Friday, May 3, 2013

Desert Destination: Death Valley Part 1

 If you want to visit the desert, Death Valley certainly fits the bill! It is one of the most beautiful desert locations in the world.

After we had exited Titus Canyon, we drove down into Death Valley proper. Desert Boy was not impressed. I asked him what he expected to see, and he said a barren valley where everything was dead. I told him that was coming.

First, though, we had more important things to do: put up our tent and go swimming. I was worried that the campgrounds might be full as it was spring break for a lot of schools, but we had quite a few sites to choose from.

Furnace Creek Ranch lets campers swim for a fee, and the kids could not wait. It was hot, about 85 degrees (which is not really hot for Death Valley), so after picking up a junior ranger booklet at the visitor center, we headed to the pool and spent much of the afternoon there in the spring-fed pool. Ah, that's a good way to spend an afternoon!

 Next was a picnic dinner of hot dogs roasted over the stove (I was lazy and did not want to build a fire, plus, as I mentioned before, it was hot!).

 We had some free time before the evening ranger program, so we went to the Borax Museum and the displays behind it. They were mildly interesting, and since they were free, worth it.
 They had a cool old engine from the Death Valley Railroad. I thought Desert Boy would get a little more excited, but he was tired of looking at things. So we jumped on our bikes and headed down the bike path to the Borax Twenty Mule Team exhibit.

 The Twenty Mule Teams are one of the iconic symbols of Death Valley, although most people probably couldn't tell you why. If you ever pick up a package of Borax soap, there's a good chance you'll see an illustration of the Twenty Mule Teams on it. Since we've started making our own laundry soap with Borax as an ingredient, Desert Boy recognized them.

 The evening light was beautiful.

Taking our bikes was a great idea, as Desert Boy really likes bike riding. I do too, as we can cover more ground yet still get some exercise.

Next was the evening ranger program about the night skies. The highlight was meeting up with a couple rangers who have been working at Scotty's Castle for the winter. I so much enjoyed seeing them and hearing their stories.

Then it was off to our tent for a good night's rest. We all slept well. I woke up early, so I climbed up a nearby hill and watched the setting moon as the sun's rays spread across the valley.
 The parking lot campground (that can hold about 1,000 RVs) was only partially filled. Our campground, which was mainly tents and smaller RVs, was mostly full. I'm not used to camping in such a crowded campground, but it worked out fine.

 I wanted to make the most of the early morning light, so I rousted the kids and got them into the truck, telling them we would eat breakfast later.

 We went to Zabriskie Point, one of the most photographed places in the park.

 The kids had fun running around.

 We were joined by quite a few other people on the overlook. Can you see our shadows waving?

We ate breakfast and then headed to Badwater. This is the part of Death Valley Desert Boy was imagining.
 It was only mid-morning, but the day was turning out to be hotter than the day before. We passed a group from Backroads bicycling, and I didn't want to be part of their group on this day.

 Coming from the high desert where we still had snow, Desert Boy and Desert Girl were not thrilled with the heat or the fact that they were now 282 feet below sea level. Whew. Maybe they won't ever consider doing the Badwater Ultramarathon, considered the most difficult ultramarathon race. Why so difficult? Well, it's 135 miles for one thing. It starts at Badwater and ends at the Whitney Portal, which is 13,000 feet of cumulative vertical ascent. And the real kicker? It's held in July, when Death Valley air temps may be 120 degrees F, and ground temps even higher. Runners run on the white line painted on the road so they won't burn their feet and get into huge coolers (or even coffins) filled with ice water at rest stops.

A fifteen minute stop convinced them that they had seen enough, and I wasn't about to argue.

More tomorrow...


John Mosley said...

Rattus rattus desertus.

Dessert Survivor said...

Scotty's Castle. Didn't Abagail Fox (Foxx?) work there at one time?

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