Last month we packed up our SUV and the RV and headed west…ALL the way, as it turns out. We made it all the way to California’s Death Valley National Park, and let me tell you, it was unforgettable. Take a look!
Death Valley National Park
This is the road to Death Valley out of Pahrump, Nevada. I’d never been to Death Valley before this trip, so you can imagine the anticipation brought on by this view!
Excuse the bugs on the windshield. We’re winding our way toward Furnace Creek on the road that weaves through the Black Mountains to the south and Funeral Mountains to the north.
Pretty standard as far as National Park entrances go, but it was missing one component we normally see, and that’s a entry station. Instead, they have drop boxes to pay the entrance fees. Must be too hot out there to staff!
I love the depth in this photo. If you look near the top, you see layer after layer of these stark mountains, almost entirely devoid of vegetation.
As varied and striking as the terrain, the one consistency was the utter lack of anything living. No bugs and very few plants made for an alien landscape.
Ladies and gentlemen, this was after 5pm in the month of October. O.o
I believe these are the Black Mountains. We’re headed south in Death Valley National Park toward Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in all of North America.
See? I told you I’d been to the moon! This is quite literally as far as the eye can see.
We’re still headed south in Death Valley National Park toward Badwater Basin. The salt flats are up ahead on the right.
This is one of those pictures where the road tells the story. If you follow it ahead, you’ll see a couple of cars that are little more than specks. The road goes on to the right of the image, disappearing at the base of the mountains. It’s unbelievable how huge those rocks are!
This is Badwater Basin, which more or less exists in a valley between mountain ranges. This water is said to be spring fed, and because of the salt flats it’s inhospitable to say the least. It’s also the only water anywhere around, though it amounted to little more than a generously sized puddle and had no depth whatsoever.
This is Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point in North America. You’re standing on the eastern side looking west, and the white is where people have walked out and packed the salt flats. There’s a much better view ahead. 🙂
The sign warns that walking after 10am is not recommended. Considering it was 107 degrees late-day October, I can’t fathom what an August afternoon would bring.
Here’s the promised close-up of the salt flats. It looks like rock but it crushes easily, almost like powder or fine sand in your hands.
Here’s one of the very few plants I found in Death Valley, and honestly it’s so much like a dried flower I can’t even say it’s alive. The salt flats are in the distance.
Here’s another example of Death Valley’s “plant life.”
These are my kids climbing in Death Valley. I had to zoom way in for this one…without the zoom I could barely see them.
It was hard to get a good sunset picture here because the sun’s glare washed out my pictures. In this one looking north, I can’t tell where the clouds end and the mountains begin. Incidentally, we were there during a full moon and missed the dark skies so I missed an amazing photo op, but that just gives me a reason to go back. 🙂
We drove over 6,000 miles cross country and back and gas prices ranged from $2.75 – $3.25 almost everywhere else. This lone gas station at Furnace Creek inside Death Valley was one glaring exception. (We only bought four gallons. It was NOT the time to fill up, lol.)
Having sold our first born for gas (not really), we are now headed out of California. You’ve got to love these “dips” on the road between Death Valley and Pahrump, NV…at 55mph, you left your stomach in the bottom of each and every one of them
One last view of California’s striking mountain ranges before we head south, then east into Arizona to see what the Colorado River has been up to. I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for more, and in the meantime you can catch up on anything you may have missed here:
- Part 1: Driving Cross Country
- Part 2: Rockies to Moab
- Part 3: Arches National Park
- Part 4: Moab to Vegas
- Part 5: Vegas, Lake Meade, and the Hoover Dam