We woke up thinking we’d head to Scotty’s Castle, since we’ve never been there. But then Jim said, “Let’s do Titus Canyon” and I said “Do you think we can in this rental car?” and Jim said “Hell yeah, it’s a rental car!”
We headed to Beatty for a change of scenery for breakfast. All Xanterra food all the time can get a bit boring and expensive. We found two places in Beatty: the Denny’s at the casino and a local place called “KC’s Outpost and Saloon.” We have a firm vacation rule to skip chains when we have a choice–unless coffee is involved, sometimes you just want a cup of coffee you can trust.
KC’s turned out to be a lucky find. They bake fresh French bread for their sandwiches, roast their own turkey, make their own meatballs, their potato and macaroni salads are actually good, and they include a small slice of homemade cake with every order of one of the specials. I ordered the special #1 (turkey with homemade stuffing and cranberry sauce), Jim ordered the meatball sub and we split the cake. A tasty breakfast. (They have a breakfast sandwich but the regular sandwiches sounded better and it was a slothly 10:30 in the morning.)
At the beginning of the long open stretch of road heading into Beatty we’d seen a sign for burros and kept an eye open all through the wilderness. As soon as we got into town we saw two just walking up the street! At breakfast someone told us there were more on a back street so we headed over there and I grabbed a photo out the car window again.
This was our second time driving Titus Canyon and it was good to go back–like a lot of Death Valley, it’s the kind of beauty you just have to experience. Photos don’t completely capture the scale, the silence, or even the vivid and subtle colors. The first time we’d gone to Titus Canyon we’d seen bighorn sheep, so I keep my eyes peeled, scanning the steep craggy mountain sides especially closely for sheep. But we saw no mammals in the canyon, other than other humans. (Including a UC Berkeley alumni making a miserable journey in his Hyundai Sonata. Not a high clearance vehicle and he told us he wished he had a rental!)
After leaving the canyon, we headed to Rhyolite to catch it in the late afternoon sun. I was driving to give Jim a break after the rather focused driving in the canyon. As we headed up the road back towards Beatty he yelled, “stop the car! stop the car!” There were eight bighorn sheep across the road from us. We stopped and crossed the road for a better look at the sheep about 100 yards from us. Then we looked up the hill and saw at least another ten! It was very exciting and after visiting cold and windy Rhyolite we stopped at the ranger station to fill out an official wildlife sighting.
Our New Year’s Eve celebration was dinner at the Steakhouse at the Ranch and then some night sky photography at Devil’s Golf Course. A beautiful way to end 2014.
Mammal Patrol: 2 coyotes, 1 rodent, 5 burros, 19 bighorn sheep