Thursday, January 12, 2012

Travel Thursday - Death Valley

Death Valley National Park – Desolate Vast Neverending Panaromic views

There is beauty everywhere – this holds perfectly true when you see Death Valley – there is beauty there in the utter and startling stillness; in the canyons, the salt flats, the sand dunes, and the mountain peaks; in life in its many forms in Death Valley.

Vanilla and fudge!

Here, you can reach out to the night sky and touch the stars, get lost in the surreal sunrises and sunsets, feast on mountains of chocolate fudge covered vanilla ice cream that does not melt in the sun, play in the largest sandbox you will ever see, and stand below sea level without a snorkel and eat some salt while there!

Water in the saltwater flats is three times saltier than sea-water. The origin of the name Badwater –the earliest prospectors who landed there thought they were lucky on seeing water, marked it as bad water on the map after taking one sip and the name stuck. Just like the name Death Valley itself given to it by rescued 49ers who left there with a ‘Goodbye Death Valley’ when they were finally found after being stranded there for over two months with little food and water. You will also found many other landmarks of Death Valley with similar names - Furnace Creek, Dante's View, and the Devil's Golf Course. 

Taking lessons from these early explorers, if you go prepared with enough water, food, and supplies for changing conditions, you can enjoy Death Valley to the fullest and find the paradise within. Remember to fuel up as there are very few service areas in and around the park (fuel is pricey but ..).
Death Valley is the largest national park outside Alaska covering 3.3 million square miles. With lots of things to do and places to see which all require driving and/or hiking (and many a times, preferably a 4x4), you should plan to give yourselves a couple of days or more. Sunsets and sunrises at Zabrieski point are a must (and we heard that the Mesquite sand dunes are a good place to view sunrise as well).  

Places to see:
Badwater salt flats
  • The salt flats at Badwater Basin – this is just amazing; miles and miles of white salt for you to see and walk on (and even have a taste, if you wish, like I did!). This is the lowest point in N.America at 282 ft below sea level. Interesting fact: the place where they have placed the sign 282 ft is not the exact spot but placed there since people want a photo op and the actual spot is sometimes not accessible. The Death Valley pupfish is found here and is unique only to Death Valley. 
  • Zabriskie point – beautiful, spectacular! And an easy drive (about 4 miles from Furnace Creek Ranch) with a short walk up to the viewpoint. 
  • Mesquite sand dunes
  • Mesquite Sand dunes – tons of fun for the kids and for us too. Sliding down massive sand dunes, rolling in the sand, what is not to like?
  • Artists palette drive – scenic one way drive of about 9 miles between Furnace Creek area and Badwater – you can see that the desert is multicolored and not just varied shades of browns. 
  • Devils Golf course – A slightly rough ride out to this golfcourse but is fascinating.
  • View from Father Crowley point
  • Father Crowley Point - this is on 190 enroute to Stovepipe Walls - nice views - you can actually hear the wind whistling from this point.
  • Borax Museum – a good place to visit with kids and to learn about the history of the museum, the Borax works industry and Death Valley itself. The ranger in the museum was very helpful and informative.
  • Golden Canyon – easy hike and you can walk as much as time permits – interesting and nice views.
What we missed and will surely see the next time: 
  • Racetrack – we had planned to go here this time but did not realize the sheer distances involved and that we would need a jeep/four-wheel-drive for this trip out to the Racetrack. 
  • Scotty’s Castle – again, sheer distances and lack of time forced us to cut this from our trip this time but it is a must-do for next time. 
  • Ubehebe & Little Hebe Craters
  • Titus Canyon
  • Ghost towns
  • Charcoal Kilns – it looks very cool
  • Salt Creek trail
  • Darwin Falls
  • Mosaic Canyon
  • Dante's Point
  • Natural Bridge
  • 20 Mule Team Canyon
  • Harmony Borax works - we drove past but did not stop this time around so will do it the next time.
  • and more
Places to stay:
The spring fed pool
  • Furnace Creek Ranch – we stayed here and it was a comfortable stay. The staff were helpful when we had questions. There is a wonderful warm, spring-fed pool here – not heated, note, but naturally warm (chlorine free!) where the kids enjoyed a nice swim in the morning
  • Furnace Creek Inn – this looks like it sprung out of nowhere – is one of those places you always see in movies and travel magazines! We did not actually go in there for lack of time but was beautiful to look at from the distance. Is pricier than the ranch.
Places to eat:
  • There are a few good eats in both the ranch and the inn. You could always pick up a cold sandwich and a drink at the general store for a quick eat. We ordered a four cheese pizza at the and stepped outside with it to eat at one of the quaint tables with a fireplace in the centre and were the cynosure of two busloads of hungry tourists who had just landed and stared at us for a good five minutes (awkward, I know) before one of them got the courage to ask us where we got the pizza!
Tips: 
  • If you enter the park via Towne Pass on 190 E via the west side to Stovepipe Walls, please note that there are lots of high gradient sections on the road (varying between 6% and 9%).
  • Fuel up when you can.
  • Remember to take water, food, sunscreen, hats, flashlight, and of course, a camera (and binoculars).

My view: It is a place that is worth many visits and one of the places which makes me feel lucky I live in California.

Some other useful sites:

Theme Thursday – View – the awesome view from Zabriskie point

(Photo - taken by me - December 2011)

 

  Alphabe Thursday – H – Harmony Borax Works

(Public domain. Photo from National Park Service)

 

 

 

Note: All images taken by me except where noted as public domain (the image for Harmony Borax works)

Theme Thursdays at Reading Between Pages: Theme is Know

' "And you want to know why! Well, sir, I can assure you that not only do I not know why I do these things, but I did not even know I did them."

Wells, H. G. (Herbert George) (2004-10-20). The First Men in the Moon (p. 7). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. 

13 comments:

  1. wow nice overview...never been but def imagine it to be a unique place...

    ReplyDelete
  2. We visited there just a year ago at this time...it's such a fascinating place. I found myself feeling a little like the opposite of claustrophobia though...rather strange. Nice post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for visiting my blog and the comment too. It looks like a wonderful place to visit...IF you have enough supplies of everything. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fascinating and packed with information. I've never visited this part of the country, but now I feel a little bit like I have. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is indeed a fascination with this raw part of the country. Happy TT. -J

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh what a fascinating place. I have never been ... but i did spend quite a while googling some of those spots, and reading all about the pupfish!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Awesome views! Very different from our Carolina landscape!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great pictures!

    And love your Theme snippet. First Men in the moon is on my TBR list for 2012 too.

    Here's my Theme: http://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/2012/01/theme-thursday-know.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. It is so funny how when you live in CA and growing up visiting so many places that we just think of it as home. I think that one could spend a lifetime trying to visit everywhere in this state. There is so much to see and it is so nice when others share what they have seen. It makes you want to visit it again.

    Thanks for sharing this place and the views for this weeks Theme Thursday.

    God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I hope that when I retire in a few years that I will be able to visit more of our nation's natural treasures. Your post makes me think I should include Death Valley in my travels.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Our country has so much to offer vacationers! We have always loved the west, and the southwest in particular. That's why we moved here! Your photos and facts are wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you ALL again for the wonderful comments.. Death Valley is definitely on my to-visit again list since I could not do justice to it this time.. Being in California definitely has its advantages with all this beauty around

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amazing...

    Thank you for sharing this with us!!

    I'm Happy you linked to the letter "H"...

    A+

    ReplyDelete

Love to hear from you! I do read all your comments and do reply whenever I can.. but I will definitely hop on over to visit you...