New Journal Entry
What a great trip despite high winds and traffic! Death Valley is starkly beautiful and engaging. I love to sit and watch the sun move through the park. Every moment brings a new view and subtlety to all its many features.
Day One .. Thursday, December 28th
Left home @ 7am. Headed north on the 405 to the 14/395 north. We were going to enter the park on from the west side via the 190 near Owens Dry Lake. Started to experience wind @ Agua Dulce. By the time we reached Palmdale we were experiencing strong headwinds and crosswinds. The wind buffeted the van around quite a bit. Just past Mojave there was an 18 wheeler blown over on its side. About 10 miles north of Red Rock Canyon there were two more trucks laying on their sides. Oddly all of these were Crystal Geyser Water trucks. At Sterling Rd the CHP was turning around all high profile vehicles. We stopped at Coso Junction to top off the gas before entering the park. When we got out of the van the wind almost knocked us over. One could literally lean about 30 degrees into the wind and not fall over. About 30 minutes after heading off on the 190 we stopped at the Padre Crowley Vista overlooking Panamint Valley. Here one could walk up to the edge of the overlook, jump up and get blown back about 6 or more inches. From here proceeded into the park. As we approached Stovepipe Wells the wind was blowing strong out of the north. A huge dust cloud covered most of the area including the Sand Dunes to the east. We decided to stop and eat lunch and take some pictures here. We decided to try the north part of the park to camp in hopes that the wind would die down and there would not be as much dust. We traveled north to visit Scott's Castle and then made camp at Mesquite Springs. Well the dust was gone but the howling wind never did die down. Had a great carne asada dinner and a warm campfire. Everyone went to bed @ 9pm. I slept under the stars tucked in behind some brush to deflect the wind. The wind blew all night. Just before morning it was just above freezing.
Day Two .. Friday, December 29th
Got up just as the sun came up. Argh! The wind was still blowing Made a small fire and some coffee. Had a light breakfast, broke camp, cleaned up and headed off for Ubehebe Crater. This site is just a few minutes away from the campsite. When we arrived the first thing we noted was that the wind had stopped, at least in that area. A few of us walked around the rim and some explored the bottom of the crater. This crater is @ ½ mile wide and 800 feet deep. Visually the crater is stunning. We had lunch here and then proceeded back to the Stovepipe Wells area. When we were close enough to see the Sand Dune area we noticed that the dust had gone and the wind had dropped to almost nothing. We stopped at the Sand dunes. WE took our snow sleds, snow dishes and plastic sheets with us out on the dunes. It's so cool to ride down the face of the dune, but a difficult climb back to the top. We played here a few hours. We decided to camp at Stovepipe Wells as the wind had died down and the dust was gone. The camp area reminds me of a drive in theater parking lot. Row upon row of RV parking. At the very northern edge of the area are the tent camping sites. We found two sites together and made camp. Had another great dinner of BBQ'd chicken. Had another great campfire and hit bed early. I slept out under the stars again. The night sky here is so great. I don't think I can yet see the lights from Las Vegas or Stateline here yet.
Day Three .. Saturday, December 30th
This is our last day in the park. Oh no! Had a great breakfast, broke camp, cleaned up and headed off for Furnace Creek. In Furnace Creek we stopped at the visitor center. Got to read up on the park and get some patches. We then headed off to Badwater. Badwater is very beautiful even though it's 282 feet below sea level, the lowest spot in the US. We got to walk out on the lake bed. It is unbelievable. Walking on the white salt on the surface while just next to you is the bright red to brown sediment from the rocks surrounding the basin at that spot. Off to the west you can see Telescope Peak which over 11,000 feet. That's my profile picture right now, me on the salt flats at Badwater with Telescope Peak in the background. We left the park about noon and headed out the east side of the park to Baker. It was along drive to Baker. When we got there the streets were gridlocked. Why, we did not understand. We got lunch, gas, a picture of the largest thermometer in the world and headed home. We pulled on to the 15 and headed home. As soon as we got up to speed we came to a stop. Evidently there had been a couple of accidents near Baker and traffic was stopped. We sat in traffic for about 2 hours before it started to clear. This also explained the gridlock in Baker. Anyway we finally made it home @9pm.
Death Valley is beautiful and I would brave wind and traffic any day to visit. I've added a couple of pictures of the trip to MyPage. Let me know what you think of Death Valley National Park or camping trips that you have been on.