|Walter E. Scott, born a Kentuckian in 1872, became Death Valley Scotty, rancher, miner, wild west showman, and some might say, a "con man."
While Scotty may have been king of his castle it was a grubstake from millionaire insurance man, Albert C. Johnson, who provided much of the funds Scotty needed to quench his thirst for gambling, drinking, following the wild west shows, and prospecting. If in fact that thirst could be quenched.
Unlikely bedfellows to be sure, Johnson helped Scotty fulfill many of his dreams. While Scotty may not be all myth, how he obtained the property, built his Castle and became part of the great western folklore, certainly stretches ones imagination.
I recall traveling to Death Valley with my parents when I was very young, and again when I was in high school (Scotty died at age 82 the year I graduated), but it wasn't until I was older and made other trips to Death Valley with my own young family that I began to appreciate something more than athletics, and found value in things historic.
Scotty's Castle is in the hills at the northern end of Death Valley, and while certainly a historic site worth seeing and living, one should also travel the 53 miles and a couple hundred feet below sea level to reach another of those landmarks considered historic.
Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort might have been in Ronald Reagan's 20 Mule Team Borax TV program, but I can only remember Reagan's appearance on the wagon. What I do remember is, Furnace Creek is hot - the original meaning of the word.
Our trip was squeezed in before the searing three figure temperature of 110 and beyond set in. One who travels the miles to Furnace Creek from any direction will understand the meaning of furnace. Death Valley is the hottest and lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere.
Its early settlement began in 1849, but unlike other areas of the West, Death Valley did not become famous for its gold or silver. Death Valley's "rush" was for a mineral named Borax. The white powder made some people rich, while the powder and an ape, helped another become president of the United States.
Death Valley is a National Park and for all its heat and seemingly barren land, there are many sites to experience. Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort, opened in 1927, has been a favorite stop for most of the visitors traveling through or visiting the Valley.
Although the Inn was closed on this trip (disappointing my traveling companion), we were able to enjoy a relaxing lunch and a walk around the area. I have been lucky enough to enjoy both the Inn and Ranch for weekend stays in the past and of course I rubbed that in. (The perks one gets for growing up in Las Vegas instead of Chicago.)
Like most of our National Parks there is a good reason for the designation. It would be a shame to destroy this treasure even though for some people it looks like barren wasteland. This Park, like many of our parks, particularly in Nevada, became a point of interest because of its minerals. There is more to it than minerals, much more.