Our journey to Death Valley from Seligman involved no major stops (except that we didn’t realise you could go up on the bridge to see Hoover Dam the first time around, so we did that, but for blog purposes this never happened…) We arrived in Beatty, on the border of Death Valley, and checked in to our Area 51 themed motel. From there we took our first trip into Death Valley.
For a place with such an intimidating name, Death Valley is an incredibly beautiful place. We went to visit the Mesquite sand dunes that evening and got there just after sunset. The dunes umderneath the mountain backdrop turned out to be the perfect place for some kickass dune slides.
That evening we ended up in a Denny’s in a casino (Beatty is in Nevada) which was surprisingly nice! It was also our only option on a Monday night, out of season, at 9:30pm.
The next day we left early to get in as much Death Valley as we possibly could. Turns out Death Valley is a fantastic place to visit! The scenery changes completely within minutes of driving up the road and it has itself a few world records (hottest recorded temperature ever and driest place on Earth). Also the basin is a few hundred feet below sea level, which is a continental record.
Our day there was full of sights and we had a great day. But it didn’t start so well…
Our first big stop was Golden Canyon. It was still fairly early in the day but that famous heat was beginning to rise. We were heading to the cathedral rocks at the end of this network of canyons, via some great photo ops.
We came to a fork with no signs. According to the picture of the map we saw at the beginning it looked like the route to our desired destination was pretty much straight, so we hopped over a line of small rocks and headed the straight aheadest way.
After about 5 minutes we found another fork with the same lines of small rocks, but any doubts that we’d gone the wrong way were eased by a big stone arrow leading the way. After another 5 minutes of walking Kate decided it was not worth trekking through all these rocks to see more rocks, so had a seat in the shade. I carried on and said I’d meet her at that exact spot, figuring it couldn’t be far.
I carried on further and found yet another fork but one way was a narrow climb and the other was wide and clear. After a couple of minutes up what appeared to be the main trail it turned out to be a dead end, with no cathedral rocks. I went back to the fork and went up the narrow path, which was a steep sandy climb to a viewpoint that was certainly not as accessible as the information board had promised but meant I could see some pretty rocks. Not quite a cathedral though.
I decided I’d been long enough so I rushed back to where I’d left Kate. I passed 2 out of 3 forks and thought I had walked past the shade I’d left her in but there was no Kate. So I carried on a bit more but when I came back to the first fork I let out a loud exclamation, unsuitable for children’s ears, and felt rather overcome with fear. We were in the desert, with no signal, no means of communication and you can shout as much as you like in a canyon but rocks don’t conduct sound at all.
I figured it was incredibly unlikely that I’d missed her on the way back as it was a fairly obvious route back to fork number 1. From that point there was really only one route back to the car, unless you turned back on yourself. For that reason I also figured it was unlikely Kate had gone looking for me and got lost. I postulated that Kate had waited long enough, panicked and gone back to the car park to get help.
I rushed back to the car, which was about a mile, and arrived at a car with no-one nearby. This really panicked me. I decided I would go back to the rock I left Kate with the hope she had wondered off briefly and gone back but I figured if that failed I would have to go back to the visitor centre to report Kate missing.
On the way back to the shade rock I saw someone in the distance that looked like Kate, walked like Kate and had a bright pink hat, like Kate. As I got closer to her, and her to me, I realised this majestic figure was in fact a not lost Kate!
It turned out when I’d climbed up the narrow trail at the last fork, Kate had set off to find me and the cathedral rocks but had found the dead end just as I was heading back. It also turned out that those small rocks that were placed across the path we chose were trying to tell us to avoid that path. So we didn’t even see the right bloodt rocks! But at that point neither of us cared.
We spent the rest of the day glued together.
Death Valley has a multitude of different geological phenomena and, after the shock of the morning events, we had a fantastic time seeing them all.
With our time in this majestic place almost over, we headed west to our campsite for the night and some beers to help us comprehend the craziness of the day.
Our first bed was in a motel called Atomic Inn in a little town called Beatty on the Nevada side of the Californian border. It has an alien theme, most likely due to its proximity to Area 51, where all the aliens live, so when the alien families come to stay they have some home comforts.
Night 2 was spent in our tent in Panamint Springs, a remote resort on the west side of the park. Turns out when the sun comes up in a hot place with no shade, tents get hot… But the bar with a huge bottleshop across the road was lovely and it was super quiet. Apart from all the aliens flying by.