Death Valley National Park

I am not sure what I expected when we decided to visit Death Valley because the campsites at Valley of Fire were all full, but I can honestly tell you, it was better than my wildest imagination.

Death Valley has the honor of being the hottest, driest, and lowest place in North America. It is an endorheic basin, which means that the rivers that flow in the valley do not head out to sea. It is part of the Mojave Desert and is famous for its unusual geographical features. There are sand dunes, salt flats, craters, and hardy stalk-like plants called Devil’s Corn Stacks.

This arid desert valley was once covered by a very large lake named Lake Manly that has since dried up. When the water evaporated, it left behind large deposits of minerals and salts that were once harvested by mules. Harmony Borax and the 20 mule team rigs that hauled the salts out of the valley that is used for washing clothes, was a well-known product when I was growing up in the 50’s.

We camped at the Furnace Creek Campground and had site number 66 and 70 which had a lot of privacy and a good view of the Panamint Mountains with white snow dusting the largest peak in the distance. It was dry camping and our auxiliary battery kept dying and our propane was low, so note to self, always fill up with propane before dry camping. I ended up having to get up at 4 am the last morning we were there because the refrigerator needed at least a charged battery or propane to continue cooling our food, and an alarm went off warning us that we were about to run out of both propane and the use of our battery. I turned the motor on and sent out a silent prayer that we weren’t causing our neighbors to lose sleep over the noise; the generator wouldn’t even turn over. I was able to get enough juice stored in the auxiliary battery after about 20 minutes of idling, and turned everything back off until 7 am when generators could be turned on once again.

The four of us spent 5 days and 4 nights at Furnace Creek and went exploring every day with our daughter’s car. My only complaint with RVing is that once we set up camp, we either have to walk or bike to wherever we want to explore. We had so much more freedom with a car. Towing a small car may have to be a necessity in the future.

On our first day, we went to Badwater and walked around the salt flats. It consists of mostly plain, white table salt, and was such a trip to look at. From a distance, it appears like snow, but up close, you can see the sodium crystals forming on the surface. On the return drive, we drove through Artist’s Palette Canyon but the lighting was too poor for a decent photograph. The colors were so spectacular with turquoise and rose and yellow ochre tints, that were layered inside golden sandstone. My photographs did not do it justice.

The Harmony Borax site was unsettling to look at because I just know the mules were worked to death and the Chinese workers that mined the salts were only paid a pittance and their wages were deducted for the cost of board and food. The Ubehebe Crater was extraordinary though, and looked like something on the moon and is only 2,000 years old. We hiked up to the crater’s first lookout and it was breathtaking! You pass the sign for the Race Track on your way to the Crater that is famous for the heavy rocks that slide along the ground of their own accord, but it was not reachable because we didn’t have 4 wheel drive. Multiple flat tires are common and there is no cell phone service available. The cost of being towed out can exceed $2,000! We tried to off-road to Darwin’s Falls, but that too became problematic because the car is so low to the ground and Lara and myself were sure that we were going to break down. A guy coming back from the falls convinced us to turn around and Michael reluctantly did so. The falls weren’t flowing strong anyway, so we didn’t miss out on too much!

We visited the Mesquite Sand Dunes, rode bikes and the last day I took photographs of Zabriskie’s Point at sunset. That was incredible and this time the lighting was perfect and I took multiple shots of the magnificent geological rocks that take your breath away.

Camping at Furnace Creek and exploring the Visitor Center was so much fun. Callie loved it too and started to feel better once she unthawed from her stay at Zion. She had the sniffles and kept sneezing the whole time we were in Utah. I wasn’t sure if it was allergies or a cold. Her respiratory system has been so compromised ever since she had that terrible bout of coughing that went on for over 4 months last winter.

I drove the RV all the way back from Death Valley to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park myself, and it handled so well. I am rather proud of doing such a good job. Michael has accidentally gone over railroad tracks in the very beginning just a little too fast, and we have had multiple flat tires and one time it separated the kitchen cabinets from the wall. The RV is a house on wheels and needs to be driven ever so gingerly. I had no mishaps on the way home. We did spot a very tame and curious coyote on the drive back and it came right up to the RV and checked Callie out. She actually growled at it so I am relieved to see that she knows the difference between a dog and a coyote. She loves dogs!

It feels good to be back in a house after 2 weeks on the road, and Callie is relishing having more room to run around in. She climbed up all three of her olive trees this morning and took a shot at the CD cabinet in the living room. All is well and another trip will be planned soon.