(Excerpted from Desert Dancing)
Beatty, Nevada, is nestled between desert mountains along the main route between Las Vegas and Reno. It's the eastern entrance to Death Valley, which gives it some tourist trade; otherwise, the town lives off mining and cows. It is a western town filled with easygoing, hardworking people.
"Nothing much ever happens here," said the young lady at the registration desk at the Burro Inn. The Burro Inn is an older place, a Nevada style motel with a restaurant and casino that is open 24 hours. There's a wooden Indian outside the door to the restaurant, a friendly-looking character in full Native American dress and with a bent nose. He belongs. Beatty is a step back in time and place, a quiet little town. It's a wide spot on the edge of nowhere, and in the spirit of young people everywhere, whose juices are flowing and whose questing spirit is yearning for experience and adventure, our clerk would rather be where there was some excitement.
Panamint Valley is a 100 mile long, 2 to 10 mile wide depression sandwiched between the Panamint Range on the east and the Argus and Slate ranges on the west. It's northern end is bounded by hills that back the unique Panamint sand dunes. Earthquakes have uplifted the mountains and dropped the valley floor along major faults as the earth's crust stretches here. The great Pleistocene alluvial fans just south of Ballarat are evidence of this continuing upheaval where the fault scarp is over 100' high.
Most desert creatures are nocturnal or secretive and are seldom seen---with the exception of coyotes, ravens, ants, and flies. Desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and deer inhabited in the mountains surrounding Panamint Valley long before humans arrived on the scene several thousand years ago.