Day 145 – 1/22/21 Death Valley National Park (Day 2)

We had an awesome day exploring the southern central area of Death Valley National Park.

It’s a bit colder this morning, temps dropped to high 40s and I didn’t have the furnace on as I left the propane off last night.  It’s not too bad inside, but a bit colder than usual, probably low 60s in here, so I got the space heaters going right away.  As I started working on my coffee, and reached for the pot, I caught a look of the mountains in the backdrop… wow!  What an amazing view.  I stared at it for a bit longer and took a picture.  Now, I can see a bit of it from the same window as I’m sitting in the dinette writing a bit.  I also have the windows on the slide out open and the view is nice too.  There are some mountains right by us, and the cabins next door.

I was up earlier than everyone else, and just worked on writing about yesterday.  I still have to write about the day before, so have some time to go. The girls woke up next, and then Carol, all around 8:30.  I told everyone to get changed and eat breakfast and get things ready for the day, and whoever was ready to go outside so Carol could work on lunch and snacks for the day without too much mess.  I got changed and went outside to continue writing.  Soon after Bella showed up with her phone, then Bia.  It was nice right there, the sun was shining right on us and warming us up.  It felt good.  I was able to finish both posts right when Carol yelled out that everything inside was ready.  I also checked the propane situation and could not find anything.  I turned the propane back on, and had the electric water heater off.  Then turned the gas water heater on and let it run for a while, no smell today, nothing looking or smelling different.  I don’t think it was anything, maybe it was that screen that was on the heater that warmed up and started smelling, not sure.  I will keep monitoring, but will also try to avoid turning both heaters on.  After we were all set, we packed everything in the truck and left.  We made sure to bring Bella’s balloon piggy, so the girls could see the impact of altitude and pressure.

Our goal was to cover the southern part of the park, both forks as there is a west and east fork.  So we headed towards Badwater Basin first. 

We had an easy drive there, and it’s pretty awesome to just ride in the park and watch the amazing views.  It feels like we go over a mountain range to get to another valley, and the scenery is slightly different.  Badwater Basin is 282 ft below sea level, and on the way there we drive up the mountains, then down all the way.  So, as we were up the mountain, Bella’s balloon piggy was plump, we even thought it was going to pop.  When we got all the way down, the balloon was soggy, like it was leaking.  That was cool. 

As we got to the parking area, the audio guide explained the salt flats, and that near the parking area there was a sign showing where sea level was.  That was cool and it definitely is a good height below sea level.  We all were really digging the scenery and decided we’d walk into the salt flats, and just keep going, and go at least 1 mile. 

The wind was crazy.  Sometimes it pushed so hard it knocked us out of balance.  Bella at one point was leaning towards the wind and able to balance without falling, that was crazy!  It was awesome to be walking in there, checking out salt crystals, and even trying some.  Everyone found a block of salt and licked it to try it, and sure enough, it was just like table salt. 

We really enjoyed our walk and exploration there, super interesting.  The wind did make it a bit more fun too.  At one point Bella spotted a plastic water bottle rolling in our direction so we tried to catch it.  It was coming so fast, and rolling out of control, we missed it, and because it was so fast we could not try again.  We ended up walking just over 1 mile into the valley, so we were technically in the middle of Death Valley.  That was pretty cool.  We then started walking back, and that was a bit harder.  It was pretty warm, so I’m not sure if the heat and wind got us all tired, but we were feeling a bit tired as we got to the end.  And we were hungry by then, it was almost 1:30pm.

From there, we drove to Devils Golf Course, which is a path that takes you right into the middle of the valley by car, where the floor is a bit different.  The salt and minerals end up looking more like rocks popping out of the ground.  We stopped there, but left the car running, and we had our lunch. 

The girls had asked for Ramen, so Carol brought that with the juice and all.  We had a nice lunch, and we walked out and explored a bit. 

Bia didn’t get out, but the others did.  It is quite interesting how the formations there look like rocks and are so pointy.  It can be dangerous, so we didn’t walk too far as we wanted to be careful, and with the wind blowing so strong, it was better not to go too far.  So, after we all ate, and checked out the spot, and took some pictures, we kept going.

Our next stop was Artists Palette.  This is a nice long car ride on the side of the mountain, right in between some mountains so you get awesome views from inside canyons, and as you drive up, you get views of the big valley below.  Not only that, but many different colors in the mountains from the different minerals give the place its name.  We stopped at the first stop, but only Carol and I went down.  It’s a short walk to get to some viewing area, and as we got there, the wind was blowing even harder.  Wow… took me off balance a few times as I hit the high point.  Carol and I took a few pictures from different view points, and then went back. 

The next stop was the main parking area, where you can actually walk within the mountains and canyons, and where many different colors are right there.  This time we all went for a hike.  This was a very fun hike, lots of turns and different spots you can take.  The mounts are sand, not rocks, so sometimes it is hard to climb on them as they crumble and you lose grip.  We each took our own paths while staying near each other, then we finished mostly together at a high point where we could not go any further.  From there we walked back towards the car. 

Carol stayed a bit behind to take some pictures.  We got some really nice pictures on this hike, especially as the sun sets on the other end, we had some nice vantage points to get cool shots of people on the mounts.

From there, we went to our last stop, Golden Canyon Trail.  We did turn in to the path to Desolation Canyon, but chose not to take it this time.

The Golden Canyon trail takes you to a few different paths, so we chose the shortest one which was to Red Cathedral.  That was a super nice trail as you wind through the canyon and get to see very cool formations and colors.  Bia was rocking it all the way, first with me, then with Carol.  Bella was not very happy, she was fussing once we hit a mile, and we had another half mile to go.  I stayed behind with Bella, kind of “pushing her along”, and Carol trucked ahead with Bia.  It was an awesome hike though, with amazing views. 

Red Cathedral is this red clay looking mountain formation that was towering ahead of us, and the closer we got to it, the tighter the path got, and the more we had to climb over, or under, or through spots.  It was pretty cool and that’s when Bella started digging it.  The more we went into the trail, the more protected from the wind we were, so by time we got all the way, we didn’t have much wind hitting us. 

When we got to the end, we celebrated, took some pics and started walking back.  It was getting late and the sun had already set, so we still had some light but no sun, and it looked like a storm was forming over the mountains, so we wanted to get back ASAP.  I fortunately had flashlights, as it was getting dark fast, it was around 5:30 or so when we hit half way back and it was dark.  The wind was also picking up, and we were feeling it more and more as we got further down the mountain and path.  More wind.  Darker…. And with potential for rain up the mountain, we needed to be out of there fast, so the walk back was fast and no-one was complaining, we just booked back.  It was fun though, the entire time.  The last 25-30 minutes of the hike we actually needed the flashlights as it was quite dark.  The girls were a bit scared at some points, Carol was a bit worried… and I was a bit worried about the potential for rain up the mountain and that maybe a ton of water would be coming down the trail. hahahahah… We made it back safely and it was actually the coolest hike we’d done so far.  The challenges and hiking in the dark also made it more fun.  Great hike.

As we got back to the truck, the wind was pushing hard and moving the truck around, it was crazy.  A bit of rain came down as we drove out, but super fast and not heavy.  The wind was crazy and it felt the gusts were getting faster and stronger.  As we drove back, the only thing we felt was the wind, so as we got back to the campground, there was stuff flying everywhere.  I can’t imagine having a tent that day as tents were flying around, getting flattened to the ground.  It was crazy and chaotic back there.  Our stuff was all down, but there.  The chairs had fallen and the camping mat was flying around, held by a few heavier things on it.  I got out first to put a bit of order before others came out, so we could minimize the amount of wind and sand blowing inside the trailer.  I put rocks around the mat and got all the chairs back and secured everything.  Wow… fortunately, nothing happened to any of our stuff.  The trailer was not even moving with all the wind, so we were all fine.  I did hear next day that the wind caught a lot of people by surprise and that the next morning a few tents were blown down, with the people sleeping in them still inside.  Quite an interesting end of day.

We had a great second day at Death Valley, and really enjoyed our hike on the Golden Canyon Trail to Red Cathedral.

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