This past week John and I decided to make the long trek from Palm Springs up to Death Valley to get a glimpse of the valley carpeted with flowers. We knew there was no way we could do the trip as a day trip as the ride alone was over 300 miles each way. We also knew it would not be economical to move the RV over 600 miles for a single night. It is pretty much peak season in Death Valley so I was not about to shell out the money needed to get a hotel room near the park, plus we would have to “sneak” Gizmo in. We called the park and asked what the chances would be of getting a tent camping spot for the night. The ranger told us that we should be able to get a site in the overflow Sunset campground
Our next move was to plan how we were going to accomplish this at the least cost. We had considered bringing our tent with us for just this reason but had decided not to at the last minute. We didn’t have sleeping pads either. I had a brainstorm, we could pack the air mattress from the camper that is for the guest loft. I was really hoping the inflator worked on batteries like the one from our travel trailer, but it only works on electricity. I had not packed my small inverter either so I knew in order to pull this off we would need a tent and a small inverter. We had everything else we would need for a night away from the RV.
The following is a list of the items we brought along
- Jetboil– I have had my Jetboil since 2005. I have brought it on every camping trip since. It still lights up on the first click and brings water to a boil in record time.
- Melitta Coffee Filter- pour through– This has gone on every camping trip too. Who can start a morning without coffee? Not me, even when I’m backpacking!
- 2 camp chairs
- Luci rechargeable lights
- Petzl rechargeable headlamp
- WATER- lots of it
- Coleman- micro lantern– I have had this since 2005 and love the amount of light this little lantern puts out. The other nice perk is it uses the same fuel as my Jetboil.
- Cooler full of gatorade, water, food and “other liquid refreshments”.
- iPads loaded with movies- just in case…
- Tent- Coleman 4 man tent purchased at Target. We will leave this with Nicole when we see her in Georgia on our return trip home. The tent was nice, but our MSR Mutha Hubba will be coming with us next year. The sign on the tent said it could handle winds up to 35 mph. I’m pretty sure the winds exceeded that speed during the night. The tent did stay together but the walls were moving in at us. Gizmo did surprisingly well despite the high winds and moving tent walls.
- Folding table I love these tables. We have 2 of them and have used them non stop either camping or at home. I have one set up in the RV right now as my computer work station. We brought 2 along with us. We knew we would need this as there would not even be a table at our overflow campsite.
- Cameras- every one we own including our always handy iPhones came along for the trip. We took most of our pictures with our Nikon DSLR and our very portable 21x zoom, point and shoot Samsung camera
- Inflatable mattress from RV
- Small 12 volt inverter to inflate the mattress- I trailed this before we left and it worked like a charm with the car on.
We set our alarms for 0500 and we were on our way just after 0600. The ride up to Death Valley took nearly 6 hours (including a couple of short stops). We arrived at Furnace creek hoping to get into one of the regular campgrounds but they were all full. We then made our way to Sunset campground. It is essentially a parking lot with white lines outlining the camping sites. The campground was about 1/3 full, they have 270 sites. It is a VERY basic campground. Flush toilets are the only amenity. There is a self check-in kiosk that you put your credit card in to pay for your site. The cost is $12 per night. Despite the campground being very basic, it is in a great location right in the middle of furnace creek with great views of the surrounding mountains.
We were checked in and set up in less than one hour and then spent the remainder of the day riding down Badwater road and stopping frequently to get out and admire the flowers. There were some areas that were covered with desert gold flowers. I couldn’t believe the scents. It was truly amazing. I sat down on a rock to take some pictures and ended up sitting there for a bit longer just to take in the scents.
We had gone to Death Valley for the first time in late October at the beginning of this trip. That visit was a long day trip in from Interstate 395 in Lone Pine, CA. The approach this time was up 127 to 190 and accessed the park from the east. This was a much gentler approach than the one from the west. If you have fears about driving winding roads with precipitous drops the approach in from the east is the one you would want to take. I was really glad that we got the chance to revisit this park. The first time we had been here the entire Badwater road was closed due to the floods they had just had that month. This time we were able to drive the Badwater road and get to the lowest point in the US. We got to enjoy Artists Palette which is another beautiful site.
Once we explored Badwater road we returned to our campsite around 6pm, fully exhausted from a long day of travel. We sat down looking at the mountains and watched the moonrise. We had accidentally planned this last minute trip for a clear night with a full moon! It was a quite sight to see it slowly rise up above the mountains.
I was up early the next morning and let John and Gizmo sleep in after the wind died down. I made some piping hot coffee and sat down with a blanket (it gets cool in the desert at night) and watched the sunrise over the mountains. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as the moonrise but it was fun to watch the mountains turn purple and pink just before the sun came fully up.
The wind picked up again just after my coffee so we quickly packed up and started the long journey back to Palm Springs. It was a great adventure and I’m really glad we got to see the “superbloom” and spend the night in Death Valley. We are already planning our next adventure when we go to Arizona. We are planning a quick overnight at the Grand Canyon in the tent.