Death Valley sounds like a place waiting for you to get into its reach and then drain every living bit out of you. Kinda like Darth Vader in Starwars or the exams in college. It sure was deadly for a lot of the 1849rs who tried taking a shortcut through the valley when rushing to San Francisco to find gold. People have lost their lives there even nowadays, but actually there is a lot more to the area than just death.We got into the Death Valley National Park in the evening and set our tent up in Paramount Springs campground. It was a mystical setting. The moon shining bright over the rocky desert, dark hills on the background and the few trees of the campground hushing in the warm wind. We didn’t even put the cover on our tent so we could lay in there and watch the stars. Adding the opportunity to shower and have a campfire made it our best camping experience so far for 10$.
The next morning we made a long drive to the old charcoal kilns and the trailheads starting from the site. What made the drive long was the 3 km of horrible gravel road before the trailhead. There is a company in the valley that rents Jeeps and I am sure it is in their interest to keep the gravel roads in worse condition than your neighbourhood farmer’s potato field. Anyway, the kilns were cool, amplifying and mirroring every sound made in there.
The hiking trails were cool, too, but more in the sense of temperature. The higher trail to Telescope Mt had a lot of snow and the one we took, Wildrose peak, was really windy. The beginning of the trail was as interesting as watching snails race and we even thought of turning back – not an everyday thing for us hardcore hikers! Haha. Well, we never did and made it to the summit to find nice, although hazy views and a guest book with at least 5 Estonian names in it! We still had so much to see, so we ran down the boring trail.
We got to the sand dunes for the sunset and what a show we got! Different hues of red and orange glowing over big piles of sand – something extraordinary for the Northern eye!Another special sight is the lowest point in America, Badwater Basin, and the big field of white glimmering salt. We ran to the middle of it like kids on the last day of school, not caring about the heat or anything.
We continued the day with more touristy sights – Golden Canyon, Zabriskie point, Artists Palette, just to name a few, but didn’t get too far from our air conditioned car, although it was “just” 35C outside. I guess that’s why they close some of the sights for the summer!
With all the heat, sand and dust you would hope for a cooling shower in the campgrounds, but as we found out, that’s not the case in the valley. So we took the alternative and poured water on each other from our canister in the comforting darkness of the night and hoped our campground neighbours didn’t have nightvision goggles. The next day the same neighbours shared a secret about the oasis close by – Furnace Creek Ranch and the public swimming pool there (5$) – a great relief for the overheated tourists.
As we were leaving Death Valley we stopped by one of the ghost towns to get a feel of broken dreams associated with the harsh environment and precious minerals.
There is a variety of things to do and see in Death Valley NP. The extreme environment makes all the experiences more powerful and hard to forget and that’s why we liked it! There’s one thing we wanted to see, but left for the next time we visit Death Valley again – The Racetrack, where stones are mysteriously moving in the bottom of the valley. You would need a good 4×4 vehicle for the 27 miles on a gravel road. We left the desert behind to drive to an oasis in another desert – Las Vegas!