Our drive to the valley took us north on highway 395. About thirty miles from Olancha someone had placed signs advertising "really good jerky" at regular intervals. The repeated signs were effective. By the time we reached Olancha we had a hankerin' for that jerky. The price was a bit high but it was indeed really good jerky. The stuff was like crack. When the bag was empty, too soon, we had to dig in the snack supply for something to scratch the itch it left. The sky was thick with low clouds for all of our first day out, and the damp had been persistent enough to wet the desert. Things were smelling a little funny. When a little surface water sticks around in places that are bone dry for most of the year all the tiny organisms take full advantage right away. Swampy mossy smells are not what I expect in the desert.
At Olancha we turned East on highway 190 which would take us to Stovepipe wells where we planned to spend the night. It had been some time since I traveled 190 and when we stopped at an overlook I was perplexed. I thought we were looking down into Death Valley but it just didn't look right and I was sure we had more miles to go. It turns out we had to cross Panamint Valley first. I had completely forgotten about this part of the road. The view above is so typical of the Great Basin washboard that stretches across the middle of Nevada. I was reminded of another trip on highway 6 through Tonopah. That drive was an endless series of deja-vu views like this.
The overcast came as a blessing that kept the day cool and when there was an opening in the clouds we'd get a storybook sun beam. The possibility of rain and the forecast below freezing overnight temperatures kept us from trying to camp out, so we checked into the Stovepipe Wells Inn. It's a motel really just with higher prices as it's one of only a few places to stay in the Death Valley. We spent the late afternoon exploring the sand dune field near Stovepipe Wells. We took a slew of jumping pictures that mrs. a-go-go had planned for the soft sand. Walking in sand tired us out and soon we were ready to hike out and go have comfortable evening reading on our motel bed. On the way out we stumbled on a small mystery. There were two pairs of shoes left in the sand. By their appearance they had been deliberately left at least a day before. There was no other car parked along the road near the shoes so we crinkled our brows and looked around wondering what happened to these people. We decided that they couldn't find their shoes among the rolling dunes after taking them off for a barefoot, sand between the toes stroll. We tied the laces together and hung the shoes on the roadside didactic sign and hoped the owners would pass by there again.
Next up, more early morning shenanigans, but in a corn field this time.