Subject: Las Vegas and Death Valley trip report

Recently we had a short stay in Vegas and Death Valley. We don't care for the casinos or the big shows so, as soon as the business side of the trip was done, we left Vegas and headed west to the desert. Here are some notes from our travels.

Death Valley is spectacular (we love deserts). There are three locations to stay: Furnace Creek with two lodging offerings, Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs. All have RV and camping facilities. We stayed at Panamint and we're glad we did. Panamint is basically just the "resort", a 15 room motel, restaurant (last dinner service is 7:30 p.m.) and a bar. This is a basic, very easy-going place (you want a beer, go to the fridge and pick one up) and best of all very few people. It's located in the shadow of the Panamint Range. With the exception of the upscale resort at Furnace Creek, all DV lodgings are basic which is really suited to the desert. And you meet the most interesting people - folks who head out at 4:00 a.m. for long hikes through the canyons. No television or cell phone access at Panamint Springs and the patience required to fire up the lap top from just the right spot meant we were totally out of touch for the time we visited.

On the "human" side, we were amazed at how visitors respect the park. For example, we saw no evidence of litter (except the stuff left over from the 19th and early 20th centuries). On the "nature" side, we were astounded at the austere beauty of the place and once we really opened our eyes, we were able to see so many fine details of life in the desert.

We visited Scotty's Castle, a mansion built in the desert. Then we headed out to experience the nature of the desert, hiking out to and climbing the sand dunes, walking through silent canyons (stunningly silent), and driving to the Badwater and Artist's Pallette. Dante's View is a good place to stop when you first enter the park, not after you've hiked around for a few days. Zabriskie is astounding and I'd recommend a stop when you enter the park simply for the view, then again when you leave and you understand what it is you are seeing.

Drink plenty of water, put on a hat and wear sturdy shoes at all times. It was 90 degrees in February!

Lucy, Toronto