Day 133 of Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways
I can’t even begin to describe Death Valley National Park in the detail it deserves, and I’m certain my pictures won’t do it justice, especially since I have resorted to my point and shoot camera. I won’t have a replacement for my good camera that broke a few days ago until April 14th. While I know the temperatures over the summer average a ridiculous 115 degrees, Death Valley is a misnomer for this park. On this April afternoon, it was unseasonably cool with temperatures in the low seventies.
Death Valley is a land of great extremes that also includes an immense variety. Every twenty miles seems to offer a different landscape: snow capped mountains, desert canyons, wildflowers, sand dunes, streams, and salt crystals that cover the lowest point in the forty-eight contiguous states. I’m simply awestricken. I suppose my only frame of reference previously was knowing that runners follow the roads’ white lines during the century race each summer so the soles of their shoes don’t melt. Not a very inviting description!
Texas Springs Campground
I arrived in Death Valley shortly after noon. Being the weekend, I wanted to be sure to secure a campground, so despite my desire to stop about every 300 yards to snap a photo of the patchwork colored ridges, I pressed on into the middle of the park and easily found a site at Texas Springs Campground.
If I had to knock Death Valley, I suppose I could knock the campgrounds. The sites are essentially located on a gravel parking lot with little shade and no electric or water amenities. Fortunately, however, the bathrooms include flush toilets, which is an upgrade from my recent visit to Joshua Tree. Also, one of the “resorts” (that might be stretching it – but there is a golf course) sells passes to showers and the pool for $5, and it is only a quarter of a mile away.
After securing our spot, Petey, VANilla, and I set out to see the oldest exposed rock in the park at Mormon Point. Given it was at least 20 miles one way from the campground, and I had been driving since 6:30 this morning, I kept thinking to myself, this better be worth it. I suppose I’m glad I picked this landmark first, or it would have been anticlimactic had it been the last of the day. I could have skipped the extra miles to this stop, but at least I can say I’ve seen the oldest, exposed rock…well I think.
I wasn’t exactly sure which rock it was!?! Apparently the younger layers of rock have eroded from the wind and water and exposed a rounded black core called a turtleback which is 2 billion years old. I asked a few people that were standing around, and they looked at me like I had two heads. They had simply stopped to take a picture of the surrounding mountains which were magnificent.
I passed Badwater, Devils Golf Course and Artists Drive on the way to Mormon Point, so upon my return, Petey, VANilla and I stopped to explore each. Badwater is a 282 feet below sea level making it the lowest point in the United States. Supposedly, it got its name when a surveyor’s mule refused to drink the water. The water isn’t poisonous, but its composition is similar to Epsom salt. In fact, from Badwater Pool, visitors may trek across five miles of salt flats located on the valley floor beneath Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet high.
Devils Golf Course
Just north of Badwater lies Devils Golf Course which looks like the earth’s surface cracked and buckled upward creating a jagged terrain covered in salt crystals. Not even Jack Nicklaus could par a hole on this golf course. In fact, most golfers would claim, “Ground under repair”.
After our quick stop at Devils Golf Course, we followed Artists Drive, a nine mile one way loop that appeared blasted into the hillside. We twisted left and right, climbed up small hills, and raced down them like we were on our own personal roller coaster. The roller coaster carried us past pastel pinks, greens, and blues mixed with earthy reds, browns, and fawns to create a collage of colors.
I could account for about every color in the 64 count box of Crayola Crayons here. I’ve never seen anything like it. Had I only seen a painting of these hills without actually seeing the landscape, I would have probably thought the artist was employing an abstract design. If only my camera could have captured the variety of tints that enveloped the hills. I will just have to rely on my memory. It was truly spectacular! What a way to end the day before heading back to the campgrounds.
Jeff at the Campground
The campsite on the right of VANilla was open most the day until a cute guy pulled in with his truck and tent. Shortly after the usual, “Hi, how are you” greeting, Jeff walked over, sat down at my picnic table where I was eating my tomato and avocado dinner, and asked, “Are you by yourself?” “Yes”, I replied, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting about various things as we sat in the warmth of a campfire.
Jeff, originally from Ohio, has been in Southern California the last seven years working as a contractor for telecom companies. He manages cell tower projects. I told him he needed to put a cell tower in Joshua Tree National Park! Anyway, if it works out we will spend the morning together visiting a few more park highlights. ETB
Map of My Road Trip Across the USA
For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.