When alone at night in the desert, recall the pop tune by
Maria Muldaur, Midnight At The Oasis.
The largest National Park in the continental USA is Death Valley, larger even than Yellowstone. The park encompasses salt and scrub basins and desiccated mountain ranges: dry, dusty, hot and parched, except for the Oasis at Death Valley, formerly known as Furnace Creek Resort, owned outright by Xanterra Corporation, which owns luxury lodging in other National Parks and the luxury sailing cruise line WindStar. The Oasis at Death Valley also includes The Ranch and Golf Course. A multi-million dollar refurbishment and rebrand also produced the new name for the only resort in Death Valley.
Death Valley is the world’s third and now largest International Gold Star Dark Sky Park; it is a true wilderness of land and sky; the naked eye can spot our closest galaxy neighbor, Andromeda. The resort coordinated with the Park Service to lower ambient light around its perimeter by installing low lumen yellow LED lights. Each November amateur astronomers arrive from around the world to observe the skies through their telescopes and celebrate the collective primitive cosmos. It is so dark and peaceful there is no reason to speak. The Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center, near the resort, issues monthly sky events for free, such as meteor showers, planet visibility, and moon phases. In winter, ranger led moon light hikes are offered at Badwater Basin or Mesquite Sand Dunes. Sign up for the telescope viewing programs. The best season to hike the park is during the Spring wild flower blooms.
The original Inn was completed in 1927.
With the rebrand of The Oasis at Death Valley Xanterra has plowed millions of dollars into the resort’s new decor: drapery, furniture, carpeting, and air conditioning in the rooms; the Oasis will remain open year around for a true Death Valley heat experience. The former laundry building across the road burned down a few years ago so an open air multi-use event area was created for weddings, picnics, and social events. A facing wall resembles the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. The grassy knoll is large enough for bus groups, bike tour companies, and your event.
The beautiful historic paintings in the resort’s renovated fine dining restaurant have weathered the transition; the entire property is now adorned with selections from the owner’s renowned collection of Western art; many are quite valuable and most have an Old West motif.
Dine on the terrace at the fine dining restaurant.
Jetsetters Magazine photographer, Paul, and I set up a reservation for an evening of Old West fare and we were seated in a half shell booth that reminded me of an old Vegas casino, two hours away. We were hungry from tramping the desert hillocks around the resort and ready for a hoe down. The excellent smoked salmon starter on crisp bread could have made an entire entrée, it was that tasteful. I also kicked off the evening with a bowl of the best Chicken Tortilla Soup that crossed my lips. After we gleaned the one page menu, our waiter, Daniel, suggest the Colorado Rack of Lamb, which Paul ordered with out gruff hesitation. The lamb was presented with a side of Rosemary-encrusted chips, Demi-Glazed Seasonal Vegetables, and Mascarpane Potatoes
Start the evening with Smoked Salmon Starters.
We wondered who had to run down the Free Range Chicken, prepared with Sweet Potato Risotto, Sautéed Baby Spinach, and Jus du Poulet. I don’t know how much jus a free range Poulet could produce so I voted to support the Cattlemen’s Association by ordering the Filet Mignon. The medium grilled filet was presented atop a Pomegranate Port Reduction sauce that sweetened the meat. My entrée also came with Seasonal Fresh Vegetables and five round and crispy Potatoes Croquettes. In a past visit the restaurant served me Rattlesnake Croquettes, but I guess the new staff was not trained yet to round up rattlers. The aged meats were braised to tenderness, yet moist; no time for questions which disappeared by the forkful. I had to split the huge slice of Chocolate Cake with Paul; the chuck wagon fare certainly tempered down the tramping pangs. Ask about the nightly signature entrees not on the menu.
In the morning the ranch-style breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast and coffee was served by a long black maned Shoshone lass that could have stepped out of one of the paintings. The small Timbisha Shoshone village is a traditional settlement near the park visitor’s center. The tribe members were the labor that built the original adobe resort in 1927. Swing by the village for Indian Tacos and cool shaved ice drinks; open Thursdays through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 760-258-7858.
Filet Mignon, Old West style.
Xanterra is in the process, as of 2018, of constructing suites and family-style villas down hill from the incredible historic swimming pool. The natural warm mineral water stays at a constant 85 degrees but is chlorinated, recycled, then used to irrigate the golf course. A new pool Cafe is imbedded in the hand hewn flagstone in a separate indoor room near the beach blue rolled towel shelf. A new spa area has been added at one end of the pool with two treatment rooms. At the other end of the pool a gym room with modern workout equipment is set up around a palm tree growing through the roof. New blue and white striped chaise lounges are neatly placed around the pool, and new private cabanas are set up in the original alcoves rock artisanship.
A pool Cafe has been added.
All 66 of the original Four Diamond resort’s bedrooms received a fresh facial of carpeting, draperies, beds, bedding, A/C, furniture, and flat screen TVs with plenty of movie channels, including TCM. The resort was a hideout for Hollywood celebs, such as Clark Gable who enjoyed driving his car through the desert the four hours from Los Angeles. After the burnt orange sunset plopped like a fizzy over the Panamint Mountains I watched black and white film noir on TCM; I had slid back to the 1940s, the last time the resort had a makeover. The resort has free WiFi throughout the property, and there are cell towers in the vicinity.
All 66 rooms received a refurb.
New beds, bedding, and modern amenities.
I noticed that the upper parking lot was gone and turned into a fountain garden, perfect for night sky watching. No you can’t take my place, as I search the darkness and the distant planets light flickers and it is impossible to explain. The outdoor flagstone verandas still have a sweeping views of Death Valley and the Panamint Mountains. I also noticed the high powered telescope placed next to the grand piano at the restaurant entrance was gone, as was the piano. But you can spot the highest mountain in the park from the verandas, Telescope Peak.
Near the resort there are many day trips to discover the park by car.. Paul and I twisted and turned three miles by dirt road through 20 Mule Team Canyon; shot videos and photos like tourists at Zabriski Point, and coasted down to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the United States. It was a colorful geological drive on the Artist Loop Road, no RVs allowed here though, and it’s illegal to drive off road.
It was an exciting road trip over the Basin Range to the Eastern Sierras and Lone Pine, California, with desolation stretching away and below us in every direction. The world’s most grueling marathon follows this same road for 140 miles from Badwater Basin to Mount Whitney looming over Lone Pine, and no prizes are awarded.
Zabriski Point is an easy hike.
Other easy half day road trips within Death Valley include: Dante’s Point, at 5,000 feet, overlooks Badwater Basin; Devil’s Golf Course, an enormous area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain; and Mesquite Flats Sand Dune, tawny dunes rise 1,000 feet above the flats.
Full day road trips include: Salt Creek, home to rare pupfish; Ubebehe Crater, an underground explosion caused by magma and spring water; Father Crowley Vista, a landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders; and Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, ten beehive shaped structure once used to process borax.
Backcountry road trips require a 4×4 vehicle: The Racetrack, mysterious sliding rocks across a dry lakebed; Titus Canyon, towering volcanic walls, ghost towns, petroglyphs, and bighorn sheep. (This is a 26 mile, one way road through narrow canyons.); Eureka Dunes, highest dunes in California at 700 feet.; Aguereberry Point, a west side perspective of Death Valley.
There are no tour operators or jeep rentals within the park. Contact Las Vegas Private Tours for a professional tour of the park. www.LasVegasPrivateTours.com
Take family photos at the Visitor’s Center.
The Death Valley National Park Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center is worth a stop for nature videos in a cool theater, an interactive 3D model of the park layout, and a small museum of native wildlife like the stuff big horn sheep. Buy a refrigerator magnet at the gift shop. Nearby is the original Harmony Borax Works kiln that precipitated the borax ore that was hauled out on huge freight wagons hitched up to those 20 mule teams.
There is easy to difficult self guided hikes in the park, but it is recommended your register at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center about your itinerary.
Golf at the Ranch at Death Valley
Golf on the world’s lowest golf course. Blend golf with luxury with a package deal from the Furnace Creek Resort; get a free round of golf during certain seasonal offer good for two people.
Golf includes cart rental on the 18=hole course. The legendary, par-70 Furnace Creek Golf Course, recognized by Golf Digest magazine as one of “America’s 50 Toughest Courses,” offers challenging play, unique hazards including ball-stealing coyotes (one free drop is allowed) and its famous drive-through 19th hole restaurant with the best burgers in Death Valley. This is a classic California desert resort course and an ideal getaway, Furnace Creek is framed by palm and tamarisk trees and offers majestic mountain views from at every hole. Visit www.oasisatdeathvalley.com/offers/free-golf for more details.
For additional information, call 760-786-2345 or visit www.oasisatdeathvalley.com Visit other Xanterrra resorts in National Park settings tat www.Xanterra.com For more info on Death Valley National Park visit: https://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm
Feature by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine; photos by Paul McCormmick and courtesy of Xanterra.
Check into luxury.
The outdoor multi-use event area.
The Fountain Garden was once a parking lot.
The stately palms remain below the terrace levels.
Get out of the heat and lounge on new furniture.
Plan a massage at the pool deck.