no matter where you go, there you are

Saturday, March 5, 2011

yea, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death - psalm 23

Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the United States and I plugged it right into early August on our itinerary without blinking an eye. Yes, I may be slightly crazy. But my rationale in thinking was that it's a really famous place that I'd heard was quite beautiful, and the chance I would be able to see it in the near future save for this trip was slim to none. So I said "screw it" and planned the Valley as a passing through from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon. Originally I thought we could camp in the park, but my mother quickly talked me out of it and we ended up finding a great deal on a hotel in Las Vegas and made our Death Valley visit a quick drive through day trip. 

We entered the park on the west side after driving from a campsite in "middle of nowhere valley", California. Legit middle of nowhere. Choosing to drive through was definitely the best way to see the park (especially in the middle of August.) Good tunes, water, air conditioning...all great things to have while taking in the wonders of the valley around you. When looking at a map you can see it is a MASSIVE park, but since we just had the afternoon to peruse, we stuck the main tourist attractions.

The curvy roads first led us through Rainbow Canyon. Taking us up and down in elevation it certainly built up my anticipation of when we would hit the lowest elevation point in the United States. Panamint Springs was the first "valley" area we hit; dry, cracked earth spread into the distance for miles, hidden and protected by the surrounding mountains. We spent about 5 minutes outside and it was only after about 30 seconds Molly decided that that would be enough for her. But I ended up being able to drag her to a couple more places.

Our next stop was at the "village" of Stovepipe Wells which, during August is like a deserted ghost town. There were no tourists mingling about that we could see and the ranger station was fairly empty. Yet there were plenty of people at the Mesquite Sand Dune Flats and the Badwater Basin so I don't really know where they came from. We got out at the Sand Dunes, but the walk to the closer viewpoint wasn't my cup of tea. And Molly was happy with staying as close to the car as possible.

As we were very low on our water supply since our campsite the previous night had no water, we stopped at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to fill our water bottles and use the bathroom. The water was NO help whatsoever because it is so hot in Death Valley that the water is hot when it comes out of the faucets, fountains name it, the water was hot. Not too good, but it made our arrival in Vegas that evening that much better.

We quickly drove down to Badwater Basin passing by the Devil's Golf Course on the way. The Badwater Basin is a massive salt flat and at 282 ft below sea level, the lowest elevation point in the United States. The basin seemed endless and I took the 20 minute walk to the end of the path solo as Molly made the decision to stay with the A/C in the car. It was the same view at the end as it was the beginning, but looking out and was still pretty neat. The phenomenon that impressed me most though was how instantly my mouth became parched. It was an interesting experience trying to process how hot 114 degrees of dry desert heat really was.

On our way back to Furnace Creek, we took the scenic Artist's Drive, a one-way road that tightly weaves through the beautiful curved mountain walls of such a variety of colors. Yellows, reds, oranges, greys, browns, blues... And finally, on the way out of the park we made one final stop at Zabriskie Point, a great overlook of rolling rock (kind of similar to ones at the Badlands.)

After surviving the 114 degree heat, we headed out of the park and on through the deserts of Nevada, eagerly awaiting our hotel room at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino.

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