Dates: March 8 – 9, 2013
Distance from home: About 280 miles / About 450.6 kilometers
Entrance fee: $20 for 7 days
Lodging: Camped at Furnace Creek Campground
Areas visited: Golden Canyon, Natural Bridge Canyon, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, Zabriskie Point, Devil’s Cornfield
Park Number: Alex – 7, Kam – 8
Alex and I headed to Death Valley National Park for a quick camping trip to celebrate my birthday last weekend! There wasn’t a lot of planning that went into this trip, so you can imagine how pissed we were when we ran into this: It was pouring.
The roads were starting to flood.
We knew it would be cold, but we didn’t really think about the rain.
Did I mention that we were planning on camping? Yeah. That.
So here’s the thing, if you’re not familiar with Death Valley National Park, I’ll share some information from the NPS website about the park: The motto of the park is Hottest, Driest, Lowest. And I’m sure it is, it’s a desert for crying out loud! But we only witnessed the Lowest portion…we saw the complete opposite of the first two portions. The highest recorded temperature on earth was recorded in the park, it is home to the lowest point in North America, and everything is named after the Devil/death/dying/insert-morbid-or-semi-scary-name-here. There are a ton of canyons to explore (if you know how, please be careful, if you don’t know how to canyoneer, stay out!), go off-roading, hiking, and sight-seeing…and don’t worry, there are several designated areas with water for your radiator in case you break down. Because that sounds like a good time.
So let’s talk about some of the cool things we were able to do while it was still raining: visit the Visitor Center with everybody else. That’s me in the photo above (at an elevation of -190 feet) taking what could be a funny photo…most people are looking to pose with this thing when it is showing triple digits. Not so lucky this time!
The visitor center was full of people charging their gadgets and enjoying (what I can assume is) free wi-fi. The gift shop is pretty meager, there is a small education area, and the bathrooms are clean. Nothing too fancy, which is nice.
At this point, it was still raining and Alex was dead set on driving the 4.5 hours back home. I was pretty determined to configure the inside of our truck so we could sleep inside for the night. Staying at one of the resorts in the park was out of the question–they were either full or $232/night and homie don’t play that way. We decided to drive to the sand dunes and take a look at some of the other things we could see from the road…we knew the truck would be fine on the flooded portions of the road as long as we took it slow…
In the 15 minutes it took to drive to the sand dunes, the rain stopped and the clouds started to thin in some areas. I was hopeful that we would be able to stay in the park and not have to suffer the drive home. I was also determined to get out of the car to cross one of my 27 things to do before I turn 28 things off of my list — roll down a sand dune. But that’s a story for another time.
Here are some photos until then:
It was like being in a totally different part of the world. It also felt kind of like we were at Disneyland because the area around the sand dunes is totally different and it’s almost like this sand was dumped here by imaginears or something.
What matters is that it is beautiful. Hauntingly silent. And scary because the wind moves the sand over your footprints pretty quickly. I kind of wish we had a sled or snowboard, the dunes are so smooth and they are super tall at points.
We decided to check out our campsite (one of the few that weren’t moved to a parking lot due to flooded sites) and ended up staying the night. The campground isn’t fancy, but it has flush toilets. There is zero privacy, and if it wasn’t for the canopy of trees at our site, the campgrounds would look more like a glorified parking lot. The wood we purchased from the general store was wet, so our fire didn’t last long. We did find out that our neighbors were in the canyons all day and chatted with them about their adventures…and then gave them some fire starters so they could try to light their wet wood from the same general store.
I have a few more posts planned, but this park probably won’t be our go-to park. Then again, we said the same thing about Joshua Tree National Park and we can’t seem to stay away from there.
If you’re ever in California during a time that isn’t summer or early fall, check out this park. You can drive from Mt. Whitney to Vegas/Red Rocks through it, so it’s kind of a perfect stop for adventurers looking for another stamp in their Parks Passport.
Upcoming Fee Free Days for 2013
- April 22-26 five days during National Park Week
- August 25 National Park Service Birthday
- September 28 National Public Lands Day
- November 9-11 Veterans Day weekend
Have you visited Death Valley National Park?