Death Valley Bus Trip

February 25-March 2, 1975

The bus left the South Eugene High parking lot at 7:00 a.m. with thirty-seven Obsidians and friends which included tour director, Ray Cavagnaro, from Bronson Travel Service; leaders, Helen Weiser and Mary-Douglass Stovall; and driver, Paul Silvernail. After changing to a larger bus at Halsey, we were on our way over the Santiam Pass to Bend for the first coffee break. Lunch was at Burns before we headed south to McDermitt for an ice cream-coffee break. On the way we had a fine view of snow covered Steens Mt., the largest fault block mountain in Oregon. At Winnemucca, Nevada, we had a good nights rest and were ready for an 8:00 a.m. departure the next morning. Most of the day we traveled through Nevada’s range and basin country. Particularly interesting was the old mining town of Austin with its picturesque cemetery and the old Stokes Castle sitting high on the hillside overlooking the town. Austin summit is 7,480 feet and here we saw fine stands of the pinon pine. Near Goldfield we saw our first Joshua trees, a strange member of the lily family. Tonopah was our lunch stop and this town along with Goldfield had the largest mining operations in this area in the early days. After a coffee break at Beatty we visited Rhyolite, a true ghost town, with many partially standing buildings but only the old Tidewater and Tonopah railroad station in a good state of preservation. The famous Bottle House still stands—a house built of hundreds of bottles laid in clay. From there we drove over Daylight Pass and into the northern part of Death Valley. Much to our surprise there were many flowers in bloom at this early date. At Furnace Creek ranch, 128 feet below sea level, we unpacked for a three night stay in beautiful accommodations just completed in 1974. Everyone seemed content to settle for a good night’s rest in the peace and quiet of the Ranch to be ready for the morning trip with Mrs. Marian Peck as our guide to Zabriskie, the Devil’s Golf Course or Salt Flats and to Bad Water near which is the lowest spot in the western hemisphere, 282 feet be low sea level. From here we would see Telescope Peak, the highest point in the Monument, 11,049 feet. On the return trip we stopped for a short hike into Gold Canyon. After lunch at the Ranch, the afternoon was free for hiking, swimming, napping, or whatever one chose to do. Temperatures ranged from the high 70s to the low 80s. At the Ranch there are date groves, a swimming pool, a golf course, horses for riding, a borax museum, a store, post office and several places to eat. In the evening we attended a slide show at the nearby visitor’s center. The next morning with Mrs. Peck, again as our guide, we saw the location of Stove Pipe Wells, Ubehebe Crater and Scotty’s Castle. The latter was built by A.M. Johnson, an insurance millionaire who took a fancy to Walter Scott, a colorful desert character who furnished mainly the tall tales surrounding the venture. The whole thing turned out to be a beautiful Spanish-Moorish desert home with priceless furnishings. Second in interest to the Castle at this stop was Charlie, the well-fed road runner who put on quite a show for us. Again the afternoon was free until 7:00 p.m. when the bus took us to Death Valley Junction for a pantomine-ballet performance by Marta Becket at the Amagosa Opera House. An exceptionally talented woman, she has painted amusing murals on all the inside walls of the opera house and these were almost worth the price of admission. The next morning we said farewell to a truly beautiful and warm Death Valley and headed west via Towne Pass to Lone Pine, then north on highway 395 to Reno for the night. Along the way we saw Mt. Whitney (14,495 feet) the east side of the Sierra Nevada, the Mono Craters and lake with its spring deposits of travertine. The Mapes Hotel was our last night’s stop. The next day we crossed to Mt. Shasta and were on familiar Interstate 5 homeward to Eugene, arriving about 7:30 p.m. after travelling 1,907 miles. It was a great trip all the way and our special thanks go to our fine driver, Paul Silvervail, whose beautiful singing gave us such pleasure.

Those obsidians on the trip were: Bertha and Rolfe Anderson, Alice Bissell, Ingrid Carmichael, Ray Cavagnaro, Duchess Cox, Irene Flynn, Gladys Grancorvitz, Jane Hilt, Ruth and Joe Jones, Joy Belle and Ted Jones, Nellie and Mac McWilliams, Dorothy and Bob Medill, Marilyn Morris, Ruth Nichols, Sue and Frank Riemer, Dorothy and Clarence Scherer, Lila and Al Smith, Grace Smith, Betty Stamm, Mary-Douglass Stovall, Thelma Watson, Helen Weiser. Non-Obsidians were: Margaret Barnard, Julia Barnhill, Melvin Carter, Grace Durchanek, Bertha Richardson, Helen Stovall.

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