We left Grand Canyon and drove south through Williams, AZ, then west on I-40 to Laughlin, NV, where we stayed at Avi Casino RV Park. The RV park is operated by KOA, but it recognizes Good Sam and AAA discounts. The roads in the campground are paved, but the sites are all gravel. There are full hookups with 30/50 amp electric and free Wi-Fi. The campground is pretty far from the casino, and it's pretty quiet.
The sites, which are mostly pull-throughs, are fairly narrow, but they're very long. In addition to the sites being narrow, they also have side-by-side hookups. Fortunately, the hookups aren't shared, but they are close together. It's hard to walk behind the rig to dump or to get things out of the storage bays without tripping on your own and your neighbor's hoses and wires, especially since our slides are on that side.
It looked like about two thirds of the campground was closed (maybe they just use that part for rallies), and the rest was less than 20% filled. Unfortunately, instead of putting the RVs on every other site to give everyone a little more room when the campground isn't full, they tended to put RVs together in clumps of two or three.
We stayed two nights because we needed to make a Walmart stop. We had just left the Grand Canyon, which obviously doesn't have a Walmart, and we were heading to Beatty, NV, to visit Death Valley; and there's no Walmart anywhere near Beatty either.
After our Walmart stop, we relaxed the rest of the day then took off the next morning for Beatty, NV. Our home base for the next week would be Beatty RV Park. Beatty RV is a relatively small RV park that is all somewhat dusty gravel. Most sites are pull-throughs. Some sites have 30 amp electric and some have 30/50 amp, all have full hookups, and there is free Wi-Fi. The sites are a little narrow, and they are also a little short. The sites in the front row are a little longer, but we would
have had to work at being able to
reach the utilities without blocking the road if we had only been making an overnight stop and had wanted to leave our toad
attached. Fortunately for us, the campground wasn't very full when we arrived, so it didn't seem too crowded even though the sites are a little small.
It did get a little more crowded later in the week. There were a number of RVs that came and went with one-night stops, and there were several additional RVs that came in for the Memorial Day weekend. As we said, the sites in the front row seemed to be a little longer than those in the back, so they seemed to concentrate everyone in the front row where we were.
The managers at Beatty RV are super-friendly. Unfortunately, the campground is very close to U. S. Highway 95, which is the main route between Las Vegas and Reno. Although traffic dies down somewhat at night, the speed limit is 70 mph, and there are a LOT of trucks that travel that road. The trucks are really loud when they rumble by, especially at night. Although you do eventually get used to it, light sleepers might be more bothered by it.
Beatty, NV, calls itself the gateway to Death Valley National Park. It's one of the closest towns to any of the several entrances to the park. Also, at an altitude of a little over 3,000 feet, it tends to run 20 degrees cooler than Death Valley, which usually has highs around 95 during May when we were there, and 120+ degrees in summer. Death Valley is the warmest place in North America.
Unfortunately, on our first full day there, it was mostly cloudy. It rains less than two inches a year in Death Valley. The mountains stop almost all the rain and most of the clouds, but we happened to hit one of the few cloudy days.
We were anxious to see Death Valley, so even with the clouds we decided to drive into the park mostly to reconnoiter. We went to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and saw an excellent slide presentation on Death Valley. We got maps and the Death Valley Visitor Guide so we could decide what we wanted to do.
We also toured the small museum in the visitor center. Much of the history of Death Valley is linked to mining. Death Valley got its name in 1849 from prospectors crossing it to get to the gold fields in California. In spite of its name, there was only one recorded death there during the Gold rush. In the 1850s, gold and silver were mined in Death Valley.
In the 1880s, borax was discovered in Death Valley. Borax refers to several similar chemical compounds that are sodium borate salts. Borax is used primarily as a welding flux, in glass making, and in detergents. Remember Boraxo hand cleaner? 20 Mule Team Borax? Ronald Reagan hosting the TV program "Death Valley Days?"
By the time we finished at the visitor center, the sky started to clear a bit, although there were some clouds right overhead. We stopped at old Harmony Borax Works, which is located right near the visitor center.
Harmony was the first borax operation in Death Valley and operated from 1883 to 1888. The borax was hauled by the famous 20 mule teams. The wagon unit consisted of two custom-made borax wagons and a third wagon that contained 4,200 gallons of drinking water. The loaded wagons weighed 72,000 lbs. and the whole rig including the mules was about 100 feet long.
Because of the remote location of Death Valley, the borax had to be hauled 165 miles to the rail head in Mohave, California. Therefore, the borax was refined in Death Valley rather than hauling rock and waste all that distance.
The boiler (with smokestack) was used to make steam to heat water. The ore was dumped into hot water along with other additives. The borax dissolved, and the mud and lime settled out. The hot liquid was drained into cooling tanks, and the borax crystallized onto metal rods. The crystals were chipped off the rods, and the process was repeated to further refine the borax. The problem is borax will not crystallize at temperatures above 120 degrees, so operations had to be suspended in summer.
Also in the vicinity of the visitor center is Furnace Creek Resort, which includes a ranch, a golf course, a couple of restaurants, a general store. There is also a free museum that has mining equipment from in and around Death Valley, and logging equipment from the surrounding mountains. Part of the museum is indoors in the oldest remaining building in the valley. It was built in 1883 and was used for a bunkhouse, an office and a checking station. It was moved to its present site as a museum in 1954.
Outside, large equipment like this ore crusher was on display.
The carts in the next photo were used to transport timber. The one on the left has wheels made from solid sections of logs. From the width of the wheels you can see they were designed to carry heavy loads over soft ground.
Even with some clouds overhead and haze in the air from dust being kicked up by the winds, we were still impressed by the varied colors of the rocks and hills in Death Valley.
On our way back to the motor home, we stopped in town at Beatty Mercantile for some lunch meat. There aren't many places to eat in Death Valley, so we'll be packing our lunch for the next few days. The market is also a hardware, so you can buy your groceries and a cooler to put them in at the same time.
Back at the campground, we studied our maps, and we relaxed for the evening. The clouds to the west over Death Valley started to thin out and they made for a colorful sunset.
As we said, we're planning to go back to do some more exploring in Death Valley, so look for our next post.