I’ve visited Rhyolite more times than I can count, but until a few weeks ago I hadn’t been to the popular ghost town in a long time. I never grow tired of exploring the ruins.
On a clear and warm December day, my son and I made the two-hour drive from Las Vegas to Rhyolite.
We stopped first at the Bottle House, which looks kind of antiseptic to me now (I remember when it was open to the public and the grounds were cluttered with all manner of things).Many of Rhyolite’s ruins are fenced off, but the place is still amazing. At its peak in the early 1900s, Rhyolite had a population of about 6,000. Today, the desert has reclaimed the townsite almost completely.
We explored the area as thoroughly as we felt was wise, considering the numerous rattlesnake warning signs.
After walking around Rhyolite for about an hour and a half, we got in the car to head toward home, via the scenic route through DeathValley.
The Hell’s Gate entrance to Death Valley is just 10 miles west of Rhyolite. As we pulled into the fee station, a panoramic view of Death Valley welcomed us.
We cruised down toward the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Stovepipe Wells. Sadly, the road to Scotty’s Castle and the historic building itself is still closed due to damage from floods in fall of 2015.
I tried to tempt my son into climbing the sand dunes (“Look, it’s not even a very tall dune!”) , but he insisted he didn’t want to get sand in his boots. I got out and snapped photos while he read the newspaper in the car. The dunes were packed with people.
We made a quick stop in Stovepipe Wells for some water and expensive gas before heading out to catch 190 South.
It was sunset when we came to Zabriskie Point. “You can stay in the car if you want, but I’m getting out to take pictures. This is one of the most famous places in Death Valley,” I informed my teenage traveling companion. (I think it was actually my story about the counter-culture cult classic movie of the same name that piqued his interest enough to get him out of the car.)
We walked up the pathway to the overlook and marveled at the landscape, and at the large number of foreign visitors. We heard more foreign languages than English. The other striking feature: the photographers. They lined up atop a hill just below the overlook to capture the gorgeous afternoon light, becoming as much a part of the landscape as the formations they were photographing.
Before the sky completely darkened, we headed back. The almost full moon was rising and a brilliant sunset lit up the sky behind us, making me wish I’d brought my tripod and stayed at the point longer.
On the lonely two-lane road that took us from Death Valley Junction back to US95, my son and I talked about skin walkers and chupacabras and the vastness of the desert.
Have you been to Death Valley recently?
To see more photos, visit my flickr album, "Rhyolite and Death Valley"