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Death Valley National Park   


Getting There: Las Vegas, Nevada’s large commercial airport is serviced by all major airlines and rent-a-cars (see this magazine’s Airlines and Autos pages for toll-free phone numbers and Web links). Furnace Creek has a 3,000 feet long airport for private craft (call the flight service station, l-800-992-7433). Driving time from Las Vegas is two and a half hours. Green Tortoise Tours offers tours to Death Valley.

Staying There:
Panamint Springs Resort, 702-482-7680. There is a small motel of l4 units, a trailer park ($l5 a day) and a campground ($8 per day) with coveted shade trees.
Stovepipe Wells Village, 760-786-2387. 1-2 persons $53-76, $10 per extra person.

Scotty’s Castle: No lodging here but nearby is the Mesquite Springs campground (no trailers, tents only), l-800-365-camp.
Furnace Creek Ranch: 760-786-2345, 1-2 persons $85-125, extra person $14. Amfac-owned, it has modern motel-type lodging and some older cabins set in the date palm trees.
Furnace Creek Inn: Those who have the budget to splurge by all means stay at this exotic mission-style resort hotel, (6l9-786-2345). Closed May l0 through October 21, the inn has sheltering palms, terraced lawns, lovely pools and a lighted tennis court. This elegant, old-time inn was built in l927. Reservations are a must. 1-2 persons, $215-295, extra person $14, kids under five stay free.
National Park Campgrounds: The park service operates three campgrounds surrounding Furnace Creek. Reservations can be made up to 56 days in advance (l-800-365-camp).

Death Valley Vicinity Map  (Courtesy: www.areaparks.com/deathvalley)

Restaurants are available in Furnace Creek, Stovepipe and Panamint; stores are available in these locations also. Generally, when camping, bring your own food, though perishable staples are available in Stovepipe and Furnace Creek.

Oher Recommended Tours and Sites:

Titus Canyon (closed in the summer), 27 miles NE of Stovepipe;
Rhyolite, ghost town, 37 miles NE of Furnace (nearly 6,000 people lived in this once thriving town);
Eureka Sand Dunes, the highest dunes in California, 43 miles from Scotty’s Castle;
Charcoal Kilns, 39 miles south of Stovepipe, these immense structures look like remnants from an ancient civilization;
Devil’s Cornfield and Devil’s Golf Course.
Wildflower viewing: During wet cycle years, the late winter and spring wildflower displays in Death Valley are something to behold. Call the National Park Service 619-786-2331 for information.
Amargosa Opera House: The ageless Marta Becket still performs at the Amargosa Opera House (760-852-4441) located on road l27 at Death Valley Junction. This gifted painter and dancer gives performances of ballet and pantomime, featuring many costume changes. I first saw her in l990. She has been featured in National Geographic and other publications. Her performance is a welcome cultural addition to the Death Valley naturalist adventure experience. Call for her performance schedule.

Death Valley DOs and DON'Ts:
Death Valley is a land of extremes. If not properly prepared, one tempts fate, and fate is not always kind. When driving, hiking, and camping carry plenty of water, sunscreen and extra food. If you have a vehicle breakdown, a cell phone comes in handy to call for help. Unless close to habitation, stay with the vehicle until someone comes along. It would be wise to carry a portable shade canopy in one’s trunk, along with enough supplies to last a night or two. Better yet, travel in tandem with another vehicle. A solo trek in the hot desert without proper supplies could result in dehydration and sunstroke. When walking, take plenty of water, energy snacks and apply ample amounts of sunscreen, as the dunes reflect light like snow. Tidy and secure your camp or the night critters will feast at your expense. Set your tent on higher ground if possible. (A cloudburst once flooded me while camped in a depression). If you encounter a sand storm, hole up in your vehicle or a well-staked tent.

Recommended Reading and Guidebooks:
The Explorer’s Guide to Death Valley by T. Scott Bryan and Betty Tucker-Bryan
Backpacking Death Valley by Chuck Gebhardt and Tom Willis
Inside Death Valley by Chuck Gebhardt
Adventuring in the California Desert by Lynne Foster (Sierra Club Books)
California Desert Byways by Tony Huegal (Post Company).

Useful Web Links and Phone Numbers:
Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, 760-852-4524
National Park Campgrounds, 800-365-2267.
Death Valley National Park: official US Parks Service site
Death Valley History: Description and history
Death Valley Area Parks.com: useful information and links

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