Death Valley – A brief encounter

10 01 2017

What would you do if you could spend only a few hours in the vast Death Valley? Nothing much beyond just getting a glimpse of its beauty here and there, I would guess. Here is our experience when we drove through Death Valley on the last day of the year (Dec 31st, 2016) on our way to the amazing Zion Canyon in Utah.

We absolutely had no idea about what to expect. Other than the meager planning I did in terms of jotting down the names of a few points of attraction, we didn’t actually look at any pictures. That definitely provided an element of surprise for us. I was completely spellbound.

Death valley is about 9 hour drive from Bay Area.  We started the evening before, and spent the night in Ridgecrest. It’s just over 2 hours from there to the national park. We stayed at Clarion Inn on North China Lake. Had fresh wonderful free breakfast at the associated restaurant – Scrambled eggs, hash browns and all. It was a splendid stay, albeit a very short one. Ridgecrest seemed a nice, quiet town with a few attractions to its credit – fossil falls (sculpted lava flow), Naval Weapons Center (one can visit the museum) etc. Wish we could have spent some time in the town.

It’s little over 2 hours to Death Valley from there. Our plan was to reach Springdale, UT that night. We had only about 5 hours to spend in the Death Valley. Left early after the breakfast for Death Valley. The drive was beautiful and we were enthralled by the expanse of wide space and range of mountains and canyons. The weather was perfect. Cloudy, but not too cold. Short winter day was our only problem. 😛

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Driving on the very straight road amidst the flat land, with mountains on the horizon, was quite an experience.

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And then it’s pretty scenery at every turn!

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It was around 11 am by the time we reached Stovepipe Wells ranger station, and started with our first official Death Valley attraction – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We spent an hour there hiking the dunes and it was loads of fun, especially coming down the peaks!

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After the dunes, we headed down to Furnace Creek, where we had sumptuous lunch of fresh garden burger at Forty Niner Cafe. Food is always important! 😛

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Next stop was the Golden Canyon. With only hours before dusk, we didn’t risk hiking the trail at Golden Canyon.  But the gorgeous golden crests are such a sight to behold!

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Artist Drive, with picturesquely colored hills, is a true feast for one’s eyes. The 9 mile drive provides stunning views of mountains laden with colorful minerals – blue, red, yellow, and more.

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The day being cloudy, darkness seemed to approach fast. By the time we covered Artist Drive, it got a little chilly too. We moved on to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

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We drove along a dirt road opposite to Badwater Basin for a couple of miles to behold the natural bridge. It was a tough ride for our Nissan Sentra. An SUV might have served the purpose better.

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The bridge is a short hike from the parking lot. It’s magnificent, to say the least.

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On our return to the car, we were greeted by a spectacular scene: the evening sun rays streaming through a gap in the clouds on to the basin in front of us.

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At this juncture, it was 4 pm and  we called it a day to continue on our journey towards our ultimate destination – Zion! But the day gave us one more glorious sight before it retired – a beautiful rainbow.

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Pardon the sloppiness of the captures. I actually quickly snapped these while driving. I know, I shouldn’t have. But there weren’t any cars on the road and I slowed down for the pictures.

Thus ends our little affair with Death Valley. We parted, though, with a promise to come back and spend ample time hiking /biking/camping. 😐

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One response

10 01 2017
David Sullivan

Thank you for sharing these. Beautiful time to visit there.

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