15 April 2006 Saturday

We started this morning at Scotty’s Castle.  This is a vacation home built by Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson and his wife Bessie in Death Valley around 1920’s and 30’s.  Johnson was first brought to Death Valley by a veteran of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show by the name of Death Valley Scotty.  Walter Scott, “Scotty”, convinced Johnson to invest in a gold mine in Death Valley.  Johnson fronted Scotty money for mining, but never saw any gold.  When Johnson went to Death Valley to investigate the gold mine, his asthma improved and he fell in love with the desert.  And Albert and Bessie were quite enamored with the entertainer, Scotty.  This house has all the original furniture and draperies and rugs, some built especially for the house.  They had built a bunkhouse and a guest house, also many guest rooms.  There was an enormous swimming pool partially built, but never finished.  It was to be filled by one of the springs on the property.  We did an underground tour, too.  There they stored the custom tiles for the swimming pool and extra furniture.  There were windows see underwater into the swimming pool.  This house had tunnels under the house with plumbing, wiring and some tunnels may have been to access other buildings or parts of the house without going outside.  Although Johnson funded the building of the castle and the name was officially “Death Valley Ranch”, Johnson always allowed it to be called Scotty’s Castle.  The Johnson’s died and left the property to a religious charity with the stipulation that Scotty be cared for.  Scotty is buried on the property, overlooking his castle.  

Next we went over to Ubehebe Crater, a massive volcanic crater long dormant.  Andrew hiked around the rim, but the wind was too much for me.  the wind had to be 50 mph and I saw lots of people get out of their cars for a minute, fight the wind and leave.  We next went towards the Racetrack Playa.  

The Racetrack Playa is the location of the famous moving rocks.  There are rocks on a dry lake bed that move, leaving tracks in the mud behind them.  This playa, dry lake bed, is at the end of 27 miles of the worst washboard dirt road we’ve ever seen.  We’d been warned at the visitor’s center that 2 spare tires are recommended for this road.  Surprisingly, we saw many people on this road, some going down to the playa like us and some coming out.  It was getting late when we made it to Teakettle Junction, about 20 miles.  For some reason, people started hanging teakettles with notes on them (and in them) on this sign post.  We found a place to camp for the night at the junction.

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