Last November, Clay managed to book the very last campsite at the Furnace Creek campgrounds in Death Valley National Park. And a couple of weeks ago at the end of February, the elementary school I work at had a week of break, so we were finally able to go on our camping road trip! After Clay got off work on a Wednesday evening, we drove 4 hours to Bakersfield (where we stayed overnight) and woke up the next morning to drive another 4 hours to our campsite. Unfortunately, I caught a cold and got an ear infection at the beginning of that week, so it was a real bummer having to battle both of those while trying to enjoy our time outdoors. Despite all of that, I was very thankful for a much-needed time of rest and rejuvenation in nature. Death Valley was also a great change of scene from all of the Bay Area rain we had been experiencing.
Clay and I had some really good conversations during our road trip just talking about where we were currently at, as well as our hopes for the near and distant future. When we got to the campground, we were able to pitch up our tent and head straight to Badwater Basin, a giant salt flat that stood 282 feet below sea level (the lowest point in North America)! We spent some time walking around on the dry areas of the salt flat and then walked further until we were stepping over a thin layer of rain water that had collected on the surface of the basin. One of the first trips we had ever went on together back in August 2013 was to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Ever since then, Clay has always wanted to visit a salt flat post-rainstorm, so this was really exciting for us to experience! The reflection of the surrounding landscape on the water was beautiful. Of course, we took a ton of pictures thanks to our trusty tripod and ended up staying long enough to enjoy the sunset.
On our second day there, we started the day off hiking Mosaic Canyon, a 4-mile long out and back hike in a canyon with these really neat mosaic-style rock formations called breccia. Afterwards, we drove to nearby Stovepipe Wells Village and had lunch at their Toll Road Restaurant. Our next stop (after a one hour nap in the car) was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. It was a lot of fun getting to switch into our sandals and walk to the highest dune, especially since we were the only ones further out in the dunes. We tried to imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to wander around this kind of wilderness landscape for forty years...pretty insane. After getting back from the dunes, we rushed over to Zabriskie Point just in time for the sunset and then drove to Dante's View to get a glance of the view overlooking Death Valley just before it went completely dark. If we had more time, I would have definitely wanted to go back to explore and photograph the area around Zabriskie Point more - there are some really amazing formations and magnicient views of the badlands there. For dinner, we went to Forty Niner Cafe at Furnace Creek Ranch.
On the morning of our third day, we hiked one short mile to see Natural Bridge, which is exactly what it sounds like (I have lots of pictures of this one above). Then we hiked at Golden Canyon until we we reached a view of the Red Cathedral. The very last stop of our trip was Harmony Borax Works, a historic site near Furnace Creek.
If you don't mind dry terrain, I would highly recommend visiting Death Valley to see its salt flats, sand dunes, and canyons. If we ever get to go back, here are some other places we'd love to explore:
-Racetrack Playa with Sailing Stones (need 4WD)
-Panamint Sand Dunes (8 miles)
-Desolation Canyon (3.5 miles)
-Fall Canyon (6 miles)
-Ubehebe Crater Loop (1.5 miles)
-Twenty Mule Team Canyon (2.7 mile one-way loop drive)
-Wildrose Charcoal Kilns
Just capturing as I go.