Death Valley Episode 1

2 April 2012 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling


Departing from our Love’s Truck Stop in the early morning hours we proceeded south and were greeted by several signs alerting us that highway 58 to Las Vegas was closed due to snow. This was to be our route east before heading north into Death Valley. After debating whether or not we should alter our route and head to Joshua Tree instead we decided we could navigate a way around the mountains and back up to highway 58. It would add some time and some miles, but we wanted to see Death Valley.

So we slowly rolled through miles and miles of near empty desert. Outside of a few near ghost towns which showed signs of a living population only in the signs on the edge of town noting “Pop. 107” or “Pop. 53” we rarely saw another living soul. There were few cars and it was a lonely dust ridden track. Thankfully I am in the stages of abandoning my reckless abandonment when it comes to gas. I had a habit of stretching the tank as far as it would go, often rolling into gas stations on empty, but after a few scares I exchanged this method for filling up whenever possible. Which out in the middle of the desert can be up to 100+ miles apart.

The last ghost town we rolled through was completely desolate, but strangely large. It causes one to ponder the history of such places. At one time there was a reason for occupying this stretch of desert amongst many. There was a time when the buildings and houses were recently constructed and freshly painted. Now many of the houses were patched with random pieces of sheet metal, signs and scraps of plywood. The buildings were in disarray and hanging onto functioning only by a thread or left to erode in the desert winds like the surrounding hills.

Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaTo our surprise we’ve encountered a lot of poverty on the coast. Scenes we once reserved for our thoughts of the south now reside in the west as well. It seems our once modest origins of the midwest are a fertile enclave of this country. While the midwest may have a fair share of derelict residences and in some cases towns, the degree is far less egregious than the states to our west and our south.

Back to the road. Our entrance into Death Valley required a long, slow climb from sea level up to a crest of 5000 feet and then a descent down into a deep valley resembling a massive ancient lake long baron of any water. Once we traversed several miles of roller coaster hills that rippled along the floor we pulled into Stovepipe Wells.

Here set against miles and miles of desert in all directions is an oasis composed of a hotel, a saloon, a gas station/general store, and an RV park and campground occupied by a smattered assortment of mobile residences. Being in need of a shower we booked a campsite with hookups and proceeded to block and level the trailer.

After a long day on the road and with the clock indicated the day was already over the hump we decided to enjoy a little rest and relaxation rather then running to a trail for a hike. We had another full day in this area and two more full days in the park so why rush it. With the sun shining brightly we sat out and soaked it in with a few Tecates. Then we took a nice dip in the pool, had diner, and enjoyed the night sky of the remote desert. A wealth of stars our canopy for the end of a wonderfully relaxing day.

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