Jan 15, 2021
We were up pretty early and left camp a little after 8 am. About 10 miles down the road was the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV. Just before town was the Goldwell Open Air Museum. It contained some interesting displays. We walked around and took a few pictures.
We then continued to Rhyolite. The town was founded in 1904 and by 1908 up to 8,000 people lived there. The mines ran out by 1910 and by 1920 the population was only 14. Today, there are a couple of hosts living in trailers and one house that looks like it was occupied. The government owns much of the area and it is maintained as an archaeology preservation site.
In its heyday, there were two schools, a bank, train depot, 18 grocery stores, 50 saloons, 8 doctors and 4 bakeries. Now there are only a few ruins, with the train depot being preserved the best. We walked around the remaining ruins and took a few pictures. Other than another girl taking pictures, we were alone.
After leaving Rhyolite we started our way into Death Valley National Park. We weren’t entering on the main road, but planned on taking a back country route through Titus Canyon. Titus canyon is a 27 mile track across a mountain range. From the east you climb over one set of mountains into a mountain valley. This part of the trail was steep going up and steep going down. I put the van in 4×4 low, without locking the hubs, to creep down from the top of the mountain pass.
Once down from the mountain pass we entered the ghost town of Leadfield. The town lasted less than a year as the “Jazz Baby” mine got a lot of attention and then allegations of fraud turned it into a ghost town. The post office closed in February 1927 and the town died.
After leaving Leadfield the fun section of the road begins. The road weaves through a narrow canyon and it continued about 7-8 miles down to Death Valley. The last couple of miles is very scenic as the canyon narrows to 20 feet wide, with canyon wall rising over 100 feet.
After exiting Titus Canyon we drove north to Ubehebe Crater. This is a volcanic crater that is 1/2 mile wide and 600 feet deep.
Leaving from Ubehebe Crater we were back on the dirt road to the Racetrack. We planned to camp at the only dispersed campsite on this road, about 20 miles from the crater. We had heard that this is the worst wash-boarded road around. I just about didn’t go this route because I hate driving on wash-boarded roads.
However, they must have just graded the road and it was the best gravel road we have been on. It was a easy 20 mile drive to the campsite at Teakettle Junction. Due to Covid all the campgrounds are closed, but we verified with the park rangers, before hand, that dispersed camping is allowed in the park in the approved areas. Fortunately, the campsite at Teakettle Junction was open and we set up camp for the night.
Teakettle Junction has a sign that is covered in teakettles. Apparently, in olden days, a teakettle meant that water was close by. It is now a tradition to hang teakettles on the sign. We considered it a teakettle shopping area and picked up a few free kettles. Not really, but it was interesting to see all the pots that people had left. Most of them were signed and dated. It looks like the rangers clean the sign post off every 2-3 months as no pots were older than November of 2020.
We took showers and enjoyed the beautiful sunset over the desert mountains. There were a couple of vehicles that drove down the road and stopped at the sign, but by 5 pm, the sun was setting and it was real quiet the rest of the night.