The road to Las Vegas was in stark contrast to the beauty of the lush valley of Yosemite, long straight stretches of nothingness, dry valleys and rocky hills. But it had its own beauty and surprises.
We overnighted in Lone Pine, after a long drive over the Tioga Pass from Yosemite, and as far as I was concerned, it was a stopping point for the night rather than a destination of interest. However, my son, always on the lookout for things to see and do, consulted my favourite friend TripAdvisor and discovered that the Alabama Hills were the number one thing to see in Lone Pine. It meant nothing to me, but he wanted a drive out before dinner, so off we went. He was so right to get us off on the added adventure – the rock formations are very different and unusual, and well worth the ten-minute drive from our hotel to reach this area. Apparently many western movies and TV series were filmed here, including the Lone Ranger, Bonanza and Hopalong Cassidy among others. It is particularly famous the for Mobius Arch, an easy walk from the parking lot at the end of the dusty road.
From here we also sighted Mt Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous USA, and the following morning my son and husband rose early (again) to catch the sunrise on this mountain range. So far, we had spied two Apple Mac OS wallpapers in Yosemite and Mt Whitney (Sierra)
Since we had woken for the sunrise we decided on an early start after breakfast for our push to Las Vegas via Death Valley. We knew it was going to be a long and hot day with plenty to see. The roads were long and straight with surprise vistas or sights. There was a runner coming down the road towards us at one point, and a coyote to avoid at another…
We wound our way down hills and gullies until finally reaching Furnace Creek, where we hoped to find somewhere for a cold drink and a snack. However, this was not a place set up for casual tourists – there was a buffet breakfast restaurant and a store selling cold drinks in the cabinet, but no other options. It was a bit of a disappointment and meant that we continued on our way somewhat depleted.
We took a detour to the lowest point in the USA, (only 136km away from Mt Whitney, the highest) – Badwater Basin sits 86m below sea level (the Dead Sea lies 423m below sea level as a comparison) and was an amazing place to be. The temperature when we arrived mid-morning had already reached 46°C (115F) and was not pleasant to be out for too long in. We took photos and wandered out into the salt flat for about 5 minutes before deciding enough was enough and scuttling back to the safety of our air-conditioned car. Driving back to Hwy 190 we detoured along the road to see the Artist’s Palette, coloured rocks in the desert landscape. However, we learned by experience that you don’t stop at every place people are getting out of their cars and clamber up hills in the heat to get a disappointing view – you wait for the actual proper place and get the best views.
We stopped at Zabriskie Point to get an amazing view of the desolate dry scenery of Death Valley.
Now we were ready for the push through to lunch…. our next chance was at Pahrump. Google Maps showed us a 5-star option called The Hubb as we drove into Pahrump. I guess if you live in a place like this, and are into the bar scene it may be worth 5 stars compared to what else is available, but I’d give it around 3 on our experience… the food was adequate, nothing special and as it was primarily a bar, there was little choice of non-alcoholic drinks so we asked for water – and were charged for 4 bottles of water. Lesson learned, to pack lunch or snacks for longer remote road trips so as not to be so desperate.
Onwards we pushed towards Las Vegas, via the Strip just to get a feel for the town and the sights and out to Lake Las Vegas where we stayed at the Westin. This was a bit of luxury between National Park cabins and out ot the way motels, and it was nice to have spacious rooms and a few extra amenities to enjoy for a night, in preparation for the onwards journey to the Grand Canyon North Rim.