After Petrified Forest, we headed west again to visit Death Valley National Park and enter the park through it’s southeast entrance. Death Valley is well known as the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park.
Driving north through the park, on it’s main road; Badwater Road, we drove slowly through the mountains and was in awe of the colors we were passing which is aptly named Amargosa Chaos. We stopped at some of the overlooks and perused the ruins of Ashford Mill.
Up next was the main attraction; Badwater Basin. Here we found the spot that first comes to mind when you think of a barren death valley. You’re sweaty the literal second you leave your air conditioned car, it’s hard to breathe from the heavy, dry stillness, your corneas are blinded from the bright white sun and sand. This area is 282 below sea level, and if you squint your eyes, you can see a small sign posted above you on the mountain that marks where sea level is.
There are warning signs posted everywhere, in every language, about the dangers of this spot. Carry water, know your limits, don’t move too quickly, wear sunscreen. This is the type of place that people love to push themselves. So of course, we saw people doing short runs down the boardwalk and on to the salt floor of this valley… and inevitably, we saw more than a few people passing out. Oh, and yes… Mike was one of the runners, but luckily wasn’t one of the passed out. In his words about it “yeah, it sucked.”
After sweating our asses off, we got back in the car and continued along the road. There are also signs along the road, especially as you climb out the valley, that recommend you drive slowly and stop the engine every so often. We definitely had to do that – we’re essentially pulling our entire house which isn’t easy on the engine.
But along the way, we drove to the “Devils Golf Course” and the “Artists Palette.” Golden Canyon is one of the most popular hikes, but we skipped it as dogs weren’t allowed on the trail. We made it to Furnace Creek area, which is where the Visitor Center and commercial center are located.
Continuing north and/or west leads you to the least visited parts of the park, as they require over a full day. But in the rest of the park there are high peaks to climb, campgrounds, sand dunes, Salt Creek, mining ruins, a crater, and Scotty’s Castle; a 20’s Spanish/Mediterranean mansion. However, the road to Scotty’s Castle was closed, plus neither Mike or I are super into architecture so it wasn’t a huge loss for us.
Now, I do have to admit that Mike and I did not do this park justice. Like I’ve mentioned previously, this section of our adventure was getting tight on time and money. And we visited this park – the hottest, driest, lowest park – in August. Like big ole dumb dumbs. So, while it was beautiful in it’s own right and pretty cool to see this place during it’s extremes, there isn’t much you can (or really want to) do when it’s 120° AND you have your beloved puppers with you.
- Be prepared and plan ahead! It’s a long road, no amenities. Make sure you have supplies, full tank of gas, and have your car in tip top shape.
- I don’t recommend summer. But if you’re one of those weirdos, go for it.
- Leave your dog at home!
- There are ghost towns nearby! Go visit those and get spooked.