On the Road Again: Springtime in Utah travel blog

Our private campground!

Beaver--very busy

Different one, posing for camera

This one didn't like having his picture taken

View from our campsite

Canada goose

Another campsite view

Beaver lodge, just below where we are camped, We didn't invite them...

Last beaver picture

Mallard and mate

We bid a reluctant goodbye to beautiful Panamint Springs and headed up over the hill into Death Valley proper. We stopped at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and bought our Death Valley National Park magnet. We really didn’t hang around and explore this part of Death Valley because we’ve been here before, so we were off to territory previously unseen.

The highlight of the morning—or maybe the low light--was the stories Mary read from our Nevada travel book regarding the nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site. We were passing the southern tip of the site at the time. The entire site is the size of Rhode Island. Between 1951 and 1962 there were 126 above-ground nuclear blasts conducted within the site’s boundaries, and between 1962 and 1992, 925 underground explosions. The tests sometimes broke windows in Henderson, NV, 100 miles away, and the fireballs from the above-ground tests could be seen in Reno, 300 miles away!

Some stories were of people near the site who were quite blasé about the whole thing. When an explosion was heard or felt, one person remembered his dad saying “Oh, there’s another blast going off” and going right back to eating breakfast. Some were stories of soldiers stationed very near the blasts, reporting a horrified fascination with the power of the blast, the resulting firestorm, and the accompanying mushroom clouds. And there were some sad stories from those who witnessed or lived downwind from the blasts, who later contracted various kinds of cancers. And while this was going on most of us were unaware.

On a more upbeat note, we headed north from Las Vegas to our campsite at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. This is the first time we’ve stayed at a NWR but we’ll certainly try this again somewhere because this was a very nice place to stay. Once again, we were treated to an oasis of green in a starkly beautiful but brown high desert landscape. Our campsite was right on the shores of Upper Pahranagat Lake, a refuge for migratory birds traveling the Pacific Flyway, much like the Cosumnes River Preserve where Mary volunteers. We had the campsite, designed for 2 RVs, all to ourselves. We had time in the afternoon to bird watch and watch the beavers work on their lodges—there were three big ones and some smaller ones in the lake at our campsite. We always thought beavers were nocturnal, but these little guys were hard at it—busy as you-know-what—in broad daylight at 4:00 p.m. The full moon came up in the evening and we were treated to moonlight on the lake, and duck, goose and bird song all night long. Another place we were reluctant to leave!

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