Death Valley, NV

Author:

Daniel Shyles

Monday, March 24th 2014

On through the desert we went to one of the most notoriously arid locales in the world, Death Valley. I'm not sure what we were expecting exactly... something dry, I suppose. I know I didn't expect the sheer magnitude of the largest national park (3.4 million acres) in the lower 48 United States, an International Biosphere Reserve home to a wide variety of arid climate flora and fauna. At 282ft below sea level it is also home to the lowest point in North America. Coming in from the east, our entry was a looooooong descent from about 4000ft above sea level to the low salt basin at the very bottom. From the outskirts of the park to the basin is about a 30 minute coast downhill. We saw folks on road bikes coasting down and making the long climb back out of the park... Seems to be much more fun going in! .


Media Folder:

 

Beginning our descent into the valley of death! 



Media Folder:

 

A good view of the salt pans

 

Our sleeping situation could have been a whole lot better. We'd decided to take our refuge in a designated campsite across from the Stovepipe Wells Hotel located nearest the famous sand dunes in the park. I say it could have been better because the campsite is basically a parking lot across from the hotel, surrounded by other visitors and RVs. Not terribly wild or interesting. Normally the spot would cost $15... However, the kiosk that would normally have taken our camp fee was out of order, and the camp host, a nice middle aged woman living out of an RV told us not to worry about it as long as we vacate the spot the next morning. Another compelling reason to stick to this campsite was that Stovepipe Wells offers a shower and use of their pool for $4 a person... Well worth the parking lot abode in exchange for our second shower of the trip. Still, I couldn't help but feel strange in this man-made oasis embedded in an otherwise deadly place. We later found out that you can camp in National Forest land surrounding Death Valley virtually anywhere. Pick a trail, a mountain, a salt bed. If we ever find ourselves back in Death Valley we'll certainly do that. 

That evening we basically chilled out, took a much needed shower and a dip in the pool, made a fire, fried some sunny side eggs, boiled some more eggs, played guitar, and gazed at the stars with the rest of the desert-goers. The weather was the warmest we had experienced yet, flip flop and tank top weather.

The next morning we wanted to see a bit of the park, so we made our way to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a jaw-dropping sight we'd seen on our drive in to the campsite. These sand dunes collect particulates from the eroding canyons in the surrouding area, evidenced by the menagerie of miniscule stones in the sand, from granite and basalt to flecks of iron and silica.


Media Folder:

 

Sand made of many stones

 

Much of the sand that blows into Death Valley gets trapped in the basin due to the surrounding monumental mountains and circular winds. Though you may think that sand dunes would be a main feature of any desert, the dunes in Death Valley cover less than one percent of the total area. Still, these dunes are quite the sprawling sight. I was surprised to find that you are free to walk and climb the dunes, as well. 

 


Media Folder:

 



Media Folder:

 

The dunes covered with blooming mesquite bushes

 


Media Folder:



 Duuuuuuuuuuunes! 



Media Folder:

 

After the dunes we headed to Salt Creek to see the famed pupfish! The drive was a bit grueling because it was down a gravel road which the little red car doesn't like too much. The Salt Creek Trail is handicap friendly, basically a boardwalk that goes in a circle around the creek. You can crouch down and see the tiny pupfish who are the last known survivors of Lake Manly which dried up at the end of the last ice age leaving what is now known as Death Valley.

 


Media Folder:

 

Salt Creek, home of the Pupfish

 

Death Valley is HUGE and we realized quickly that it's a park that must be seen by car, bike, or motorcycle. We wanted to explore more but we also needed to press on so we headed towards the Western exit of the park climbing upwards as we went gaining elevation quickly. 



Media Folder:

 

 Amazing views of the Sierra Nevada mountains as we were leaving Death Valley

 

Related Blogs

Blog Type: