One of the things we did while at Lone Pine was visit the 814- acre Manzanar National Historic Site. This was one of the 10 camps where over 100,000 Japanese Americans were relocated during World War II without due process of law. The historic site preserves the many stories of the people who were relocated there in 1942 and enclosed by barbed wire fences. There is a self-guided driving tour (free) and a pretty good museum – worth a stop if you’re in the area.
Having heard of the high winds expected to pass throughout the slopes of the Eastern Sierras in Inyo County, we started to pack up and get going to our next destination – Death Valley. We had planned to stay in the Alabama Hills one more day, since we loved the serenity of boondocking there. Hoping the wind alert for the area wouldn’t pan out, we decided to make our way toward Death Valley anyway. After driving only 8 miles east of Lone Pine we saw a huge dust cloud (like the one at the beginning of the movie “The Mummy”) ahead of us. We immediately turned back to Lone Pine and took refuge in the Boulder Creek RV Park until it passed. At least we would be in a tree-lined area out of the sand if the winds hit. Driving through that dust cloud in the desert was not an option.
We learned that the warning was pretty serious. Schools were out and the town was on “Red Alert”. A few minutes after hooking up we heard an eerie sound and then – boom! – Betsy was rocking and rolling in the wind. The gusts of wind passing through were hitting 60 miles per hour! All day and night we were rocking in the wind. We didn’t sleep very good that night, but upon waking up the next morning we were rewarded with a beautiful day. So we broke camp and took off again!.
Heading again toward Death Valley National Park, we left town near the highest peak in the United States (Mt. Whitney at 14,495′) and drove 90 miles east to Death Valley, where the Badwater Basin – at 282′ below sea level – is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.
The drive along Highway 136 and 190 was uneventful as we passed through sparse and barren landscapes with beautiful and colorful mountains in the background. Betsy easily climbed over the 4956′ summit at Towne Pass, just prior to the descent into Death Valley. The transmission and air brakes were put to the test that day during the relentless 4,900’+ descent. Ah, the divine aroma of freshly cooked brake linings!
The afternoon we arrived in the park, the winds were picking up and by evening a sand storm developed with rain showers…gasp. What? Rain in Death Valley? It was quite an interesting evening at Stovepipe Wells Village.