...and didn't die!
Death Valley was (as everything else on this trip) amazing! I arrived right at sunset and saw the most beautiful sky. The weather was perfect and I was excited to be camping in weather warmer than in Canyonlands. The first thing I did was go to Zabriskie Point for sunset which overlooked this amazing formation of rocks that looked like marble rye. The mountains out west are different than back home - these are folded layers of earth created by plate movement - not the rocky glacially formed mountains that I'm used to. They look like petrified dunes (which I saw in Arches!) and are really other worldly. I wonder if minions of the west think our New England mountains are surreal too.
When I was planning this trip I knew that the week following Kansas was going to be one of the best - and it was. I was especially excited for camping in Death Valley because it's a "winter park" so I knew there would be more people camping. As much as I love, love, love being alone by a campfire there is something really nice about seeing other people around theirs. I have also found that when I am in a National Park everyone is basically best friends. I think everyone is just in a good mood because they are surrounded by amazing beauty. I have met a lot of really interesting people a long the way and have really enjoyed sharing love for these parks with them.
For those of you who may want to visit Death Valley I would recommend camping in Furnace Creek Campground. It's location is great as it is right in the middle of the park. I woke up with the sun and then drove south in the park and worked my way up north as the day went on. My schedule worked out perfectly. I began the day with an easy hike through Golden Canyon which came with a trail map pointing out geological formations and evidence of the fact that Death Valley used to be an ocean. The hottest and driest place in the country used to be an ocean. An ocean. AN OCEAN. The National Park & Forest Service do a really good job of talking about past, present and future of the parks. Arches really spoke about the fact that erosion created those arches, and it will also be the force that destroys them.
After Golden Canyon I went to Badwater Basin and the salt flats. This was incredible. The flats are five miles across and I walked about three miles in before turning back. Since most people don't have the time/energy to do the whole thing the further out you get the more pristine the condition of the flats. These flats are also the lowest spot in North America at two hundred and eighty two feet below sea level. I've been to a lot of highest and lowest points on this trip, and also passed over a lot of imaginary borders. (I'm going to do a recap post when I'm home from my journey which will list all of these.)
After Badwater I went on a hike to Natural Bridge and I think, after Arches, I'm an arch snob. This was a beautiful spot though - and different than arches since the formation is carved out of a rocky mountain rather than smooth, red sandstone. When I arrived there was a school group of about fifty students which was irritating. They were all sitting under the arch and one of them said I looked like a boy. So I waited up the trail for about twenty minutes for them to leave so I could have some time alone. I like meeting people on the trail and talking with them, but fifty teenagers was a bit much. Further up the trail is a dried up waterfall which is pretty spectacular. On this dry, dusty trail you come to a very smooth, vertical area of rock that is more evidence of that damn ocean! If you are going to Death Valley be prepared to change at least one tire. A lot of the roads (like the one to Natural Bridge) are unpaved to get to trailheads - I just drove three miles an hour and annoyed anyone behind me but hey, I didn't have to change a tire. So there.
North of Natural Bridge was Artist's Drive which takes you through amazing, colored rock formations that look like giant globs of paint.
At this point I got on the other main road in Death Valley and drove about thirty miles south to Dante's View. This was absolutely stunning. A spot that I spent a lot of time at. After spending the whole day exploring the park this was a perfect (second to) last stop because it overlooks the entire park and I could see everywhere I had been. Amazing. Go. GO!
To finish the day at sunset I drove back to Zabriskie Point and spent a lot of time without my camera just taking it all in. I returned to my camp sight and had a great big campfire and a wonderful, warm night of camping.
This got a bit wordy didn't it? If anyone has any questions about Death Valley, or anywhere I've been, let me know. I'd love to help someone get to some of these places.
Next up: Big Sur!
Bea in San Francisco
I'm a bit behind on posting because I've been doing stuff like camping on a cliff and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. I'll try and catch up.