On our last day of the trip, Ruth and I had our favorite travel experience thanks to a scenic road in California. We had spent the morning at Front Sight and didn’t want to return to Las Vegas until dusk. I checked the map and again noted that the combined highways 373/127 that began in Nevada in the Amargosa Desert, skirted Death Valley, and ended at the town of Baker, CA, was marked as scenic by Rand McNally. We had never been on it. It was time. It was varied, surprising, and a little over 100 miles of pure driving pleasure all the way.
There were no big towns on 373/127, but it did go through Death Valley Junction. This haunted village’s biggest claim to fame has faded. At one time self-proclaimed dancer and mimer Marta Becket performed in its Amargosa Opera House. She began her shows in the late 1960s, performed until 2012, and died in 2017. Becket was born in 1924.
The next surprise was Ash Meadows. This is the National Wildlife Refuge with a 4-year-old visitors’ center that is as fine as any in the National Park system. Ash Meadows is very close to Death Valley but nothing like it. In fact, it’s the opposite with springs, abundant wildlife, and lush vegetation. It became famous in the last century when the endangered pupfish that turns blue during mating season was threatened with extinction. Its fate resulted in battles fought in the courts. Pupfish have survived in a spring known as the Devil’s Hole. It is now protected from change or development. The Devil’s Hole is so deep that its bottom has never been found.
As we traveled down 373/127 there were always mountains in the distance and nearby. The first to impress was almost 12,000 foot Mount Charleston, which was at least 30 miles away and very close to Las Vegas. It had much snow on it. The mountains changed dramatically as we went south, and they never seemed the same as what we had already experienced. This magnificent road borders Death Valley National Park for miles. It was the star of the film Lost Highway. See 127 before California realizes its scenic value and it becomes a car-filled, unpleasant experience.
About half way to Baker, travelers pass the road to Tecopa Hot Springs. This resort town is still a real bargain and very, very popular. We have friends in Las Vegas who visit it each year and rave about it. This is a place to enjoy moon walking, visit the Yaga Labyrinth, and have a gourmet meal.
On this road we saw dunes named Dumont and weird, conical formations. We hated for it to end at Baker, which is just north of the Devil’s Playground. Why so many area attractions include the devil’s name is something of a mystery to me.