Well rocks seem to be the theme of the trip recently. Our drive from Vegas ran up a steady incline by Red Rock Canyon, Spring Mountain, etc. As we approached Death Valley, the mountains continued on both sides and grass was rare.
In Death Valley, we stopped at Badwater, the location of the lowest elevation in the U.S. (282 feet below sea level) We drove Artists Drive, an area where the rock colors vary dramatically, although noon sun light is not the preferred lighting to show off the colors. We had our PBJ sandwiches for lunch in the shade at the Visitors Center (103 degrees at this time.)
Chris and I had seen Death Valley previously, about 3 years ago during the month of January. We knew that we would only view a few places in Death Valley and then keep moving on to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range where we would spend 3 nights. Thus, the drive from the middle of Death Valley over to the eastern border was new to us-and a complete surprise.
We thought this drive would be mainly flat, a continuation of the desert floor. Instead in the space of about 15 miles we went from 280 feet below sea level to 5000 feet in elevation, back down to about 700 feet above sea level, up to just under 5000 feet in elevation and back down to about 3000 feet. This route is rated as a scenic drive, no doubt due not only to the fantastic views of mountains and valleys, but also because of the curvy road. What fun driving can be!! Pull outs are rare so pictures again are frequently windshield shots.
The road sign advises one to turn off their air conditioning to avoid having your car overheat. We complied, our Saturn worked well and had no difficulties but why take chances?
As we came over the last mountain of the East Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas are directly in front of you. Both ranges have numerous peaks in the 13,000 to 14,000 foot elevation and the valley in between seems hemmed in due to their heights. One of the lakes we passed, Owen Lake is basically a sand pile as the City of Los Angeles years ago bought the land around it and diverts the water from the Owen River via aqueducts to LA for its citizens.
The Sierra Nevada range is impressive as it rises steeply in front of you. Our hotel in Independence CA is right in front of Mount Williamson and Mount Whitney is just a short distance away. The mountains are snow capped right now and two of the places we were considering visiting are not open. The East Mountains get very little rainfall as the Sierras create a rain block and suck up the moisture before it gets to the East Mountains.
Dinner was at Jennys Cafe, a local, home cooking type of place in this town of about 600 souls. Food was very good with hefty quantities. The piece of strawberry rhubarb pie is still in the room fridge, to be eaten shortly.
Ed May 10 10 pm