Death Valley Revisited

There are two types of travelers, in my opinion. The first is someone who might’ve gone to some exotic place and comes back unimpressed, maybe complain a little about how there are only a few things to do. The second is someone who might just took a drive down to a state park nearby, do a bit of hiking, but comes back and tell about the trip like it was an adventure of a lifetime. I feel you can also view Death Valley National Park the same way…

You might see it as a desolate, unwelcoming place, where the road and flatness seems to stretch out forever. Somewhere where heat can go as hot as 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and very little vegetation can survive.

Or you can see it as a geological wonderland, a beautiful desolation that was protected from the outside world for millenniums. With different distinct earthly features can be found within its boundaries, from snow covered peaks, massive sand dunes, layers of exposed rock strata, multi-colored rock formations, mysterious sailing rocks, to salt encrusted grounds.

We visited Death Valley before a couple years back. But it was in the middle of summer and the searing heat really just beat down on us so much that we only explored a few points of interests. So when the opportunity came to revisit the park in the shoulder winter months, we decided to take our first road trip of the year.

I already had a running list of scenes in my mind that I wanted to take:

1. An abstract curved sand dunes crest at Mesquite Dunes (sunset)

2. The ripply range of hills in Zabriskie Point (sunrise)

3. The salt crystal patterns at Badwater Basin (sunset)

Anything beyond that are just cherry on top of the gravy… don’t imagine it, but you get the point.

And I had planned the weekend just so I can be at these locations at the right time and get it all done in just about two days. Granted these are relatively popular and easy to reach spots, so I fully expected that there would be crowds.

However, the problem with having pre-expectations is that sometimes you get disappointed at reality… Mesquite Dunes was pretty much a bust, walked for miles only to find most of the taller dunes already littered with footprints and sled marks (even though sand boarding or sledding is strictly prohibited). And the beautiful perfect salt fields at Badwater were also cracked by footsteps.

But despite all that, the moments in between and appreciating the unexpected finds are what would make you be that second type of traveler.

Like finding out that there’s a readily accessible slot canyon (Mosaic Canyon) just a couple miles from our campground. We didn’t have enough time to hike all the way into the canyon, but even the first set of narrows was picturesque.

Or like finding out that water from the rain several days ago are still flooding parts of Badwater Basin. Which made for this spectacular reflective surface that stretched out for a good distance. Once I found my spot, I tried standing as still as possible to not disturb the water. And waited for the sun to set behind the Panamint range. Even with all the noise from the visitors behind me, the scene was just surreal.

Also did managed to find a small patch of mostly intact salt crystal hexagons… really could’ve just stayed here for hours on end.

I would come back to Death Valley again, and maybe next time I would start exploring the less visited areas. But this beautiful desolate wondrous landscape still continues to enchant me.

Have you been to Death Valley? What was your favorite experience? Comment below!

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