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Lightning in Death Valley PicmonkeyLightning in Death Valley evening sky

TASTE News Service, August 29, 2014 – Every evening before sunset, travelers claim their spots on the patio of the historic Inn at Furnace Creek awaiting a nightly show that is a stark contrast to the neon nights of Las Vegas just 2 ½ hours away. And when the sun finally sets, guests are rewarded with an uninterrupted darkness. Until they see the first of the stars.

Death Valley National Park in eastern California

has been deemed a “Gold Tier” International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. With clear nights the norm and the exterior lights of the resort dim by design, the big sky of the desert shines with starscapes that can be experienced in few places in the U.S.

“Although our guests gather nightly on the Inn patio to watch the sunset and the stars come out, the best seat for the show is practically anywhere in the park,” said Denise Perkins, director of sales and marketing for Furnace Creek Resort. “And after the stars come out, our guests find plenty of ways to enjoy the nightlife in Death Valley.”

Inn at Furnace Creek Fireplace Picmonkey 2 Poolside fireplace at the Inn In addition to the luxurious Inn, which is open mid-October through mid-May, the resort includes the family-friendly Ranch at Furnace Creek located about one mile from the Inn and open year-round. The Ranch and Inn are accessible via a free resort shuttle that runs between the two locations. Both locations offer not only great vantage points for serious stargazing but a variety of ways to while away the evening hours as well.

The Inn at Furnace Creek Dining room is known for its eclectic cuisine, elegant atmosphere, attentive staff and quiet sophistication, which encourages guests to linger and relax. The famous date nut bread, served with three types of flavored butters, has been a favorite signature treat for decades. Guests looking for an energetic and entertaining evening often head to the Ranch at Furnace Creek and the Corkscrew Saloon for pizza and drinks is an atmosphere reminiscent of Wild West saloons – without the gunfights. Beer-lovers should be sure to try the local favorite, Badwater Ale. And steak lovers will find their beef nirvana and more a The Wrangler, also located at the Ranch.

Families staying at the Ranch at Furnace Creek often gather at the spring-fed pool for one last energy-busting swim before bedtime. While those staying at the Inn frequently gather around one of two stone fireplaces for a quiet nightcap or a late-night swim in the spring-fed pool before enjoying a casual, starlit stroll back to their rooms along paths that meander through date palm-lined gardens.

Lucky guests staying at the resort when there is a full moon can join one of the free guided moonlight hikes led by the National Park Service. Called Full Moon Festivals, these monthly events include ranger-led walks in moonlit canyons, salt flats or sand dunes. Participants can view the moon’s surface through telescopes and learn about the habits of nocturnal wildlife in the park.

Guests can also take a moonlight horseback ride with Furnace Creek Stables located at the Ranch at Furnace Creek.

Death Valley is a photographer’s otherworldly heaven, and amateur and professional shutterbugs alike gather for both sunset and sunrise shots in several locations. Among the most popular are Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point and the Sand Dunes.

Editor's note: Links to the websites of Lodging and Dining options, including the Furnace Creek Resort can be found in the Desert section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Death Valley Desert Flowers Picmonkey

DEATH VALLEY, Calif., April 10, 2014 – Monet would have a field day. California’s Death Valley National Park is enjoying a colorful spring and looking forward to a vibrant summer thanks to a surprisingly good emerging wildflower season. In recent weeks, the rugged desert park has become reminiscent of a Monet painting, with shades of gold, pink, purple, orange and white dotting the landscape of the 3.3 million acre park.

“We’d heard from the National Park Service that 2014 wasn’t going to be a particularly strong wildflower year, but happily, those predictions were not accurate, and we are now enjoying a wildly colorful spring,” said Denise Perkins, director of sales and marketing for Furnace Creek Resort. “The ruggedness of the desert has a certain kind of magic to it year-round, and the wash of vibrant color this year has added a much-appreciated dimension to the beauty of the park.”

Most wildflower-watchers at the National Park Service and the park’s Furnace Creek Resort didn’t expect a banner year this spring because the trifecta of conditions needed for a good bloom – moisture throughout winter and spring, sufficient warmth and minimal winds – did not occur. Yet colorful desert gold, monkeyflowers, golden evening primrose and other blooms have been sprouting up along the park’s roads and hillsides.

Perkins said she’s seen numerous visitors stopped at roadside viewpoints throughout the park photographing the flowers. “If visitors take away anything, it should only be a photograph,”she said. “It is illegal to pick wildflowers in the park. Every seed is needed to repopulate the park the next year.”

According to the National Park Service’s Wildflower Update, the bloom is a result of rainfall in the higher elevations of the park, especially in the Panamint Mountains. And the Park Service is predicting the colorful show will continue through the summer.

Death Valley Cactus with flowers PicmonkeyDuring an especially good bloom year, the first desert gold wildflowers begin to bloom on a hilly, volcanic area north of Ashford Mill, near Furnace Creek Resort. They are joined by flowers with such evocative names as desert star, evening primrose, verbena and poppy.  By late April, the Panamint Mountains and other higher climes welcome paintbrush, lupine and panamint daisies. Even the spiny cacti and Joshua trees may blossom. The Mojave wild rose, hardy rabbitbrush and delicate mariposa lilies join the show.

Most desert wildflowers are annuals, sometimes called ephemerals because they are so short-lived. But this limited lifespan is exactly what ensures their survival. Rather than struggle to stay alive during the desert’s most extreme conditions, annual wildflowers lie dormant as seeds. When enough rain finally does fall, the seeds quickly sprout, grow, bloom and go back to seed again. By blooming all at the same time during good years, wildflowers can attract large numbers of pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees and hummingbirds – not normally found in Death Valley.

During the month of April, the average daytime high is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature falls to the low 60s in the evening. In May, the average daytime high is around 100 degrees and the nighttime average is in the low 70s.

The Furnace Creek Resort has been welcoming guests since the 1930s. The historic Inn at Furnace Creek is open from mid-October through mid-May. It features 66 rooms, including two suites with a full array of amenities, fine dining, massage therapy, tennis courts and a spring-fed pool. Open year-round, the Ranch at Furnace Creek is situated adjacent to the golf course and features 224 rooms in a casual setting.

Editor's note: The Deserts section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory will have a link to the website of the Furnace Creek Resort, as well as links to other Loding and Dining opportunities in this beautiful part of Southern California.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013 11:00

Death Valley Home to Many Living Things

coyote in Death Valley PicmonkeyYoung coyote surveys from a desert ridge.

Despite its name, California’s Death Valley National Park is a place full of life.

This 3.3 million-acre is home to more than 1,000 plant species, 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians and five species and one subspecies of native fish within Death Valley National Park.

“We frequently hear from guests who are surprised at just how lively Death Valley truly is,” said Phil Dickinson, director of sales and marketing for Furnace Creek Resort, which includes two distinct lodging options, a variety of restaurants, lounge, golf course and activities. “After a day spent playing in the spring-fed pool, strolling through the Inn’s lush gardens, playing a round on the world’s lowest golf course, taking a horseback trail ride, cycling the endless roads or just exploring, our visitors realize that there’s a lot more to life in Death Valley than they might have thought.”


The desert pupfish is a tiny fish that grows to a full average length of only 2½ inches. Although their average life span is six to nine months, some survive more than one year. The Death Valley pupfish is a species of fish that is the last known survivor of what is thought to have been a large ecosystem of fish species that lived in Lake Manly, which dried up at the end of the last ice age leaving the present-day Death Valley. The pupfish has adapted to the shallow, hot saline water found in the park.desert flowers in Death Valley PicmonkeyDeath Valley fills with wildflowers in spring.


Even though the average annual rainfall in the 3.3-million-acre park is a meager 1.9 inches, desert wildflowers have been known to put on quite the show. When enough rain does fall – in the fall – a good spring bloom will follow. Usually, starting between mid-February and early March, the first desert gold begins to bloom and is joined by flowers with such evocative names as desert star, evening primrose, verbena and poppy. By late April, the Panamint Mountains and other higher climes welcome paintbrush, lupine and Panamint daisies. Even the spiny cacti and Joshua trees may blossom. The Mojave wild rose, hardy rabbitbrush and delicate Mariposa lilies join the show. The park takes on the aspect of a Monet painting, in shades of gold, pink, purple, orange and white.


Mammals in the park tend to be smaller on average than those found in cooler climates. The largest are burros and horses, and those species were introduced to the region by man. Mule deer and desert bighorn sheep are native to the region. There are several types of small mammals such as mice that humans seldom see as well.


Reptiles include the desert iguana, banded gecko and the desert tortoise, which can live to be 80 years old. Amphibians include toads, frogs and salamanders. There are many species of butterflies in the park, with 68 types documented.


Because Death Valley provides several different elevations and varied habitats, many species of birds are found throughout the year. In addition, the long north-south valleys of the Sierra Nevada Mountains create channeling effects, and migratory birds follow these valleys and stop at desert oases like the Furnace Creek Resort. Spring and fall are the best times to view migrating birds, with the southbound birds showing up as early as late August and northbound birds flying through beginning in early March

Furnace Creek

The location for Furnace Creek Resort was chosen by the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the 1920s because that was where water from the Funeral Mountains flowed. This mountain run-off takes hundreds of years to make its way to Furnace Creek where it is used by resort for a variety of reasons, including irrigation. The resort’s lushness attracts wildlife and supports plant life.

Furnace Creek Golf Course has several ponds that are managed by the resort. A viewing platform adjacent to the course is appreciated by birders, and the course has achieved the designation "Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System (ACSS), the educational division of Audubon International. To achieve certification, a course must demonstrate it is maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in the areas of environmental planning, including wildlife and habitat management. The golf course is irrigated by water recycled from the resort’s two spring-fed swimming pools.


Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to Death Valley or other parts of Southern California, you may want to check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it are links to the websites of many Lodging and Dining options.

Saturday, 19 May 2012 20:16

The Heat Is On in Death Valley

If the number of people visiting Death Valley National Park’s Ranch at Furnace Creek at lunchtime in July is any indication, then some people truly do like it hot. Lots of people, in fact. This arid, desolate and ruggedly Furnace Creek DV09007 FC Ranch Entrance SMALLbeautiful park typically draws some 230,000 travelers during the summer months, when the temperatures can be as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

Situated in east-central California on the edge of the Mojave Desert, the park hosts as many as 900 tour bus travelers each day. Nearly all of the visitors are from European countries; most come from Germany, France and the UK. Lunchtime in the Wrangler Buffet is a smorgasbord of languages – German, French, Italian and Dutch.

“Although we have domestic travelers too, Europeans in particular love Death Valley during our extreme summer months,” said Phil Dickinson, director of sales and marketing for Furnace Creek Resort. “The American West, with its wide open spaces and distinctive landscapes, is a beloved travel destination for European travelers, and Death Valley is particularly appealing to this group, in part because of the extremes.”

Death Valley is one of the hottest places on the planet, with a record-high temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in 1913.

Yet heat is not the only extreme in this 3.3 million-acre park. With a low point of 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin, it is also one of the lowest places on earth. For perspective, Badwater visitors can look up on a cliff – way up – and see a sign marking sea level. And from that point, travelers can look across the valley to Telescope Peak in the Panamint Mountains, which rises to 11,049 feet above sea level.

Death Valley is also dry, receiving less than two inches of rainfall per year on average. In years the park receives more than that amount, there are often flash floods in low-lying areas due to the lack of vegetation and the broad expanses of impermeable rock.

Furnace Creek Golf SMALLSnow capped mountains above a desert green.

In addition to the tour buses the Ranch hosts golf groups with a penchant for the extreme and automotive companies conducting hot-weather testing for new vehicle models. Golfers play the year-round Furnace Creek Golf Course all summer. And more than 50 intrepid golfers are expected to participate in the second-annual Heatstroke Open June 22-24.

In mid-July, 90 of the best runners on Earth will compete in the “Badwater Ultramarathon,” a 135-mile race that begins at Badwater and ends at Mount Whitney, 8,300 feet above sea level. In between, runners pass through three mountain ranges. The invitation-only race is described by its organizers as the “most demanding and extreme race on the planet.”

Plus, there are Hollywood movie shoots and national magazine photo shoots regularly staged throughout the park. The park’s otherworldly landscape makes it a particularly great location for science fiction movies. Parts of the 1977 mega-hit “Star Wars” were filmed in the park.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the Ranch at Furnace Creek and concessions in the park, continually educates visitors about the potential dangers of the park’s extremes through signs and park guides.

“We advise our summertime visitors to drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen and hats and to limit physical activities to the cooler early-morning and evening hours,” said Dickinson. “The Badwater runners never listen to us on that latter point though.”

To harness the power of the unrelenting sun, Xanterra constructed a five-acre, one megawatt solar PV system four years ago. The massive system powers more than one-third of the resort’s electricity needs annually, and 100 percent of electricity during peak power-generating times.

Xanterra’s year-round operations include the 224-room Ranch at Furnace Creek; 18-hole Furnace Creek Golf Course, the world’s lowest course at 214 feet below sea level; two restaurants; a saloon; general store; spring-fed swimming pool; tennis courts; the Borax Museum and a service station. In addition, there is a 3,000-foot airstrip adjacent to the property. Xanterra also operates the AAA Four-Diamond-rated Inn at Furnace Creek, open mid-October through mid-May. The Inn includes a restaurant, gift shop, spring-fed swimming pool, tennis courts, lush gardens and conference and banquet facilities. The Inn provides a stunning and lush oasis in a harsh climate thanks to water flowing from nearby natural springs.


For more information about facilities in Death Valley National Park go to www.furnacecreekresort.com.


Editor's note: Links to the websites of other Desert area lodging and dining options can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


There's gold in Death Valley. White gold

It took prospectors Aaron and Rosie Winters to discover it in the late 1800s, a San Francisco businessman to develop it, a television and radio show to market it--and today’s environmental movement to give it its due. We’re talking about sodium borate, or borax, a common laundry product used for more than 100 years.

Borax is found primarily in two places on the planet – Turkey and the California desert. Visitors see evidence ofFurnace Creek Inn small DV09004Furnace Creek Inn it throughout Death Valley National Park where there is a museum dedicated to the mineral located at the Ranch at Furnace Creek Resort in the park.

The Borax Museum is housed in a small building, the oldest structure in the park (circa 1883). It was first an office, then a bunk house, then an ore checking station for miners at the Monte Blanco Deposits. The little museum is crammed with artifacts from the borax mining era, and there are antique wagons, carriages and a steam locomotive out back.

Travel Web sites that post comments from visitors include many positive comments for the museum.

“This place was way cool,” wrote one visitor. “If you’re into mining history of any type, you’ll find the museum and surrounding exhibits quite interesting.”


Death Valley TRAIN small BP05Transportation in the Borax era.The museum traces the history of borax mining in the park, including the Harmony Borax Works, and has numerous artifacts, newspaper clippings, photographs and other memorabilia. The museum also chronicles the history of Death Valley.

Because the mining area was so remote, teams of 20 mules were used to haul the heavy carts wagons to a processing location. Visitors of a certain age will recall the radio and later TV programs, “Death Valley Days,” featuring stories of the desert West, and sponsored by 20-Mule Team Borax. One of the pitchman for this series? None other than actor Ronald Reagan (pre-presidency, of course).

The non-toxic laundry product is making a comeback in the 21st century as an environmentally friendly cleaner. Shoppers can find it near the laundry detergent in most grocery stores. Adding one-half cup in the clothes washer is a proven cleaning booster, mixing one part borax and three parts water results in a great carpet stain-remover. One part borax with one quarter part lemon juice cleans porcelain or stainless steel.

Borax also is responsible for the presence of the Furnace Creek Resort. After the Pacific Coast Borax Company bought out Harmony in the 1920s, the new owners created a subsidiary, the Death Valley Hotel Company. In 1927, they opened the $30,000 Inn at Furnace Creek, with 12 guest rooms, a dining room and lobby. MoreFurnace Creek Inn Pool smallPoolside at Furnace Creek Inn. rooms and a natural spring pool were added later. The company teamed up with the Union Pacific Railroad to stop in Ryan, about 20 miles away, where guests were met by motorcars. Its remoteness appealed to the rich and famous and soon it became something of a legend.

Today, the Inn at Furnace Creek is an AAA four-diamond property, open from mid-October through mid-May. It still has fine dining and a spring-fed pool, plus tennis courts and a golf course, horseback riding and, naturally, the Borax Museum. The Ranch at Furnace Creek is open year-round.



Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Desert area lodging and dining options can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


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