Death Valley Days

If you visit Death Valley National Park with the expectation that it’s hot, dusty, dry, and kind of beige, you are in for a huge revelation. The variation in color, topography, and geology in this enormous Park is stunning. Although this was our second visit, there’s so much here, we have barely scratched the surface.

First of all, let’s dispense with the hot/dry myth.20160105_14181420160105_143022We didn’t have campsite reservations, but had no trouble getting a pretty good site – one with enough room for our awning (necessary in crappy weather), and with a wee bit of space between us and our neighbors.20160104_094115We knew for sure that we wanted to hike to the bottom of the Ubehebe (U-Be-HEE-Be) Crater, formed by one of the more recent geological events in Death Valley. The Shoshone Indians, who were the only residents of the area at the time, didn’t record this event, but it’s estimated that somewhere between 600-1300 years ago, magma met underground spring water, and erupted. The resulting crater is 600 feet deep, and about 1-1/2 miles in circumference. It’s eerie and beautiful.20160104_13443920160104_133434 We duped ourselves into thinking that it would be an easy hike (well, it WAS easy to get to the bottom).20160104_125329 The trek to the top from the bottom was another story – much like hiking the 400′ sand dune at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, for those of you from Michigan.20160104_130359 I was seriously huffing and puffing. It made the perimeter stroll seem much easier, although the soft surface in places required a lot of effort.20160104_132605On to Mosaic Canyon. Once again, Death Valley has provided a very other-worldly experience. One side has smooth curvy marble sides, and the other has a rough sediment layer pressed on, and around, creating the mosaic effect.20160104_11023420160104_11011220160104_110005 In the most narrow areas, it’s very apparent. In other spots, it might be easy to stroll through without noticing all the crazy differences.

Completing our Day 1 of textures, we wandered around the Mesquite Dune area20160104_103033then on to the Devil’s Cornfield.20160104_115120 As you step in the Cornfield, each foot breaks through the thin salt crust. Jezzy was spooked.20160104_115401This was the only area where we saw pickleweed, these curious, rubbery feeling plants. 20160104_115502Day 2 was continuous rain, so we stayed close to home, exploring the Visitor Center, with its excellent exhibits, and Furnace Creek Village, which consists of a bar/restaurant, post office, golf course, and the Borax Museum.20160105_12355620160105_123151 The mining of borax was one of the principal reasons people came to DV to live and work. Borax was hauled out in wagons, originally powered by mule teams (the 20-Mule Team Borax theme is everywhere).

Bright sunshine in the morning of Day 3 lulled us into thinking that the worst of the crap weather was behind us. HA! Leaving Jezzy snoozing on the bed, we set off in the truck to explore Golden Canyon, including hikes to the Red Cathedral, Badlands, and Gower Gulch. We got off to a great start, clambering up to the Red Cathedral to admire the views.20160106_112645 But the Badlands Trail was the highlight of the day. Golden fingers of rock and sand, eroded by wind and rain create a very unusual landscape.20160106_120901 Up and down, we wandered along, encountering very few other hikers. At the bottom of the canyon, we connected to Gower Gulch. The storms of the past week left their mark – some areas were thick with very sticky mud, which added pounds to each footstep. Yet, other spots had the distinctive cracked pattern one associates with DV – the difference was that the moisture enabled me to actually pick chunks out of the puzzle. About three inches below the surface, it was as if there had been no rain at all.20160106_122634 Looking about the Gulch, its easy to envision the rush of water that occurs with storms – it surely is no place you would want to be trapped.20160106_130533 As we got back to the truck, the wind was roaring, and once again, the rain started. We did catch one shot of the Firetruck against a glowing backdrop of Badwater Basin. You’d swear this was water, but it’s pure, dry salt.20160106_144603We still had time to drive through the Artist’s Palette Drive. The variety of minerals in this area provides an unbelievable palette of colors. Even now, as I look at my photos, I can’t believe these are the true colors. But they are.20160106_14100220160106_141103No journey for the Campshaws would be complete without calamity. Upon returning to camp we discovered that our front window had been torn completely off the Fireball by the wind, leaving poor traumatized Jezzy huddled inside.20160106_154744 Not only were the inside and outside panes cracked, but the frame was ripped off as well. Damn! John applied his Adapt and Overcome motto to the issue. Although it took the better part of an entire roll of duct tape to fix, we’re pretty sure the window will withstand the rest of our trip.20160107_16505420160107_165130 It adds to the Clampett look, don’t you think?



21 thoughts on “Death Valley Days

  1. Judy, I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for a notice that you posted something about DV and then realized today it was in the wrong email folder (no, not SPAM!). So glad to get caught up on your adventures.

    Bummer about your front window. I still remember our very first trailer foray back in the early 80s. We had a little fiberglass trailer (about like a Scamp or Burro, only a foot or two longer and the top popped up) and we were towing with a Datsun 510. We had bad rain and wind on the day we left and about 10 miles from home the front window cover tore off. Fortunately, the window held together but we worried about rocks hitting it after that. We also discovered that in order to go up any hill we had to turn on the heater full blast so the engine wouldn’t overheat–and this was when it was about 90 degrees! Good times. Still remember that ill-fated trip. It’s a wonder we weren’t completely turned off of trailering after that.


    • Robin, your camper (mis)adventures put ours to shame! We are just happy for now that we can continue our trip, and not have to worry about finding discontinued or obsolete parts. You may have noticed the comment from one of our T@B friends, stating that they may have a spare window! Can it get any better than that?

      We try to remind ourselves that this could have happened while we were there – it doesn’t have anything to do with leaving the camper – it was just a weird wind draft on an open window.

      Glad I wasn’t in the Spam folder. Gawd knows what else might be in there. (shudder)


    • Any camper who doesn’t carry at least one roll of duct tape is begging for trouble. Miracle stuff.

      If was a good stop, indeed. We weft a lot to see for the next several trips.

      Hope you are soaking up the sun in Alabama somewhere. All good with you??


  2. Judy, as usual you pack more into one post than I can process! The Ubehebe (yes, I copied and pasted) Canyon is mind boggling! And I’d probably have been spooked by the cracking salt crust. Poor Jezzie!

    Mosaic Canyon is so beautiful. I love the subtle colors. I have a thing about rocks–have a childlike wonder at all of the colors and patterns. And what a mirage the salt flats were.

    Ah, the window. It’s always something. But worth it. I’ll be replacing a toilet and water pump in a few days. Then onward and outward bound again.

    Sure do love your outward bound reports!


    • Sharon, so good to hear from you! Yes, DV is mind boggling – from one mile to the next, the landscape sometimes totally changes. We just don’t have that kind of diversity in Michigan.

      You are a wonder woman when it comes to repairs and remodeling projects. A task like replacing a toilet will probably be child’s play for you.

      Lucky for Jezzy, she’s got a really short memory. A treat and a butt-scratch, and she’s as good as new again. Wish it was that simple for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad that the roads were open so you could get back into some different DV locations. Thanks for listing the trails and a little detail about each one – makes sorting them out for our future visits easier.


    • Caite, I think the only area that is closed right now is Scotty’s Castle. When I asked, one be gentleman told me that it would be at least a year before it was open again. We did see a lot of heavy equipment out on that road, so at least work is progressing. I sure wouldn’t let it keep me from visiting the Park. When we were there two years ago, we took the tour, and HATED it. But maybe it just wasn’t our cup of tea.

      There are so many beautiful, diverse areas there. You and Glen will find hour own favorite spots, easily.


  4. I’ve heard that Death Valley is a photographer’s dream come true, in the winter, now I can see why! Several of the online photography videos I’ve watched featured parts of DV, but none of the places that you photographed here. By the way, nicely done I should add. I hope that you’re not leaving DV yet, I’d love to hear your take on some of the other spots within the park, as I plan to spend some time there in a few years.

    I hope that the window repairs hold and that Jezzie recovers!


    • I agree about DV being a photographer’s dream – there are colors and crazy shapes in the most unexpected places. I was pleased, mostly with my photos – it was difficult to see what I was photographing most of the time because the dark cloudy skies didn’t allow me to use the screen well. And when the sun is bright – forget it!

      Sadly, we’ve moved on for this year. Hope you do get there. You’re the kind of photographer who could really make the most of a location like this. A Dawn to Dusk kind of guy.

      Thanks, Jerry.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic pics! Fantastic stories! Susan and I love following your trips as we’ll try to save lots of information for our trips out west Great fun (except for blown out windows, burned out bearings,
    and rotten floors – dread to see what out T@DA will like like under the floor covering). We’ll pick your memory at the BRR!


    • Bob, you better pick our memories long before the BRR – we won’t remember anything by then.

      You and Susan definitely want Death Valley on your list. It’s spectacular,and there are so many unique sights. In two visits, we’ve just only put a tiny dent in the possibilities.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the condition of your T@DA. If our CoolCat had been properly installed at the factory, we wouldn’t have had floor issues. We watch the bearings like a hawk now!

      Take care. Are you in Florida, soaking up sun?


  6. What an interesting blog until we came to the part of the window!!!!! FLASH BACK TERROR!!!!!! On our maiden voyage with the T@b a freak rogue wind blew our front (curved) window off and onto the pavement behind our trailer. We were returning to our trailer after visiting a Country Living Fair and had just enough time to place the window where it belonged and duct tape it, before the ferocious storm came and pelted the trailer with wind and rain. The duct tape held all the way from Columbus Ohio to Orleans, MA! You can do it! John says we may still have parts, I’m sure we didn’t get rid of them! You’re welcome to anything we have to reconfigure as we’ve heard Little Guy has changed the sizes of everything. The window was badly scratched as it crashed and flew across the macadam but it’s all in one piece. Let me know!!!!! We’ll search before the BFF is you want anything. In the mean time, always lock your windows or better, leave the roof vents open as those are more easlily replaced. Poor Jezzy! She must have thought she was in Kansas with Toto! John and Sandi


    • If you did save your window, we would love it! We could be BFFs at the BRR and beyond! If not, we will probably have to figure out how to make one of the new sized windows work. Our neighbors in the DV campground had a new T@B, so we did have a chance to eyeball the size – its bigger. Maybe we would have to swing thru Pleasant Valley on the way home.

      Of everyone we know though, it figures that you and John would have had the same issue. Now I don’t feel so bad….we’ve never thought twice about leaving a window open, especially when we leave Jezzy inside. Hope this was just a freak incident.

      See you soon, BFF!


  7. Wonderful pictures! Are those flowers String of Pearls? The desert never stays the same. It has so many wild extremes. Hope the window is the last of your troubles for a very long time. Stay safe. Poor Jezzie.


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