Up nice & early for the 450 mile drive to Kernville to go camping & riding for the weekend. On the road shortly after seven & soon I was in Arizona & it was back to half past six. Rather than go as far as I could on the I-15 & through Las Vegas again, I decided to skirt around LV & then head west so I could go through my third National Park in as many days - Death Valley. It added only twenty or so miles to my trip, but the roads were slower than the interstate. Pulled in to another small town, Beatty (pronouced Bate-ie by the only person I heard say the word) & it was getting hot at 9.30 & I was tired from the big day before & driving too much. Had a nice nap in the car waiting for the town museum to open at 10 - only to find that it was temporarily closed.
Into Death Valley & I took a small side road up to Rhyolite - a dead set ghost town. It was a big mine town in the 1900s (peaked at 10000 people), but funding for mine expansion dried up near the end of the decade & now the town looks like this:
This is one of the best preserved bottle houses in the world.
A few hundred yards down the road there was quite a few outdoor sculptures - this of course was my favourite:
It was back on the road to head in to Death Valley - the lowest, hottest & driest place in North America (curiously, it is only just over 100 km from Mt Whitney - the highest place in the continental States). The roads were a lot of this:
But over those hills, I descended to look out at the low spot:
Naturally, it was getting quite hot (about 110) & I eventually made it down to sea level, before starting another big climb over another pass (the poor Dodge has done a fair bit of climbing over the last week - & more to come).
Once out of Death Valley & climbing another pass, I passed veritable forest of Joshua Trees - strange looking things, they were everywhere.
I made it to Kernville, the camping rendezvous, about two & a half hours early - lounged around on the village green (found free Wi-Fi), went to the local museum & so on. Irmina & Bill turned up, it was off over the road to another microbrewery for good food & beer & get to know each other a bit. We pushed off for the campsite at about eight. Apparently, we were trying to get to pitch tents before night fall - that turned out to be a bit hopeful. As I followed the others in the Dodge, it became apparent that it was forty miles away & a few more thousand feet of climbing on windy, gravel roads. I watched with increasing nervousness as the fuel gauge dropped, the light came on & the needle continued its plunge. Night fell & we twisted around more & more turns as we climbed to the stars. It was much relief that we pulled in to a vacant campsite (who else would drive this far?). As we pitched tents, I was surprised as to how cold it was (it dropped to about 40 that night ~ 5 Celsius) & it was great that I had brought my Fairydown sleeping bag all the way to the middle of nowhere in the Californian summer. The stars were out in full force - easily the best I have seen in the northern hemisphere - & I went to sleep listening to the stream running down to Big Meadow.