When celebrating birthdays with zeros in them, flowers alone won’t do it. So when Jean marked a new decade last March I sought a worthy weekend getaway. With most places still wintry, it made little sense leaving balmy Phoenix for somewhere frigid. But then I remembered our wish-list destination of Death Valley, California, tolerable only in winter when everywhere else is too cold. I phoned for a room.
“Sorry,” said the agent, “We’re booked up for Saturday night. Thanks to record rains, everyone’s coming for the biggest wildflower season in years.” He offered a room for Sunday. “Seems weird celebrating a birthday in Death Valley,” said Jean, but tantalized by those flowers she arranged Monday off of work. Sunday morning we sailed 2-1/2 hours westward from Phoenix, escaping rain and icy clouds for increasingly barren terrain.
Bypassing Las Vegas, we descended over the desolate Funeral Mountains into a moonscape of salt flats and mineral-tinted rock. There we spotted Furnace Creek Airport next to a tiny palm-studded rectangle, the only visible green in all of Death Valley. Our altimeter on downwind indicated 600 feet – field elevation here is minus 210 feet. Read More