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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

A Stay at Death Valley’s Panamint Springs Resort

I love staying at different lodges and resorts in national parks. They’re generally Spartan, but fitting for my needs. After all, I’m there to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me, opposed to watching another game on television. Every once in a while, though, I run across a place that is so bad and rundown that it is a wonder it’s fit for human habitation. The Panamint Springs Resort on the western reaches of Death Valley National Park was such a place.
I arrived at the small dot on my map after a long drive up from Joshua Tree National Park. It was a beautiful day and the driving was easy, yet I was tired and ready for a beer. So it was likely no coincidence that the first thing to catch my eye was the restaurant and bar sitting right in front of a row of guest cottages. It seemed perfect – a bar easily within walking distance so I could have a couple of drinks and not worry about driving. But, that turned out to be the only upshot at Panamint Springs.

I parked and unloaded my car after checking into my room at the nearby gas station; I shrugged off the $5 / gallon fuel charge, which was cheap for the park, breathing easily for having filled up my tank before entering the park.

Sadly, when I first opened the door to my room, I thought of how my small car was more spacious. It was tiny, and not in that quaint-oh-so-happy-to-be-piled-into-a-box-sized-room sort of way, either. It was no bigger than the walk-in closet I have at my condo in Denver, plus a small adjoining private bathroom.
After the initial shock and giggle, I brushed it off as no bother; I had no intention of spending any time in my room, I was there to see the park after all! Then it happened. Because there were no extra chairs in the room, I sat on my bed – and fell over backward. The bed was so overused that it was now in the shape of a “U.”
Yes boys and girls, this week’s trip to Death Valley National Park is brought to you by the letter “U”!

I lifted up the mattress to find a deteriorating box spring, which appeared to be older than me. And as I looked around the room further, I noticed that most of the rest of the furnishings were just the same. It was a jumble of junk that appeared to have been purchased at a nearby garage sale or flea market. Thankfully I wasn’t renting the room for aesthetics.
To alleviate my disappointment over my reservation, which came highly recommended online mind you, I decided to knock a few back at the bar and delve into a new book. Unfortunately the service and the food did nothing to help the situation; in all due fairness, though, a rush from the neighboring campground did occur due to a late night rain shower. Nonetheless, I left the bar feeling so much more disappointed.
Practically wrapped in my bed’s mattress, I lounged with my book as the day’s light waned over the Panamint Mountains. It was still early, but I was beginning to nod off in a sort of cold comfort. It probably would have been more warming if my room had a thermostat, but unfortunately that was a luxury the Panamint Springs Resort could not afford. So, instead, I climbed out of my warm bundle and plugged in the space heater; I wondered in the back of my mind if this small room would also turn out to be my coffin thanks to a fire caused by my portable heater or one from another room.

Comfortable back in my bed, eyes starting to droop again, I finally felt a sense of contentment. Of course, though, that’s when I found out my hotel was also a barn; the walls were paper-thin. I could hear almost every noise from neighboring rooms, including a woman talking so loudly on one side I thought she must be yelling and a couple having sex on the other side.
I felt like I was damned on either side.
One good thought popped into my head while I considered my situation: at least my room didn’t smell. Two middle-aged sisters I spoke with at the bar were there hiding from their room due to the stench. At the time of the downpour, they left with one working window open in order to try to get the smell out. And that, I agreed, was more of a sad situation than mine, since their room may always smell, but at least the couple would stop having sex at some point – I hoped.
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