Saturday, March 27, 2021

Death Valley National Park

 Death Valley is the largest National Park outside of Alaska at 3.3 million acres and the hottest, driest, and lowest of them all. It was declared a National Monument in 1933 and a National Park in 1994. At Badwater Basin, we were 282 feet below sea level, the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (Laguna del Carbon in Argentina is 344 feet). The name led us to believe that it was just one vast desert - wrong! There is plenty of desert but much more as you can see from the photos. They don't do it justice. The colors are much more varied and intense, especially early and late in the day. We spent two nights at Fiddler's Campground, part of the Ranch at Death Valley Resort. It was a great choice, with no utilities but some shade from the pine trees and only a few minutes from the Golf Course Cafe where we were able to access the hotel's wifi. There was no cell service in the park anywhere. We also got the enjoy the beautiful Olympic-sized swimming pool, naturally fed from warm springs. The high during the day was 85 degrees but it cooled down quickly once the sun descended. This was the warmest weather we have encountered so far in our trip!

This is a photo from Dantes View on our last day but it gives you a good idea of the scenery. 

Our four-wheel-drive truck took us everywhere in the park. We put a lot of miles in seeing as much as possible. We saw the top 6 must-see spots and several of the next set. We would love to come back to the park and see even more and just enjoy staying at the lovely Ranch. Coming down out of the mountains on our first day and suddenly seeing the verdant Oasis in front of us was miraculous. We could do without the 18 hole golf course but many were enjoying it fully. Still, COVID restrictions have severely reduced the Ranch facilities. The bars were closed and the restaurants were take out only. 

Looking out over the golf course to the snow-capped mountains at the Ranch at Death Valley. Our
campsite was only a few steps away.

 A view through the truck windshield
of a typical road through the desert.
Zabriskie Point, made famous by the 1970 movie of 
that name directed by Antonioni.
The view from the top of Zabriski Point looking south
And looking east
And back to the parking lot
We hiked up Golden Canyon
Scott in one of the side canyons
Our trusty truck with the mountains behind. We
are very grateful for those many horsepower units
under the hood!
The Artists Drive was a 9 mile one-way road through some of the most colorful rock formations
in the Valley. It is impossible to capture the red, gold, blue, pink, and green colors, at least on our camera.
Heather trudges up another trail on this drive. As you can see from our clothing, most of the day it was cool, partially because of the wind. Down at our campsite, we could enjoy the highest temperatures.
Scott took this while I was driving. Somehow I
look like a cowgirl? I did probably 75% of the 
driving as Scott is by far the better navigator.
The colors just didn't come out.
You can see a little of the blue & pink here.
A look across the Devil's Golfcourse, where tiny salt crystals hide in the pockmarked rock landscape.
Badwater Basin, a surreal landscape
of vast salt flats. We are looking 
back towards the parking lot.
Keane Wonder Mill and Mine,
"King of the Desert", a historic
gold mine with a still intact
ariel tramway.
Scott coming around a sharp corner in a trail that
coiled up the mountain at the Keane Mine
The obligatory photo at Badwater Basin. People
line up here to get their picture taken!
Hard to see this without enlargement but the worn
edges of the mountain looked like statues.
At the end of the day, we visited the Mesquite
Flat Sanddunes. Unfortunately, the sun went behind
some clouds for too long for us to wait.
Nevertheless, it was amazingly beautiful. People walk out on them for miles.
The Harmony Borax Works. Borax was the most
successful mining commodity in the park
We drove the 20 Mule Team Canyon road with our trailer attached as there wasn't a warning
about the trailer at the entrance. There should have been. Happily, our truck has lots of extra power and our overall length just made it around the narrow corkscrew turns on this dirt one-way road. 
We hiked up one of the inviting trails that come 
off this road, just managing to get our vehicle and
trailer off the side of the road in one of the few
wider spots.
This is the view of a harrowing section of the 
road from the passenger side, Just before this
I couldn't see the road at all. It looked like I was
about to drive off a cliff. Scott had to open his
door and check to see there was a road there.

There was a clear warning at the next side road to Dante's View - no trailers allowed. So we
separated from our trailer and left it near the road entrance. This was a spectacular 13-mile drive up to a viewpoint perched on top of the mountain - what an engineering feat! 
You could walk out on the ridges or a little way
further up the mountain - we were above 5,000
feet at this point.
It was around 50 degrees and windy at the top so
we put on all our layers.

Across Death Valley below us looms these magnificent snow-capped peaks.

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