Dates Visited: April 2 – 4, 2017
Daytime Temp’s: 98°
Nighttime Temp’s: 72°
It’s official! It’s hot, dry, hazy, dusty, rocky and salty and I was prepared to be unimpressed. But, we were wrong, oh, so wrong…
Many people are aware of the park’s extreme temperatures, low rainfall and the below sea level elevations. What we didn’t know was that Death Valley was a national monument in 1933 and converted to a national park in 1994. At that time 3.1 million acres, or 92% of the park was designated wilderness. I have no idea what else this could have been designated as – wilderness is about all there is!
From Las Vegas we were headed to Bakersfield. Death Valley wasn’t high on our list but looking at the map it was a convenient stop. We camped in Furnace Creek – an oasis in the desert costing $7 per night. This was a first come, first served campsite with no hook-ups but you could run your generator from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. – and we did!
Unfortunately, dogs were not welcome on any of the trails or locations and we needed to leave the pets in the coach. With daytime temps in the high 90’s we needed the air on…
We focused on those sights, trails and trips in and around Furnace Creek – highlighted in blue below.
Climbing 5,475’ above the floor of Death Valley for the most breathtaking views. The Death Valley National Park photo above is from this viewpoint.
The lowest point in North America at 282′ below sea level! A surreal landscape of vast salt flats, as far as the eye can see.
Devil’s Golf Course
An immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged chunks and boulders. So incredibly serrated that only the devil could play golf on such rough links. Signs everywhere advising – “Be Careful! Walking on the golf course is very difficult. A fall could result in painful cuts or even broken bones.”
Artist’s Drive and Palette
A scenic loop drive through rock formations coloured by rich metals. A patchwork quilt effect you might say.
This loop was closed from January 2nd and had just re-opened. Following the flash floods of October, 2015, crews removed over 8,000 pounds of flood debris from the roadway. Miles of new pavement and shoulder repairs were made.
Harmony Borax Works
Borax, the “White Gold of the Desert” rank’s as the valley’s most profitable mineral. The 3/8-mile interpretative trail takes you through Harmony Borax Works one of Death Valley’s first borax operations. It operated from 1883 – 1888. This historic mining site is where the famous 20-Mule Team wagons began their gruelling 165 mile journey south to the Mojave railroad depot.
Golden badlands make this the top sunset and sunrise destination in Death Valley. We didn’t make it to either one…
Twenty Mule Train Canyon
Just up the road from Zabriskie Point is a picturesque landscape of canyons and badlands that can be experienced right from the driver’s seat. This 2.8-mile one-way dirt road is well maintained and passable in any car or truck. Yes, it was this white!
Trivia note: The famed twenty mule team wagons did not actually pass through Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Bummer!
This is a national park of so many contrasts, varying terrains and unusual but natural formations. And, we just touched on a small section of it.
I do have one bit of advice – avoid at all costs in June, July and August when temp’s reach as high as 116° and low’s average 88°!