CityMelt Blog Data beyond just cities.

October 6, 2009

Death Valley

Filed under: Places Steve Visited — admin @ 11:15 PM
Salt Flats

Salt Flats

My picture of badwater


Five months after arriving in California I landed a great job and was ready to take a weekend trip to relax. I did not know anyone, except for a few relatives, so I decided to take the trip alone. I chose to visit the ominous sounding place named Death Valley. Back in 1993 the commercial Internet was in it’s infancy so I was not able to research this place in much detail before embarking on my trip. I did find some limited information online that indicated Death Valley was in a super desolate geographical region and extremely hot.   Several warnings were given stating that temperatures can become extreme and if your car breaks down you had better be prepared for the worst.

I’m trying to remember exactly when I visited but I think it was in early Fall. The exact time is hard to recall because in Southern California the weather is almost always the same year round. The seasons do not vary much as compared to other regions with more defined seasons. Most people seem to relish the mild year round weather but I am not a fan of Southern California’s boring weather. In fact, I am not a fan of Southern California in general for reasons I’ll leave to future blog entries.

I packed up my car with the usual stuff as well as extra food and water in case my car became inoperable out in the middle of nowhere. I drove through Victorville, CA which was my first of many times visiting Victorville. As I left this small outpost of Southern California I felt like I was finally starting my adventure into the desert. I remember driving by windmills and huge solar panels in the middle of the desert. I kept driving for a few hours and noticed that the desert was getting more and more lonely and the cars sharing my road were becoming scarce. Finally there was just me, the road and the desert.   I felt like I was the only person on a barren landscape within miles, so I stopped my car on the side of the road and there was no sound or wind.  Where I stopped offered just dead silence and the ringing sound one gets within their mind when no other sound exists. I was alone!

Being alone out here was a dream for me because I like super desolate places. I’m one of those guys who gets excited when I hear about expeditions to Antarctica or when I see pictures of Mars and the Moon.  I’m taking a story detour for a minute…my wife thought I was crazy in 2008,  when I stopped and turned off our car 20 miles out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I then left the car and pleaded with her to experience what I thought was an amazing moment. She finally relented and we both stopped talking so that we could listen to the sound of nothing. She still thought I was crazy after the moment passed.  For you desolate freaks like me I’ll add the video I took in a future blog entry.

The sunset must have been beautiful in the desert but I do not remember this moment. Although, one moment is solidly imprinted in my mind that will last a lifetime. The darkness of night crept up on me as I was happily driving with my windows down letting in the warm desert air. I looked up through my windshield and noticed the amazing site of bright stars in the sky. Once again, I stopped my car on the side of the road and then lie on the warm hood of my trusty Nissan Sentra. There were absolutely no cars, trucks, or people. All that existed was nothing – pure quiet!  Stars were everywhere! The milky way was crisp and clear like I was watching high definition television. The view of the stars on a perfectly clear night were one of the most spectacular sights my eyes have ever seen.  People living near major cities are robbed of this gift from nature because city lights block out this amazing treat. I recommend everyone on plant Earth try to get out of town – way out of town at least once in their lives on a clear night to see what I was able to see. You will not believe how many stars there are in the sky and how small you will feel. I would have stayed there all night but being all alone out in the middle of nowhere in a place where I had never been before with thoughts racing through my mind of some crazy desert creatures is too much adrenaline for this former 24 year old.

Next I drove to a motel for the night. No reservations were made ahead of time. I was extremely lucky because I booked the last room for the night. Two guys who arrived after me were not so lucky and had to sleep in their car. There are no alternatives anywhere in Death Valley except for the Furnace Creek Resort which I believe is in the park itself.  The resort is super pricey but looks quite plush like an oasis. I just finished a little bit of research and it looks like I took route 190 North East and then South down through the park on the 178 to the 127 and over to the 15 home back to the LA area.  I’m trying to figure out at which motel I stayed that night. I remember the motel was small with a nice bar area but I was tired and did not look around much. I do remember quite well this fine mist of water they had spraying outside the motel all over. The fine spray was absolutely refreshing offering a soothing sound that blended well with the quietness of the desert. I’ll try to track down the motel someday and update this entry.

I awoke the next morning and drove into the Death Valley National Park. There are several parts of the park to visit that have varying geographical features. One part is dried out soil saturated with salt, another part is the traditional desert sand everyone thinks of when they think of deserts. I was able to tour a few ancient Indian ruins and my favorite area was a place called “Badwater” which is the lowest point in North America – 282 feet below sea level.   Pictures tell a thousand words so I’ll post a bunch.  I met numerous European tourists in the national park (that’s how I was able to get my picture taken) and did not meet even one American tourist which I found interesting. A few years ago I saw a documentary in California that showed a small lake in Death Valley.  Apparently, there was a big flood in the area and it created a temporary lake.  Follow this link to see a wonderful photo of the rare Death Valley flood.  Also, once a year wildflowers bloom in certain areas of the park which is quite beautiful from the video I once viewed.

Desert Sand


Due to my lack of good solid information on the area I did not visit Scotty’s Castle.  I saw the sign but I was growing tired of driving and actually skipped this landmark because it was in the North end of the park. What was I thinking! Scotty is just like me because he built an amazing structure in the middle of nowhere! I really regret my decision and will someday return to this national treasure. I do not have copious amounts of stories to share about Death Valley National Park because the destination I was aiming for was not my true objective.  I wanted to visit to see what Death Valley looked like while enjoying my time driving the back roads of California.

– Steve

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