Death Valley National Park and Mono Lake, California
The imminent conclusion of my trip happened to coincide with Marie’s birthday, and she decided it might be fun to celebrate by spending the weekend in Death Valley National Park, which for me also had the appealing symmetry of being the first place I visited at the start of my trip. I picked Marie up at the Las Vegas airport on Friday afternoon and before the sun dropped behind the Panamint Range we were tipping back a cold drink in our heavily air conditioned room at the Furnace Creek Ranch.
I woke up early for sunrise photos at Zabriskie Point, where even in the still-dark predawn a perplexingly perky crowd of Germans, French and Japanese had already gathered. Thanks to our downtrodden dollar the United States has become a relatively cheap destination for international tourists, and Europeans far outnumbered Americans at all the parks I’d visited over the past couple of weeks.
Later that day Marie and I checked out Badwater Basin and then hiked out to the Mesquite sand dunes to watch the sunset
The next morning we made a quick run to Zabriskie Point before leaving Death Valley. We rolled into Lee Vining, where we planned to spend the night, early enough to fit in a visit to Bodie State Historic Park and still make it back to Mono Lake before sunset. Bodie, a small mining camp that became a gold rush boomtown in the 1870s, is now an extremely well-preserved ghost town. (Like any true child of 1970s television, I considered the possibility that an old prospector might try to lock us in a jail cell, and, if necessary, I was prepared to tie our belts together to create a rope long enough to reach the key.)
I returned to Mono Lake for early morning photos, but the perfectly clear sky made for bland conditions. Marie and I left Lee Vining later that day and drove through Yosemite National Park on our way back to the Bay Area – with, of course, a lunch stop at In-N-Out.