A few years ago I decided to do a huge loop northbound, to see some places that I was always curious about but too lazy to drive to. Some of them will help round out the location list, others are just for fun. My birthday is in the middle of August, so sight seeing was at a minimum, but it was still fun. Come along on my birthday adventure!
Part I – Vegas to Amargosa Valley – I took I-15 north to Highway 95 northwest towards Corn Creek and Mt. Charleston. I passed by a prison and conservation camp on the left and then entered the town of Indian Springs, where there is a base called Creech Air Force Base. I went to Fay’s Country Store and got some birthday ice cream. The people there were very friendly and gave me a post card! Then I drove around a little bit in the town. It was too hot to walk around with my ice cream.
A little farther I came to the fabled Mercury Highway. It leads to a town that was built to house those working at the Nevada Test Site. It is not in use anymore, but regardless you can only go as far as this gate. They won’t bother you if you stop and take pictures, there are usually a few people out there doing the same thing without incident. Just don’t get too close or you might get in trouble.
I read that you can visit the Nevada Test Site, now called the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), which give monthly tours, but as of me writing this, tours are already booked up through the year 2022 (!!) The tours cover not only the town of Mercury but Frenchman Flat, the Nonproliferation Test and Evaluation Complex, Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Site, Icecap, the Sedan Crater, the T-1 Training Area, and the Apple 2 houses – quite a dream for a Fallout enthusiast. Maybe someday when I get some swanky political connections or something, yeah right.
Part II – Amargosa Valley to Beatty – I reached Amargosa Valley in about 2 hours, including the time I wandered around each place I stopped along the way. This place has a cafe called the Area 51 Alien Center. There is also a fireworks megastore and gas station.
On the road to Beatty, on the left will be an open expanse to nothingness, and could have no significance to anyone except perhaps Fallout fans. It is the ruins of Ashton, Nevada. Today there is nothing left of the old water stop, but it was exciting to drive by none the less.
In this general vicinity I also discovered there is a Mesquite Campground after all (!!) and I visited the Ubehebe Crater.
I arrived in Beatty shortly thereafter and it was a lot of fun to explore. I also walked around the ghost towns of Rhyolite and Gold Center, which looked just like the Boulder City ruins, or South Vegas ruins. It is by far the coolest looking ghost town area I have seen thus far. It really does feel like I am walking around in a post-War environment.
Part III – Beatty to Death Valley Junction – I decided to drive a different way to get to Ash Meadows that would avoid backtracking and only add about a half an hour to driving. Instead of heading back east on Highway 95, I turned south, following Route 374 into California. I followed this seemingly endless, scary, winding road called Daylight Pass until I arrived at Hell’s Gate, the equally scary sounding entrance to Death Valley National Park.
At this point the temperature was souring once again as I came down from the mountain pass and I can see why they call this Hell’s Gate. This part of the desert looks more dune-y than the part of desert I live. I like it!
I also visited Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the remains of Chloride City, and Keane Wonder Mine in this stretch.
At Hell’s Gate, there is a fork in the road. I took Beatty Road, to the left, in order to head towards Death Valley Junction.
Next I reached Zabriskie Point, which overlooks the badlands of Death Valley. I learned malpais translates to badlands, whoa cool! Also, this place really looks like the Divide.
Part IV – Death Valley Junction to Ash Meadows – It was less than 2 hours since I was in Beatty, but it felt like 200 years. I think I was running out of steam, so I was happy to make it to Death Valley Junction, as strange as that sounds. I went to the cafe and had a piece of pie, sandwich, scone, and latte. Despite it being so hot outside, I liked the latte. I basically bought whatever I wanted because it is my birthday! The pie was given to me as a gift by the owner – very thoughtful!
As much as I did not want to leave the cafe, I pressed onward to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which was definitely a change of scenery. I found Jackrabbit Spring, previously un-found location – on the eastern side of the refuge and Devil’s Hole, our world’s Devil’s Gullet, in the very northeastern part. There is an endangered species named Pupfish that only live in this location, in the entire world. For some reason I was entertained by the plethora of “Devil’s Hole” signs everywhere.
Part V – Ash Meadows to Sandy Valley Ranch – The final leg of the journey took me southeast, passing by Nopah Range Wilderness, the namesake of which we see in the way of Nopah Cave.
It was late by the time I made it back to Sandy Valley Ranch, and I had missed dinner at the ranch house. I was thinking of just heading back home, but lo-and-behold, they wrapped up dinner for me in tin foil and put it in my digs for me. That was so incredibly thoughtful and wonderful. I love Sandy Valley Ranch.
And I loved my birthday! I got to add locations to my list that I had only mentioned in passing, and I had a great day seeing amazing parts of Nevada and California that I had never seen before. I ate my delicious burger and fell asleep happy as can be, one year older!