We were warned by the morning news: a storm on its way. Cold front descending, rain, snow, high winds. We packed a few extra warm things, hooked the trailer onto the truck and headed out to our ultimate destination of Death Valley for the Annual 49er Encampment at Furnace Creek. But first, a few fun camp spots along the way, some new to us.
TECOPA HOT SPRINGS
TECOPA HOT SPRINGS
Except for a few drops, we hit no rain, snow or winds. Our first stop was the traditional visit to Alien Jerky in Baker. Here we could load up on dried fruit and various UFO souvenirs. Turning off 15 onto Highway 197 under a clearing sky we headed for Tecopa Hot Springs. We hooked up at the County Hot Springs Campground, complete with hot tubs. Once caveat: they don’t allow swim suits.
Well, it’s not as kinky as it sounds. There are separate tubs for men and women – the roofless cold pools and the covered hot pools. There is a separate private hot pool for rent ($10/hr) for private bathing, couples ok. Big sign: no alcoholic beverages, no sexual activity. Yea, right!
One of the exciting events at the 49er encampment, where we planned to be in a few days, is the arrival of the wagon train. Surprise! They were camping at Tecopa at the same place we were.
A little disappointing though. We always thought these hardy souls toughed it across the desert from Utah in the same way the pioneers did in the 1800s. But many of the wagons were on flatbeds or pulled by trucks. Their wheels were rubber, not wood. But they were roughing it all the same – the horses and mules grazing in camp, tethered to a stake.
In a few days they will arrive at Furnace Creek, greeted by a cheering crowd. At that time the gals will dress in gingham dresses and bonnets with cowboy gear for the men.
Below is a photo of the arrival of one of the covered wagons at last year’s 49er Encampment:
Tecopa was once the largest native American settlement in the region because of its natural hot springs, abundant wildlife and fertile wetlands. It is near a series of trading routes later known as The Old Spanish Trail. In 1908, spurred by the mining boom, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad built the Tecopa Station.
Here we stopped at various small lakes and sewage ponds, magnets to migratory birds. Below is Grimshaw Lake where we watched the ducks, a great blue heron and a shoveler.
Just a few miles from Tecopa Hot Springs on the Old Spanish Trail Highway, Furnace Creek Road leads to China Ranch, a family-owned date ranch. The unpaved road is not too rough.
Walking around the area you can revel in the geology, botany, birds and history of early man in the environs. You’ll know when you are near the gift shop because the aroma of baking date muffins fills the air. Hand crafted gifts are for sale as are freshly picked dates of several varieties. Nearby the Amargosa River meanders.
This historic spot boasts celebrity guests:
The original date delivery truck. Could we call it a woody?
The area is open for exploration and hiking. We watched flocks of quail scurrying about. Below is the owners’ cottage.
The dates are treated with tender loving care. It looks like they are dressed up in their Sunday best.
A thriving little town, Shoshone is tourist friendly with a free museum, a craft sale, restrooms, a market/gift shop, and a small RV park/campground. It is known as the southern gateway to Death Valley.
The first thing we noticed was the price of gas: $5.25/gallon. Mostly the bikers were filling up. Nearby in the town of Pahrump the price was $3.30/gallon.
Caves such as the ones pictured above are plentiful in the Shoshone area. Dug in the soft hills of the washes in the area, they were used as housing for miners and vagabonds from the early 1900s through the 1960s.
Not much in the town of Shoshone. This saloon anchors the main street.
The Shoshone Museum has a wide selection of books on the area, and a particularly interesting and extensive exhibit about the women pioneers of the area.
Below is a geological oddity just out of Shoshone right on the highway. This obsidian layer tells a story.
After the small dusty towns of Tecopa and Shoshone, Pahrump (accent is on the rump) is quite the surprise. It is a little Las Vegas with an obvious lack of a sign ordinance. The predominant industries seem to be RV parks and casinos, as the town is in Nye County where gambling and prostition are legal.
We are camped in a Terrible place, Terrible Herbst that is. Hard to believe we are in the desert. The RV park is covered with manicured grass and hugs a man-made lake and lagoon.
The lake is stocked and dozens of ducks waddle around, qwacking all the while in a tone that is demanding a handout.
There is an ampitheater, a pool and spa. Adjacent to the RV park is a Terrible casino – in addition to the Terrible Casino in town. Last night it rained and our camp chairs were covered with ice. The storm has passed leaving very cold temperatures and a sky as big and blue as a tropical ocean. It is crisp but beautiful.