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.
(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:
National park passport books…..check
Super hero dolls, coloring books, CD players? …..check, check, check
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’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.
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.
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.