Day 139. Monday, 30th September. From Boulder Creek Camp Ground South of Lone Pine to Shoshone RV Park, Shoshona.
After a double breakfast, the campsite provided free coffee and muffins and we had our porridge too, we set off into Death Valley.
My first impression was the vastness. It is 5270 square miles of barren, arid wilderness. As the name implies, it is a rather inhospitable place, but it does have it’s own kind of beauty. Visiting at this time of the year the temperature was very pleasant, but I can imaging in the heat of summer it would be almost unbearable. It was a beautiful blue sky, sunny day, but the wind still had a bit of a nip in it.
At the first stopping place overlooking the valley we met a couple driving a Toyota. Some banter took place over the reliability of the Toyota compared to the Land Rover. He was American and she was an English lady from Yorkshire, but they live in the US. Sadly, due to my ineffective memory, their names now escape me. I think Brian and Julie?
The next overlook point was packed. On getting out of the Land Rover and going to the edge of the viewing area there were numerous people sitting on camping chairs with large cameras, tripods, binoculars and all sorts of paraphernalia for observation purposes. Why, we wondered? We were soon advised this valley is used by the American Air Force for low level flying practice and jets can swoop down the valley. People wait on the off chance, as they never know when they might arrive. They chose not to arrive on the morning we were there.
We wound down a series of hairpins into the bottom of a very wide valley. The mountains are all sorts of colours. Reds, browns, greys, green and all shades in between. The hues change too with the movement of the sun. Later in the day when the sun is starting to set the colours become more intense. There are sand dunes, volcanic lava flows of various vintages and rocks of all shapes and sizes. Worn all sorts of ways by various types of erosion over the years.
It was a steep climb out of the valley on the far side and we found a parking spot about about half way up and stopped for some lunch. I think the Land Rover was quite relieved as she was getting quite hot.
We stopped at the Visitor Centre at Furnace Creek. Free maps and literature are provided, if you show your annual pass. There were 3 camp sites around Furnace Creek. I asked if there was any other camping on the south side of the Valley. No, none in the park and the first available is at Shoshone which is just outside the park. We decided to go on as it was too early to stop.
Taking the southerly, slightly longer route south out of the park, we turned off around the Artist’s Drive. This loop is a particularly colourful and dramatic nine mile drive.
Back on the exit road we passed Badwater Basin. The lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. It was around 50 miles from Furnace Creek to the park boundary. Quite a long stretch and very few other tourists, so Dennis was able to put his foot down a bit, as time was getting on now.
As we were driving along coming trotting towards us on the opposite side of the road was a lone coyote. Completely unbothered by us he just carried on. According to the information I picked up at Furnace Creek, as well as coyotes there are foxes, desert kangaroo rats and large Pallid bats. Most animal life is only seen at night. There are also desert hairy scorpions, sidewinders (a sort of snake) and lizards.
I would have called the vegetation mostly tumbleweed with the occasional small shrub. The technical blurb calls it desert holly and pickleweed and the shrub, honey mesquite.
By the time we reached Shoshona and the camp site it was around 5.30. We discovered there was a warm spring water pool and a nice soak would have gone down well. However, by the time we had checked in, put up the tent and cooked dinner it was dark. As we had wifi and I had some admin. matters to attend to, the pool visit didn’t happen. We have to extend our travel insurance as it expires tomorrow and being in the US without any medical cover is not wise. Also organise some vehicle insurance for Mexico. So, a soak in the pool will be something to look forward to tomorrow morning.