Here’s what I knew about Death Valley before going:
1. A select group of crazy people attempt to run 135 miles thru Death Valley to Mt. Whitney every summer in a race called the Badwater 135. I know this because I love to read about them.
2. There are rocks that mysteriously move across the flat desert floor on their own accord and no one is certain how.
So why did we go to Death Valley? I love the desert, I love 80 degree winter days and it was in the path of our Eastern Sierra trajectory.
We typically avoid National Parks due to their strict dog rules but decided to check this one out nonetheless. We arrived around noon to the first-come, first served Texas Spring campground where we found a nice end spot. (End spots are our favorite and what we always look for. They offer so much more spaciousness than being parked with rigs on both sides of you.)
We paid $16/night for a dirt pad and a picnic table. No hookups, no showers. For the next two days we would ride out a wind advisory with steady gusts reaching 50mph. It was 90 degrees the day we arrived. I didn’t expect the weather to be anything better in a place called Death Valley.
With the high winds and strict dog rules, we decided the bulk of our entertainment in Death Valley would be scenic drives. Three days in a row we set out at about 3pm for a few hours of driving. Each day paid off with dramatic light and incredible views of this remote national park. Since we didn’t have any expectations of this destination, we were easily impressed.
The first day we drove Badwater Road and enjoyed it’s various sights starting with Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest place in the country and the second lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.
Badwater Basin as seen from the Natural Bridge parking area:
The walk to Natural Bridge:
The moody weather made for some beautiful light:
This is Artist’s Palette, a scenic stop off of Artist’s Drive. See the little tourist? I love how people offer such a great sense of scale in landscapes like this one.
On our second day we opted for a backcountry drive. Initially we thought we would head to “The Racetrack” to check out the mysterious moving rocks but instead decided for a less popular attraction. We decided on the 27 mile long Titus Canyon Road. It took us 3 hours to complete and was absolutely gorgeous. The best part, we didn’t see a single person.
Mark letting some air out of the tires for the bumpy road ahead.
The ghost town of Leadfield. What was once a “mining boom town founded on wild and distorted advertising.”
We enjoyed every bit of this drive but the highlight was weaving our way thru Titus Canyon.
We planned our drive so that we could hopefully enjoy the golden sunset light on our way thru. It worked out perfectly.
Fun fact: We rarely stop for photos. If we stopped every time I wanted to take a photo, we’d never get anywhere. Most of the photos in this post are taken while driving by me hanging my hand out the window.
Not this one of course : )
As we exited the canyon we saw that the wind had yet to subside. We couldn’t have chosen a better activity for the day as we were protected from the wind for most of our drive.
I had hopes of getting out for a short hike on our last day but the wind was relentless and we had no desire to be out in it. Instead, we decided to check out the restaurant options within the park, only to learn that they leave very little to be desired. On a whim, we turned on some music and drove an hour across the vast, uninhabited desert back to Pahrump, NV where we found a great dive bar, perfect for a burger and beer. Between the jukebox playing all the right tunes and the old time cowboys at the bar, it felt like a perfectly authentic evening in the Nevada desert. We didn’t leave town before grabbing a few groceries and filling up on $2.74/gal diesel. (Death Valley was charging $5.00/gal)
We left Death Valley at a crossroads. Our hope was to continue North, up Highway 395 where we would finally experience the much-anticipated Eastern Sierras. However, it was looking as though we were too early in the year to begin the climb in elevation. Lows were still below freezing and not showing any signs of improving. This didn’t leave us eager to continue with our plan. But where would we go instead? We were still figuring that one out : )