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Death Valley Days

The "Low Point" of Our Trip!

sunny 87 °F

I'll have to admit, we were a little bit nervous about staying a few days in a place named "Death Valley", and so some trepidation was happening as we began entering the valley, first at the western summit of 3,000 feet, then again at the 2,000 and 1,000-foot signs but when we reached sea level, we could see civilization, and I think it was the sight of all the palm trees that helped us finally relax. We coasted into Death Valley National Park's Furnace Creek Visitors Center at 190 feet below sea level and were not surprised to see the $5-a-gallon fuel prices at the only service station next door. We had reserved an RV space at Fiddlers Campground for two nights, which is a gravel lot, part of the Oasis at Death Valley, a pretty fancy hotel and golf course (the hotel was still undergoing renovation) for only $18 a night. No hookups, so completely dry camping. The national park campground is right next door but it's first-come-first-serve until Oct. 15th and it was full when we arrived. However, the next day a space opened up with full hook-ups so we immediately grabbed it. With Maggie's lifetime national parks senior pass, it was only $25 for the night. I don't know if I mentioned this, but if you are planning to see some national parks and are age 62 or older, buy the $80 lifetime pass because you'll have free admission to anything in the national park system, including monuments, conservation, and recreation areas and big discounts on the camping spaces. And the one pass worked for both of us, I did not have to have one.


The first night we just relaxed and watched the sun set over the mountains while enjoying the results of Maggie's wonderful culinary skills: pan-fried pork chops, baked sweet potato, and grilled zucchini.


The next day we drove the RV 57 miles north into the valley (and through strong winds and a dust storm from the sand dunes field-yeehaw!), first to Stovepipe Wells Village where we picked up a few souvenirs and some local Mojave Red beer, then on to Ubehebe Crater, an extinct volcano way out in the middle of the desert. We hiked to the upper rim and then I ventured alone to a smaller crater known as Little Hebe. Maybe they left the "r" out of "Uber" Hebe (hyuk, hyuk!) but standing over the back rim with a view of both made me think they should be jointly named: the Heebie Jeebies". I finished the one-and-a-half-mile rim hike and then we drove 74 miles back to the other end of the valley, first to visit the abandoned Harmony Borax Works (remember the 20-mule train borax commercials during the Death Valley Days TV show?) and then on to the lowest elevation in North America (282 feet below sea level) at Badwater Basin, basically to where all the desert water drains, ending in a very briny, "bad" water hole in the middle of the salt flats.

Sand Storm at Stovepipe Wells


Ubehebe and Little Hebe craters


Harmony Borax Works


Badwater Basin


That night it was my culinary skills' turn to shine with a perfectly-grilled NY strip steak, accompanied by Maggie's famous jalapeno mac-n-cheese, and a salad. Later that evening, as we relaxed around the campfire, a freaky, strange light shone in the sky, causing screams of "OMG!" and "Aliens!" and "It's the end of the world!". Here's the best picture my old iPhone 5 could capture:


This went on for about 20 minutes changing shapes and colors. Then a lady went by, walking her dog, and said to our ground-dropped jaws: "Isn't tonight's SpaceX launch amazing?" So no aliens, no end of the world, no need to call Donald's Space Force. Just Elon Musk carrying on. Click here to see the story and much better photos from the launch at Space.com.

The next morning, we headed back the way we came and stopped at Zabriskie Point for another photo op and some ooohs and ahhhs on our way to Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Hoover Dam.


A great time at Death Valley National Park and highly recommended!

Campground Review

As mentioned above, we stayed at two campgrounds. If we had our choice, we would definitely stay at the Furnace Creek campground inside the park again, which was literally right next to the Fiddlers Campground we stayed at the first night. But fut hook-ups vs. nothing. Furnace Creek does take reservations now between Oct. 15 and Apr. 15 so take that, if you can. Driving through the park, the Stovepipe Wells campground also looked nice with the exception of the sandstorm that was blowing through it that day. It is more in the center of the park but right near the dunes, so not good on a windy day.

Posted by travelswitz 09:43

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