We really did not know much about Tecopa, California. It was kind of a ‘plan B’ to stay in the Shoshone area, as the Furnace Creek campground in Death Valley was full. It was a ‘plan B’ that turned into one of the highlights of our winter trip! (The China Ranch Date shakes ranking #1!!)
Tecopa is approx 9 miles SE of Shoshone. We had no idea what the area was all about but were soon to find out it was all about hot springs!
After reading this sign we were not too sure we wanted to go in but there are many people who do. The next thing we discovered was all the hot springs in the area , whether man made pools or not, are ‘clothing optional’! The scenery surrounding these natural hot springs is stunning!
The next day we drove into Death Valley along highway 178, the Badwater road. We have been to Death Valley before but had never driven in the lower part of the park.
We were lucky enough to have this fellow come out and say hello. After we passed him he laid down in the middle of the road, I think he was enjoying the spring heat from the pavement!!
The road follows along the Badwater basin, the lowest point in North America with an elevation of 282 ft BELOW sea level!
We discovered ruins of the Ashford Mill, gold ore was processed here in 1914.
Along the Badwater road is the Artist’s drive. Unfortunately it was closed this year for repairs. We were very disappointed as we remembered it as being unbelievably beautiful. However we were very pleasantly surprised to find that when driving up from the south end of the park the hills leading up to Artists drive are almost as spectacular!
The formations and tones of these hills are amazing!
We arrived up at the Furnace Creek center in the late afternoon and turned east along highway 190. We rounded the corner and saw the pull out for Zabriske Point. Somehow we missed this unbelievable area the first time we toured the park! The badlands are incredible!
I think I could have stayed here for hours, the view was so outstanding!
But it was time to move on down the road, next stop was the 20 Mule Team drive. It was fabulous driving down into the badlands.
To finish off a perfect day we arrived at Dantes Point just in time for the most spectacular sunset overlooking the Badwater Basin! The elevation here is 5,476ft so it gives you an amazing view point!
The next day we traveled up highway 127 towards Beatty, Nevada. Our goal was the ghost town of Rhyolite. We got a big surprise as we got there with the open air Goldwell Museum! It is an outdoor sculpture park next door to Rhyolite. Did not expect to find this!
The Museum began in 1984 with the creation and installation of a major sculpture by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski titled “The Last Supper”–a ghostly interpretation of Christ and his disciples sited against the backdrop of the expansive Amargosa Valley.
To make the life-size ghost figures, Szukalski wrapped live models in fabric soaked in wet plaster and posed them as in the painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci. When the plaster set, the model was slipped out, leaving the rigid shroud that surrounded him. Szukalski then coated the figures with fiberglass making them impervious to weather!
More sculptures were added later.
Then it was on to Rhyolite. The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprung up in the area. Thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District, with many settling in Rhyolite.
The mining dwindled by 1919 and by 1920 Rhyolite was a ghost town. It then became a tourist attraction and a movie set.
Another days exploring was to the fascinating ‘town’ of Death Valley Junction, here we discovered the Amargosa Opera House! Death Valley Junction is an historic crossroad. The town was originally called Amargosa but was changed to Death Valley Junction in 1907. It was once a major junction for rail traffic, with a population of 300 people! Now it is listed on the Register of Historic Places with only a few locals!
We found the most interesting story of Death Valley Junction was Marta Becket and the Amargosa Opera House.
In 1967 Marta Becket left New York to make a new life for herself. She was a dancer and artist who was disillusioned with the ‘big city’ life. She found an old social hall in the middle of nowhere and created her own theater! She named the hall the Amargosa Opera House. She hand painted a 16th century audience on the walls and had performances 3 times a week and on weekends!
Her murals did not stop, she hand painted all the walls, the ceiling and the stage back drops. Then continued into the hotel dining room!
On our visit we were told that Marta had recently passed away. She herself had not been performing for a few years, but the productions still went on. She devoted 50 years to Death Valley Junction, with her love of art and dance.
We can only hope that the legacy she began will be preserved. It is an amazing place and so worth a visit. We ate at the small cafe, they have very good sandwiches and try to bring in whatever fresh foods are available in the season.
So as you can see, discovering the tiny town of Shoshone led to so many amazing places we would not have seen otherwise. Sometimes the road less traveled leads to the best adventures!
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Until next time!