DEATH VALLEY DAYS: No doubt about it, some people love their famously hot national park in the summertime. Need verifications? Take a look at the Badwater Ultramarathon, where adventurers run many, many miles through the park in the middle of July. But others prefer to visit one of the hottest and driest places on the planet when the nights grow longer and temperatures don't push the mercury quite as hard. Autumn marks the start of high season in the mythical valley, and kicking it all off is the annual opening of the Inn at Furnace Creek. The historic hotel shutters every summer, but come October the beds are made and the refrigerators are stocked and the inn is ready to take guests. Opening date for 2011 is Friday, Oct. 7.
INN RE-OPENING SPECIAL: Furnace Creek is running a 20% off deal on standard rooms from Oct. 7 through 13. It's a fine deal. Also fine, though? That Ranch at Furnace Creek, which is a pop down the road from the Inn, stays open all year long. We certainly don't want to dissuade people from visiting Death Valley in the summertime. We say do the Ranch in June and the Inn in December for the full, well-rounded, well-hotel'd experience. Running the Badwater is up to you.