I guess I have always thought about the lows, like being below sea level, when I have thought of Death Valley. I never thought about the mountains that surround it, some that exceed 11,000 feet. I guess that’s why I was surprised with the drive in to Death Valley from Lone Pine, CA.
It’s right around 100 miles from our campground to the Furnace Creek visitors center in Death Valley. We knew it was going to take us over 2 hours to get in to see the park so we got an early start. We are currently staying at around 4000 feet in elevation (one of the lowest in weeks) and we knew we had to go to -200+ below sea level. There would be a lot of going “down” to get into the park. The first 40 minutes of the ride is pretty nice with 65 mph speed limits. Then the road begins to descend around tight turns. The ride down is very scenic and slow going and we were taking in the sites. When we were down to about 2000 feet we noticed the bottom of the valley but knew we had a long way to go to get into the park. Past the valley was another huge mountain range. We had no idea we had to go down to 1000 feet and then back up another range to 5000 feet and then down into Death Valley. Once into Death Valley we knew there were 2 scenic outlooks that we wanted to take in. The furthest one out is Dante’s View. With map in hand we were on our way to check out the Death Valley scenery. I was looking closely at the map and noticed that Dante’s view was at over 5000 feet of elevation. Wow, that would mean the poor car was going up and down around 15,000 feet of elevation for this day. You definitely want to make sure your car is in good working order before you attempt this drive. We saw several people jump out of their cars at the top of Dante’s view and open the hood to cool off their engines.
Unfortunately because of the long drive into this park we only had time to drive through and take in the major sites and we had to take Gizmo along because we would be gone too long for the day. This is another national park that is not dog friendly. He was only allowed on the paved sections of turnouts. We still thoroughly enjoyed the views and took turns running out to the points at the major outlooks. I would love to have some more time to enjoy this park but would want to stay in the valley in order to take very early or very late hikes. The temperature was fine at this time of year, it topped out around 85 degree during our visit. It would get hot fast hiking in the open sun for more than an hour. The other highlight of staying in the park would be the ability to take in the night sky. There is no light pollution here and the sky begins at your feet so I am guessing this would be amazing.
I have to say, of all the national parks I have visited I think this one scared me the most. It is huge, rugged and remote. This is the kind of place you could get into trouble quickly, especially during the hot weather months. Despite the fear factor, it also impressed me with a different kind of beauty. The mountains and the sand and the ruggedness were very pretty. The colors are different than other areas and I loved the mint color in some of the mountain ranges.
I was up early again this morning due to the winds. I guess these are the Santa Ana winds. The gusts are huge and shook the motorhome most of the night. Gizmo refused to stay out in the living room and insisted on joining us in bed. I guess today’s activities will need to be planned around wind gusts exceeding 40mph.