Yes, We Really Did Go to Death Valley In Summer

The first thing you need to know about traveling to Death Valley National Park is to bring water. Lots of water.

Road Trip paper (2)

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.

sand dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

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.

Junior Rangers

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.

Death Valley Natl Park
Hot. So very hot.

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.

Devil's Golf Course
Devil’s Golf Course

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.

hiking golden canyon
Golden Canyon

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.

Borax Wagon
Borax Wagon

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.

Salt Creek was dry.
Salt Creek was dry.

I think we might go back some day.

For more on our trip to Death Valley, read Suddenly in Death Valley.


Suddenly in Death Valley… {Spin Cycle}

Our stay at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley did not start off well. Our hotel room was in a separate building from the office, quite a long walk away. The key was not opening the door, even though the light was flashing green. It was 124 degrees Fahrenheit, and there was no cell phone service. I flagged down a golf cart that an employee was driving and asked for help. The girl opened the door by pulling the door handle UP instead of down. That door gave us trouble for the rest of our stay!

Death Valley Natl Park
Do you really need proof that it was stinkin’ hot in Death Valley?

Our room was nice and cool, but the phone didn’t work. There was no way to contact the front desk when we needed more towels. (Hotels always put only three towels in the room. We are a family of four. Why do they do that?)

Another strange thing about that room was that the water coming out of the faucet was always warm. We brushed our teeth with warm water and filled up water bottles with warm water. At a place called Furnace Creek, I guess that was to be expected. Fortunately, the little refrigerator in the room worked very well, and the ice machine in the next building did made ice.

We ate a decent dinner, although it was overpriced, at the Forty-Niner Cafe. There weren’t many dining choices, and I imagine food is expensive to transport into the valley. The server was extremely nice and accommodating; I asked him if soft drinks were included in the kids’ meals. He didn’t know, so he threw them in for free.

Dinner had been early, so we decided to drive down to Badwater Basin. Badwater is the lowest elevation in North America, at 282 feet below sea level. It was hot.

Badwater Basin

By now, you are probably wondering why we went to Death Valley. Everyone knows it’s hot; why in world were we in Death Valley on a summer vacation to California, when we could visit the beach or the mountains or wine country?

Simply put, Death Valley is amazing. Death Valley’s heat is incredible. We carried a water bottle every time we left the car. We didn’t go on hikes. We couldn’t. But the places we explored were beautiful, amazing, awesome places…awesome in the true sense of the word.

I wanted to take the Artist’s Drive on the way back to the hotel. It is a 9 mile twisting road that goes back among the foothills, and it is most beautiful at sunset.

Death Valley

We thought that the range ahead of us shone brilliantly. The rocks were gleaming in the last rays of the sun shining into the valley. We thought we were already seeing the beauty of Death Valley.

Suddenly, we drove around the curve and an explosion of color was before us. It. was. awesome.

These colorful hills were already in the shadows by the time we arrived, so my pictures just don’t do it justice. This turn in the road is called Artist’s Palette, and it was easy to see why.

Death Valley National Park

The temperature, the hot wind pummeling us, and the gorgeous view all combined to make us literally breathless.

Artist's Drive

We arrived at our hotel room in a much better mood. The best part of the day was yet to come, according to Lily and Emmy. While the night air cooled down to 110 degrees, we swam in the huge, warm spring-fed pool, surrounded by palm trees. It was the place to be, and even with all the other tourists swimming with us, there was plenty of room to swim.

I took this picture of the pool the next morning from our hotel room porch.
I took this picture of the pool the next morning from our hotel room porch.

SUDDENLY! Link up your Spin Cycle posts here, and be sure to visit my Spin Cycle partner, Gretchen!

Copy and paste the code in the box to add some Spin Cycle bling to your post! (On some blogs, you will need to delete the quote marks and replace them with regular quote marks.)

More posts about our California trip:

Meeting Gretchen from Second Blooming in Los Angeles
Hiking the Lemon Grove Loop Trail in San Luis Obispo
Yosemite, Day One
Yosemite, Day Two