The first thing you need to know about traveling to Death Valley National Park is to bring water. Lots of water.
Despite the heat in August, I was surprised at how much beauty there is in Death Valley. It is an amazing place to visit. To get to Death Valley, however, we had to navigate around and over at least three mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevada and Panamint Ranges. Doesn’t that sound adventurous? In our trustworthy rental Suburban, this proved to be fairly easy. Oh, and it was all highway driving, too. So it’s really not that hard to drive to Death Valley.
One of the first things we saw in the valley were the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Here we were, in a genuine desert. I usually think of sand dunes being in the Sahara Desert in Africa, not in the United States.
For those of you who have followed our adventures, you know that one of the first things we do is pick up Junior Ranger books for Lily and Emmy. Fortunately, the whole program at Death Valley is inside the air conditioned Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center. The Visitors Center is amazing. It has recently been remodeled to be energy efficient and use resources (such as water) wisely.
Ed and I kept commenting that we have never felt heat like Death Valley heat. Ed said that it felt like the skin on his arms was burning. When the rangers told us to always carry a bottle of water with us, we did, even if we were only outside for a few minutes. I didn’t have to be outside for long for my fair skin to turn a bright shade of red. The air was so dry that sweat evaporated so fast it barely touched my skin. Then, as soon as I went inside to a cooler place, I kept sweating and became soaked.
One of the neatest places to visit was the Devil’s Golf Course. A lake used to be here, and it evaporated 2,000 years ago, leaving behind mounds of salt. We wandered here for a while, despite the heat.
Golden Canyon is gorgeous, and I wanted to hike up the trail farther than we did. It was just too risky to be outside for more than a few minutes.
We also visited the Borax Works, where Borax was mined for a few years. You’ve heard of 20 Mule Team Borax for your laundry? They actually did use twenty mules to haul the Borax out of Death Valley. The Borax Works didn’t last long because it was too expensive to mine and transport the Borax from Death Valley.
By this time, Emmy was ready to meltdown. She was getting really hot and was tired of sight seeing. All she wanted to do was stay in the air conditioning. And who could blame her? She really had been a trooper for most of the trip. Our last stop before heading out of the Valley was Salt Creek, where the pupfish live. However, in the summer, Salt Creek is dry and there are no pupfish. Emmy wants to come back to Death Valley in the winter when we can see the pupfish that live there.
I think we might go back some day.
For more on our trip to Death Valley, read Suddenly in Death Valley.