concerned about available camping because it’s also Easter Weekend. Up I-15, then off through the Moapa Valley which has some nice little communities. As we approach Lake Mead, we start seeing a few boondockers. Alright! No problem staying SOMEWHERE tonight.
Lake Mead is a desert lake created after 1933 by Hoover Dam. There are ghostly yellow mesa formations jutting out of the water. I love the desolation but unfortunately the lake culture here is not to groove on the silent desolation but to strangle it with the roar of power boats, drink beer, bake in the sun and flash tits.
We wind up at Echo Bay, the first open campground. It’s not quite on the water but we find a little cove to bathe in, surprised by how icy the water is.
The campground is quite nice (only $5 with the Pass!) and is landscaped with oleander trees for privacy between each site. Each space has a table and benches and there is a bathroom nearby with running water. It’s time for the camp grill to come out! Dinner tonight is grilled chicken and yellow squash and some cannelini beans.
At night, we meet a family of campers in the bathroom. Dad and the Kids are examining a stick bug on the wall, while Mom is in the bathroom with more kids. She looks South Asian. With 5 kids and probably more coming, they are a one couple population bomb.