Wednesday, March 05, 2008
On Monday we headed towards Death Valley National Park to travel the north end of the park and visit a home known as Scotty’s Castle. On the way we passed thru what is left of the town of Death Valley Junction. What is of note in this intersection of roadways is Marta Becket’s Amargosa Opera House and hotel. It lacks the glamor of most opera houses- or hotels for that matter, but what makes it special is the dedication of one woman to bring some culture to this remote region. After dancing at radio City Music hall and performing in a number of musicals on Broadway, Marta Becket discovered the abandoned Opera house while on vacation in 1967. The rest is history and she has been performing her one person show ever since.
After visiting the furnace Creek visitor center in Death Valley national park, we headed north to see that part of the park we did not get to last year. We were lucky to be visiting a bit later than last time and were now able to observe some of the spring flowers in this “death” valley. We also visited the creek that is the only home of the pupfish in the park and is considered endangered. We were lucky to spot some of them this early in the season, but to our untrained eye they just looked like a bunch of minnows. This section of the park is one of the few that has a reliable water flow and therefore there is a great deal more life in the area. After leaving the spring area, we got an up close look at a park coyote.
Near the Northwest entrance to the park is an innovative vacation home built for an insurance millionaire in Death Valley in the 1930’s. How the home came to be here and why is surrounded in misinformation and misdirection to suit the two major players in the story of the home- the millionaire Albert Johnson and the infamous Walter Scott. As you take the tour, you quickly learn that not much is what it appears to be and is a highly entertaining story of a mystery gold mine and wild stories of adventure.
Underneath all this drama is a rather fascinating story of building a modern home in literally the middle of nowhere and how it came to be an instant tourist attraction when completed.