Death Valley National Park: Scotty’s Castle, Ubehebe Crater, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

5/22/15 Friday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

Up early and on our way to the Park by 7:30. We took the long route via Hwy 95. We did see wild burros and cattle near Beatty on that road, but it still wasn’t worth the drive. The better way is within the Park (from Pahrump) via Bell Vista/State Line Road, Hwy 190/Scotty’s Castle Road. We returned on that path and it is beautiful, with no commercial traffic allowed, besides being shorter!

Rain was predicted so that’s why we chose to visit Scotty’s Castle this day. Would you believe, it rained as were just getting into the Park! We saw these lovely Angel Trumpet flowers along the road.  Would you believe, the average rainfall in the Valley is 2 inches per YEAR.  Hard to believe we hit a day when some fell.

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At Scotty’s castle we lucked out and got into the next tour, at 10, without making reservations beforehand. Entry into the Park is free with our Senior Pass. The cost of the guided tour is half for each person who has a Senior Pass, so it really paid off to each have our own: $7.50 each with Senior Pass.

Scotty’s Castle. First a little back story. This Spanish style castle was actually built and owned by a multimillionaire couple, Albert and Bessie Johnson. Albert made his first millions in zinc mining (Bessie had a religious radio program), then they found out Albert’s back was broken in 3 places when he was in a train accident. He would die in about 3 months. He quit his stressful job and went into insurance (making more millions and working 80 hour weeks). As for Scotty, he ran away from home at 11, eventually joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild Wild West Show. When he arrived a week late for work in New York, Buffalo Bill fired him. So he proceeded to tell investors (he loved telling stories) that he found a huge gold mine in California, would they invest in him. Albert was among his investors, eventually coming to California to see how his investment was going. No one had received any profit/return from Scotty yet because it was all a lie and he’d spent their money. So when Albert met Scotty, Scotty had arranged for his friends to pretend that they were robbing Albert, to scare him away. Unfortunately for Scotty, the friends ended up shooting Scotty’s brother and Albert figured out what was going on. Fortunately for Scotty, Albert fell in love with the serene beauty of Death Valley and the fun personality of Scotty. Thus began a long and profitable friendship for these two opposite personalities. With Scotty, Albert found joy and adventure. In return Scotty got to regale all visitors with his stories of all the gold below the “castle” that Albert built and was forever financially secure thanks to Albert and Bessie. They called their winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) home Death Valley Ranch, using labor from the local tribe (Timbisha Shoshone) and out-of-work miners (the mines had played out by now). It was built in the early 20’s and didn’t get finished because of the Crash. Everyone called it Scotty’s Castle because that’s how the stories went and Albert was fine with that. After the Depression Albert rented rooms out for income. This place was completely self sufficient, using the abundant natural spring water on the property and huge Edison batteries for power. He also used solar power for his water and had gas trucked in. The railroads closed because the mining had ended so he bought all their railroad ties to burn in his 17 fireplaces. The castle was built of concrete, using sand from the desert and some cement-excellent for insulated walls.

Highlights from our tour:

scotty 1a scotty 2

 Death Valley Ranch written above door

Death Valley Ranch written above door

The clock chimed every 15 minutes.

The clock chimed every 15 minutes.

Grand Room inside door. Fireplace on one side.

Grand Room inside door. Fireplace on one side.

Waterfall over rocks on other side for cooling.

Waterfall over rocks on other side for cooling.

Second waterfall for cooling in sunroom.

Second waterfall for cooling in sunroom.

Sunroom with windows facing south and west.

Sunroom with windows facing south and west.

Scotty's bedroom next to Grand Room.  Cowboy Scotty actually stayed in cabin without power or water.  The hole is his story that he'd put a gun through to fend off gold hunters.

Scotty’s bedroom next to Grand Room. Cowboy Scotty actually stayed in cabin without power or water. The hole is his story that he’d put a gun through to fend off gold hunters.

On the other side of the hole, a bullet splitter that would send bullets both directions to kill thieves.

On the other side of the hole, a bullet splitter that would send bullets both directions to kill thieves.

Dining Room

Dining Room

 Scotty's chair in dining room.  His preference.

Scotty’s chair in dining room. His preference.

Personalized dishes.  DVR for Death Valley Ranch. J for Johnson, S for Scotty

Personalized dishes. DVR for Death Valley Ranch. J for Johnson, S for Scotty

 Scotty loved to cook on this gas stove.

Scotty loved to cook on this gas stove.

 Bessie's bed where she prepared her radio sermons.

Bessie’s bed where she prepared her radio sermons.

Player piano. Cylinders of music kept to right.

Player piano. Cylinders of music kept to right.

Scotty's grave

Scotty’s grave

Not far from the Castle is the Ubehehe (YOU be he be) Crater and Little Ubehebe Crater. This was a Marr Volcano, “created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water. The intense heat flashed the water into steam which expanded until the pressure was released as a tremendous explosion….Cinders from these explosions cover much of the surrounding area.” Walking to Uehebe from the parking lot is a cinch. Walking to Little Uhebehe is not so much. It’s VERY windy there, but we appreciated it’s cooling effect as we walked.

Uhe 1 uhe 2 uhe 3

 Little Ubehebe Crater

Little Ubehebe Crater

Scenes on our way to the sand dunes.

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

sand 1 sand 2

Scenes on our way home.

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That was a big day. We were so grateful for the cool, rainy weather, although it didn’t help with photos. You can’t have everything!

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About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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