We woke up this morning to a chilly 19 degrees outside. We’re at 2,800 feet along the access road to Desert National Wildlife Range. We left the catalytic heater on low overnight, so it stayed a toasty 40 degrees in the RV:
Continuing west, we filled up at Lathrop Wells, passing Area 51 along the way. Trish and the kids peeked into the alien-themed gas station store:
Driving south from Lathrop Wells, we topped off our propane at a lonely C-store and then turned off onto a gravel road that brought us to the visitor center for Ash Meadows Wildlife Reserve. The reserve contains 26 endemic species, the largest concentration of endemic species in the US. Among them is the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, the world’s rarest fish, with only 50 individuals in existence as of 2013.
The reserve was created after area farming drove two species of Pupfish to extinction due to irrigation pumps lowering the water table:
Unlike Desert NWR’s visitor center, this facility is actually open during its posted hours of operation. The visitor center is brand new:
So new, in fact, that it is about a month away from officially opening. They’re getting there:
We headed out on the boardwalk that leads to Crystal Spring, which irrigates this area:
We could see pupfish and dace (a kind of minnow) in the creek coming from the spring:
Screwbean Mesquite seed pod:
The spring is 15 feet deep and releases over 2,000 gallons of water per minute. The water is blue due to high levels of calcium carbonate in the water. There were two American Coots swimming in the spring:
A bit of wildlife refuge roughhousing:
We also stopped at Point of Rocks and walked the boardwalk to King Spring:
We looked for the Bighorn Sheep that sometimes visit this area, but did not see any:
Driving west from Ash Meadows NWR, we passed through Death Valley Junction and continued west towards Death Valley. We stopped about 20 miles out of Death Valley to visit “The Pads”, a popular dispersed camping location at this former mining town site on BLM land. The temporary housing is gone now, but the concrete pads they sat upon remain:
I suspect a water tank or propane tank used to live here:
The Pads are at 3,000 feet, and with overnight lows forecast to be around 20 up here, we drove down to Sunset Campground in Death Valley at 186 feet below sea level. It shouldn’t get below 50 here tonight. See the trip map for driving details and our current location.
This morning, we were scheduled to leave Jean Lake and start making our way towards Death Valley. We arrived here on Day 476, so we’ve been here on and off for the last 32 days, the longest we’ve stayed in one place. It was nice to stay put and get homeschooling and a good number of chores taken care of. We’re ready to move on now, and this morning the thermometer told us we are making the right choice:
After a farewell lunch with my parents and restocking our refrigerator, we drove north to Desert National Wildlife Range, the largest wildlife refuge in the continental US. We knew we would only get a brief peek at the visitor center, as we were arriving 10 minutes before closing. Sadly, the volunteers that run the visitor center decided to go home early, so we weren’t able to get in. The visitor center is only open from Thursday to Sunday, so we will have to come back some other time:
We drove back towards the highway and found a place to pull over and overnight. We’re at 2,800 feet here, so it will be a bit colder here than at Jean Lake, probably getting down to 20 or so overnight. See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.
This morning, B made a mock Chinese restaurant for breakfast. I ordered cereal and yogurt:
My parents came down for a visit and we drove up to McClanahan Spring, the site of the abandoned Smith’s Ranch. We could see Jean Lake below:
There’s a lot less here compared to a few years ago when an article was written about this place. We did find some concrete foundations:
Another building probably stood here:
A low rock wall, perhaps for a garden?
Water came from McClanahan Spring on the hill and was brought down by pipe. We found this spigot sprouting off the pipe, probably for watering the garden:
M rode his motorcycle around for the first time in weeks, as we installed the new parts last night. Unfortunately, the throttle cable broke, so that was the end of that. I’ve ordered a new cable which should be here in a week or so.