Yesterday when we got up and opened the shades it looked like we were in a Syrian refugee camp. We were surrounded by tents, mostly the tiny two man style where you have to lay down on your sleeping bag to wriggle into your pants. Many of these folks arrived after work on a Friday night and set up in the darkness. It’s hard to put up a tent on a rock hard desert surface; the stakes just don’t go in. We were glad to see a tent identical to the one we first started camping in. Its a design that’s lasted forty years and you can put on your pants standing up inside.
Another series of rain storms has hit the northern California coast after a dry February. It’s dumping lots of snow in the Sierra Nevada - good for ending the California drought, but bad for our plan to visit the national parks in the central part of the state when we return from Patagonia. Since Death Valley is nowhere near the northern California coast, we only had huge gusts of wind. It was warm and we had all the windows open. Soon everything we touched was coated with a fine layer of insidious sand. It blew so hard, we closed the slides on the windward side; the sound of the flapping slide toppers was enough to raise the dead. It was still windy when we got up this morning, but all the tents were gone. We surely understand why they didn’t make it through the night, but wondered where everyone went at 2am. Pahrump, the nearest town, is an hour’s drive away. The rest of California is hours of curvey, climbing road before you get to civilization. There are limited hotel/lodge facilities at Death Valley and on a Saturday night, they must have been booked out. They didn’t sleep in their cars; those were gone, too. Here’s hoping the tenters didn’t just all blow away.
Ken had continuing wind gusts to deal with as we climbed out of Death Valley and up to a 5,000 foot pass. It was sunny and warm enough for shorts when we started, but it was sleeting at the pass. We are back at the campground where we spent a week in Las Vegas not long ago, enjoying full utilities at bargain prices and a powerful PBS signal that should mean that we can enjoy the final episode of Downtown Abbey without hesitations and stutters, which is what we get from the PBS feed on the satellite dish. The first order of business was cleaning. We both spent an hour wiping and vacuuming, but it’s hard to notice every nook now occupied by sand. I have a feeling we’ll be remembering that last windy night in Death Valley for months to come.
We feel comfortable leaving the motor home at this campground, where itinerant folks like us are interspersed with more permanent residents who are vested in the quality of their life here. We are paying $13/night for the monthly rate plus electricity and can leave the frig running and the DVR recording while we are gone. The airport is less than ten miles away so beginning the trip to Patagonia should go smoothly. Fingers crossed.