Last weekend I went with some friends to Death Valley National Park. Left work on Friday the 23rd an hour early and made the six hour trek up there to meet friends. We arrived and set up camp after 10:30 and it was dark and quiet in the campground, without a moon. All I knew was that is was warm enough not to zip up my sleeping bag and I was glad to have remembered my yoga mat to sleep on this trip since the desert floor was much rockier than the ground in Malibu a few weeks ago. When we woke up around 7:30 to beat the heat, we were greeted by this campground,
We spent the day moving around the park. Unlike lots of National Parks, you can see a lot of the park by car in just a few days. There are parts that can only be reached by 4-wheel drive cars, but for being the biggest national park, you can get a full feel of the desolate desert and see more or less all of it. I had never been to the desert before, so it was exciting to see the hottest part of the country, ie the ultimate desert. It's also the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and since the valley is between two mountains, the hot air gets caught and just sits. And sits. There is also usually less than something like 2 inches of rain per year, so its pretty unforgiving.
In the summer sometimes it doesn't get below 100 degrees at night.
Mostly for us, it was hot, sunny and windy. It was also salty. The only water sits at the bottom of a salt basin. So not only is a insanely hot, there is no good water available. It felt very "first world" to be a tourist in a place that would clearly kill you if you didn't have a car, lots of water and gas stations around.
We started the day off at the Sand Dunes, where we wandered around until about 9:30, when it began to get hot.
Then we hiked the Mosaic Canyon, as it got hotter and hotter. Turns out I'm no good at hiking in the sun, and by the end I was exhausted, though it was worth it by the end. There was scrambling on top of rocks, walking through deep marble canyon and under the hot sun, but it all happened before noon, so it wasn't as hot as it would get.
Stopped by a crater from a volcanic eruption, where it was unspeakably windy. Like, blow you over windy.
The sunset from Dante's Peak. That's the 20 mile salt flat below, not a lake, like it looks.
Hiking the next day before it got really hot and we headed home. Manly peak and Gower Gulch below.
And finally, Artists Pallet, where you can see some different colors in the rocks, but possibly not in this picture as well. Its apparently better in the morning or evening. Alas.
All in all, a great weekend. Worth visiting, but I don't know if I need to go back to Death Valley. As I said, I saw more or less all of it.