Death Valley

October 14, 2016
Death Valley National Park, California

So I had pictured Death Valley as one long endless stretch of road with yellow sand dunes and nothingness to either side for as far as the eye could see. My mental picture of this place was very wrong! It’s actually a beautiful valley with majestic color-striped mountains on either side. The wide flat basin on the valley floor is covered with patches of sand dunes, areas of scattered sagebrush, and salt flats that when viewed from afar give the illusion of beautiful reflective lake.  We started our exploration at Dantes View, 5000 feet above the Basin floor.

Dante’s View

(Aka Mos Eisley Overlook)
The gusty wind was cool and threatening. “I thought you said it would be hot here!” Sunny kept shouting as I held on to my hat, Coral on my back…did I mention that we realized halfway through our hour + drive from camp to Death Valley that Coral had no shoes on his excursion?
Death Valley checklist:

Water? ….check

Snacks? …..check

National park passport books…..check

Super hero dolls, coloring books, CD players? …..check, check, check


It’s just Death Valley. NBD
This thermometer reading shocked me. If I had guessed I would have thought it was in the 80s outside. Maybe I’ve never experience 6% humidity before?
I’ve gotta say, I am way impressed with the Jr. Ranger programs, and the awesome visitors centers at Narional Parks! They have all been like small museums. We’ve all learned so much and often the girls don’t want to leave them! Thank goodness the visitors center here didn’t require shoes.

After a long visit to the visitors center in which the girls received & completed their junior ranger books (we arrived to the park late in the day, so we were in a rush to earn those badges!) we headed to the dunes. (Or as Sunny calls them, sand dooms.)

I thought all of Death Valley looked like this…not so.

I’d never felt such fine sand. It was so soft to the touch. When you drug your toes across it, it trickled downhill like water. Walking across the smallest bit of shade made the sand dramatically cooler to the touch. It was beautiful, and walking across it was exhausting as your feet sunk in with each step. The girls had read something about “sliding down the sand dunes”. They gave it their best shot.

As we drove south from there to check out the Bad Water Basin, the lowest point in North America, the sun was getting low against the mountain range to our west, and the sky in front of us was turning pastel. I was afraid we had waited too long & we would get there in the dark. Brad rushed the 40 miles straight through the desert basin. Just as we got out of the truck at the trail head, the setting sun was turning the clouds above the most brilliant oranges & pinks. I know I’ve used lots of dramatic terms in my descriptions of some of these places already, but I think it was possibly the most grand, fiery, amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.

Sunny approriately chose to bring her Ariel doll on this excursion “under the sea”.
That tiny sign is actually a giant board on the side of the cliff across the road that says “SEA LEVEL”.
walking out across the basin

The trail across the salt flats is just a long stretch of the sand flat itself that has been trampled smooth by foot traffic. So rather than crusty little salt formations & dried mud, it’s a smooth white path of hot dirt and salt and mud.

salt formations


Coral was barefooted by necessity, but Sunny & I opted to experience the path the same way, to feel the warm hard softness under the soles of our feet. The girls insisted that this is where play dough comes from.

The sunset over Badwater Basin was the perfect ending to our day.
The seasoned traveler remembers to think ahead to dinner before leaving home on an adventure…blackened chicken, anyone? The bad news is I forgot to turn it to “low”. The good news is, I have a new crock pot now!

The next day trip was to Vegas a couple of days later. When Brad asked is everyone was buckled up Coral exclaimed, “Yes, and I’ve got my shoes!”

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