Death Valley National Park: A review of 4 great sites to see!
My wife Catherine and I went on our first camping trip together in March of this year. When we first met I remember her reminiscing about her many years spent working on archaeology digs in Ireland. She would explain the systematic method of digging holes, how she was always wet or merely damp if she was lucky, and how occasionally she would need to camp on the site. I always listened to these stories with interest and amazement. While also thinking to myself….”digging holes outside in the rain….camping as part of your job…..nope”.
From the time we first met, I’ve always been the one looking up hotel prices and shaking my head at the idea of caravaning (RV-ing for my fellow Americans). We moved to California in Fall of 2015, a move I was VERY excited to make. It was a big adjustment for both of us, but after a year or so we started to really feel the good vibrations as it were.
One thing I will say about Californians is they LOVE the outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that people in every state love the outdoors too, but for some reason, it seems a little more in your face here. My theory is that it’s because California is a “vacation state”. And when you live in a vacation state why not vacation all the time.
This brings me back to our March camping trip. One of Catherine’s dreams has been to go to Death Valley. To be truthful I didn’t necessarily share this dream at first, but after doing a little research I was kind of excited.
Choosing Death Valley National Park as your inaugural camping trip may sound scary…I’ll admit it was a little worrying to willingly drive to a place with DEATH in the name. However, the prospect of seeing lost lakes, sand dunes, volcanic craters and maybe even a fish was too much to resist. If you’re still a little on the fence about visiting Death Valley, allow me to tempt you.
4 Things to See in Death Valley:
Make sure to visit the lowest point in North America. At 282 feet below sea level, this unreal landscape will mesmerize your senses with salt flats that stretch out as far as the eye can see. If it’s a little too toasty you can even see them from inside your car, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Walking out onto the snow white pathway and seeing the dry cracked landscape will remind you that this whole area was once under water!
Devil’s Golf Course:
So-called because “only the devil could play golf on such rough links”. I’m not much of a golf enthusiast, but this endless stretch of rock salt is one of the strangest landscapes I’ve ever seen. After a bit of offroading, you can park further in the course to get a real sense of it surrounding you. According to the park newspaper, you can hear billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart, making pops and pings. I’ll admit I didn’t hear any myself, but next time I’m there I might put my ear to the ground.
Known as a maar volcano, Ubehebe and Little Hebe craters are the result of steam and gas explosions. Unlike an asteroid crater or a volcanic eruption, maar volcanoes are created by steam and gas explosions. As hot magma rises to the surface of the earth it comes into contact with groundwater. The hot magma flash-boils the water creating steam that expands until it reaches the point of explosion, blasting the earth out of its way resulting in a crater. Looking down into the 600 foot deep crater you can see many layers of color within the rock as well another smaller nearby crater, Little Hebe.
Artist’s Palette Drive:
There’s nothing quite like a gently curving road with beautiful views to calm the mind. A drive through the deep canyon cut into the Black Mountains will do just that and give you a chance to cool off. Enjoy a southwest palette of colors including, pinks, reds, yellows and greens thanks to the oxidation of metals in the in the rock. This drive is a one-way system which helps even the driver to have a chance to take in the views…while safely keeping their eyes on the road of course.
Visiting Death Valley was not on my list of top places to visit. Of course, my close proximity to the desert makes it much more achievable, but after going myself I can honestly say that it’s worth the trip no matter where you are coming from. It’s a strange landscape with lots of quirky character that tells the story of our ever-changing world.