MAY CLOSING: We live in an all-access world nowadays, which means that when something closes for the season, or opens, well. It feels rather quaint, like something from a century-old novel. It also is very tied to weather, the weather of our most extreme locations, meaning that if a hotel or resort chooses to shutter for a few months, snow is the reason. Or some triple-degree temperatures. Such is the case with the historic Inn at Furnace Creek, the 1927 hotel inside Death Valley. It closes every May -- May 11 in 2013 is its final date -- and reopens in October. Quaint, right? Definitely, but it does lend the feeling that the national park puts out the "Do Not Disturb" sign come late spring. This is not the case at all, and while winter and wildflower-rich spring tend to be bigger than say, August, there is a place to stay and things to do. That place? Ranch at Furnace Creek, the more casual, down-the-road sibling to the Inn.
A LONG HISTORY: Thought the ranch at first glance will seem newer than the 1920s-style Inn -- and it is -- its story goes back the 1880s, when it was indeed a working ranch. (We love when names are perfectly truthful.) Today is the place inside the arid, moon-like park to stay when temps shoot north. A spring-fed pool, a few restaurants, and a really well-appointed store are just three features on the bustling, summer-camp-y property. So, why go to Death Valley when the thermometers turn red? There's the Badwater Ultramarathon, which is set for July 15-17 this year. There's the Heatstroke Golf Tournament, which swings from June 21-23. And there's simply kicking around in a vast space that feels a little emptier. Honest, how many summertime family destinations can you say that about? If you're impervious to the occasional sweaty swelter, and even find it a little interesting, a Death Valley summer trip might be for you, pardner. (Please -- you'll be staying at a place with "Ranch" in the name. Say "pardner" and have some fun with it.)