Posted by: mckenzie68 | May 20, 2010

Travel to and staying in Death Valley, CA…Days 26/27 or May 14/15

It was an early day today, lots of Harley Riders screaming up and down the road at 0600 hrs.  Those guys are just as good as any alarm to wake a person up.  After we packed up, we thought we had missed breakfast due to the time.  But!  When we went to the guest area, we ended up eating quite a nice breakfast of little sausage patties, some yummy sauce, hard boiled eggs, and some java!  Nice deal!  We loaded up the bikes and it was already getting pretty hot, reading about 20 degrees Celsius, when we started the bikes.  It really made it look like it would be a pleasant ride.

We headed out along the south edge of the China Lake Naval Weapons Range towards Death Valley.   The road was deserted.  We saw only 4 vehicles for the 60+ miles to the Death Valley turn off.  During one long straight area, we stopped in the middle of the road so we could take some pictures to show how deserted it really was, Rae posed sitting in the middle of the road!!!

Once we reached the Death Valley sign, we stopped and took some pictures.  It was a short stop as the heat was starting to build at 28 degrees and rising!  We ran across some Harley Riders who had stopped to take off their leather jackets and chaps.  We stopped to make sure everyone was OK.  Death Valley is so hot, and there were so few cars on the road, you don’t want to pass someone who’s in trouble and not help.  We carried on and pulled into Stovepipe Wells to fuel.

Rae and I carried on, absorbing some of the scenery along the way.  It was getting hotter fast, and we wanted to get Furnace Creek Campground to set up the tent and kick back to get out of the heat. We found a decent site, close to the bathrooms (no showers!) and with reasonable shade.  We proceeded to get crabby with one another due to the heat, trying to get the tent up, gear unpacked, all the while trying to stay out of the sun, not an easy task in Death Valley!

We eventually went over to the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, paid for our campsite and our park entry fee.  We then walked to the Chevron gas station where the fuel was over $1.00 more per gallon than outside the park…crazy.  I spoke to the clerk who was behind bullet proof glass (with prices like that I can see why) and asked where we could buy a cold beverage.  He suggested the General Store only a couple of hundred yards further south.  The General Store was part of the Furnace Creek Inn/Golf Course, so there were some trees which allowed us to walk in the shade to the Furnace Creek General Store where we did indeed purchase some nice cold diet pops.  Just outside we noticed a temperature gauge.  When we checked it, the thing read 105 degrees F (43 degrees C)!

We walked back to our tent, busted out the MSR Cooking stove, pots, etc and cooked up some weenies that I bought in the morning at the Walmart in Ridgecrest.  It was a nice little meal.  We enjoyed our little personalized Kermit Chairs, taking in the peace and quiet that is Death Valley.  I gathered up some wood from the surrounding area, and prepped for a little evening fire…a camping stable…and it was a must as this was our first camp this trip.

When the sun started to go down, the bats came out and it was very entertaining watching them fly around, making impossible turns to catch bugs.  Once our fire was going, our campsite neighbours (Peter and Margaret from Vancouver Island) stopped to chat with us, and what wonderfully interesting people they were.  They were both in their late 60s (that’s my guess, based on what they told us about themselves), camping, and very well traveled (they have been to over 53 countries!) and had lots of stories.  They had done some really wild travels including an African tour with a company named GAP Adventures.  It was 6 week tour that was rustic – meaning accommodations were mostly tenting, not luxury hotels.  They said they had an awesome time, saw all kinds of interesting creatures, and definitely had an adventure!  It’s something Rae and I hope we can do one day.  We chatted with them for quite sometime and both Rae and I hope we can be just like them when we reach their ages.  They were full of life and had a great sense of humour.

The heat did not subside that night, and neither of us slept well because of it.
Saturday dawned (May 15) and we got up early to beat the heat, and see some sights before the throngs of tourists reached the Valley from the comfort of their air conditioned hotels and vehicles.  Although it was already 28 degrees C by 0800 hrs, we had a wonderful ride to Badwater which was 282 feet below sea level.  The temp had went up to 30 by that time we reached Badwater…about 17 mins!!!!

We stopped to take some pictures of the valley floor and the salt plains, and continued on to a little road that branches off the main road to Badwater…this road was called the Artists Pallet.  It can only be traveled one way (good thing too as it was very narrow), has lots of elevation changes, dips, and vistas with beautiful multi coloured rocks.  Rae and I guessed that’s why it’s called the Artists Pallet – the many colours of rocks represented the many colours on an artist’s pallet.  It was pretty cool how the road followed a narrow natural cut in the floor of the valley! If you get to Death Valley, you really must take this little road in.

We continued on to Zabriskie Point overlook which had really wonderful natural features that did not look real…it looked like someone had painted them for us!  Some area resembled the badlands of South Dakota, only with a strange yellow color.  The various hills and valleys that you view from the top of the point (a short walk up from the parking lot) showed rock of greens and reds and even volcanic looking rocks.

We returned to our tent in Furnace Creek Death Valley, had a pop to cool off and then to our campsite (Rae for some reason thought it would be a good idea to stay a second night)  Since the campground had mostly cleared out, Rae did not miss the chance to move our stuff to a more shaded site.  Nice to have more shade!  Once we moved everything , got the OK from the Rangers running the place, we returned to the General Store for some more cold drinks.  We thought to check the temperature, and…it was 53 degrees C (128 F)!   It was blistering hot.

We decided to have dinner at the 49er Miner Cafe which was a pleasant experience, with good food, with decent service…and air conditioning!  We walked back to our tent and started to gather up wood for the night fire.  We had new neighbours (Peter and Margaret had left earlier) in the site next to ours, a nice couple named Ian and Suzanne.    They were from San Francisco and moving to New York City to attend college in the Fall.  Before all that took place, they decided to take three months to travel and see various bits of the USA.  They were also very interesting people, and we estimate a good 20 years younger than us.  We played cards with them, eventually by lantern, for a good while.  It was a fun, but eventually we decided to turn in for the night after a short bout of star gazing.  The valley is so dark, it made for excellent night sky gazing.  It was beautiful!    Rae and I were bushed by the time we settled in for the night, and with the fly off our tent, we even managed to have a pretty good nights sleep.  Thank goodness!



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