Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, Black Widow Spiders and Coyote are just a few of the locals waiting to greet you in the aptly named Death Valley and the words “HEAT KILLS” are on roadside signs that *ahem* welcome you along your roadtrip to the desert.
Couple these lovely creatures and the deadly heat, with a promise of hidden mine shafts, flash flooding (yes you read right) and a virtually non-existent mobile phone signal (for that emergency you’ve convinced yourself will occur – because it’s a matter of when rather than if it happens) and this is starting to sound a lot like a holiday from hell… right???
WRONG. Don’t let this deter you from visiting, please do read on. I sincerely hope you will, because in spite of all of the above, the most common cause of death in Death Valley is actually single car accidents (according the National Park statistics). During my 24 hours in Death Valley – I didn’t so much as see a spider, scorpion or otherwise (not even at a distance) and actually it was quite the polar opposite of a holiday from hell, in fact its ranks right up there on my most memorable experiences of all time – for good reasons, PROMISE!
So here’s how I spent my 24 hours in Death Valley (and survived).
DAY 1. Departing Las Vegas for Furnace Creek Ranch – Death Valley CA.Marking the first day of our 2 week long roadtrip, we set off heading away from the bright lights and infinite luxury of Las Vegas and into the baron Mojave Desert, having loaded our SUV with a full tank of gas (well who wants to run out in the desert?), a ridiculous amount of water (literally gallons – yes I really was convinced we would breakdown and die of dehydration!) and of course enough candy to sink a battleship.
Having passed a handful of those “HEAT KILLS” signs within an hour, I’d convinced myself we were heading to our death… in Death Valley (I know… I’m lame), but I put on a brave face – this was made much easier by Reeces peanut butter cups and Twinkies (I’m pretty sure other bands are available) and we soldiered on bravely.
Around Two hours later (and surely several pounds heavier); we were 200ft below sea level and were nearing our destination. It was after 7pm and the temperature had cooled down to just over 100 degrees (F).
We arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch just in time to check in and unload our bags before sunset.
We quickly headed back up the road, only a couple of miles to Zabriskie Point. Now, no matter how hard I try – and I’ve tried many times in the last few years, I always struggle to explain how awesome I found this experience – because Death Valley is about more than words – its about a feeling. In view of my inarticulacy, here’s a few of my snaps to begin:
After the sundown, we returned to the ranch and in a moment of spontaneity, decided to take a dip in the outdoor pool, fed from the underground springs – which are naturally very warm and so the awesomeness of the evening continued.
Now given the remote location of the ranch, light pollution is virtually zero and the sky was clear, which made for a beautiful display of the stars on our twilight swim. Gazing upwards, it wasn’t long before we noticed the bats – fluttering about overhead; they didn’t trouble us at all, it just made the experience all the more unique.
Food – yes real food, even a commited roadtripper can’t survive on a diet of candy alone and this was pretty much all we had eaten since leaving Vegas that afternoon. So after a quick freshen up, to the Wrangler Steakhouse (at the ranch) we headed.
My oh my oh my… have you ever tasted a steak like that? I haven’t. EVER. Never before. Never since. I’m not sure if I ever will (apologies to my veggie readers). Washed down with a beer or two **CHEERS** and reeling from our day of adventures, we headed back to our cabin.
On our return, we were greeted by this on our veranda – so I checked every nook, every cranny, under the bed (twice – at least!) then bunged the sink and shower plugholes. Not a single spider (or otherwise) to be found. Thankfully!
DAY 2. Departing Death Valley for Yosemite National Park.
We set our alarms SUPER early to ensure we caught the sunrise back at Zabriskie Point. It’s great to see both ends of the day; sunset and sunrise are quite different experiences – so I’d recommend doing both.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s the feeling of vulnerability, being exposed to the hidden ‘dangers’ that makes it feel so special. Then I think maybe it could be the crazy heat playing with my mind and heightening my senses. Or perhaps it’s just the way the rocks change colour beautifully with every passing minute as the sun drags itself lazily up into the sky.
Whatever it is, it made me smile, from ear to ear, inside and out; it’ll give you goosebumps, your hairs will stand on end – and not because its cold, its anything BUT cold!
Zabriskie is a popular point to watch the sun rise and set – but despite the numbers (and we’re not talking huge numbers), there’s a spooky silence, as if nobody wants to spoil these moments for anyone else, as if everyone wants allow their eyes to fully absorb what is in front of them without distraction. It’s moving – truly.
Once up, the sun gets very hot, very quickly and by 9am I was already feeling the burn on my shoulders. So with that, we headed back for some breakfast, to pack our bags and be on our way to Yosemite (that’s a story for another day).
While our stay in Death Valley was brief, (actually a little less than 24 hours) the memories we made will last a lifetime for sure and I’ll never forget the way this place made me feel. As I left, I felt inspired; to always confront my fears, because you know it turns out you really can avoid death in Death Valley!