California Deserts – RoadTrip Aug 2012

Travelling to the deserts of California in the summer for a foolish idea to start with. No two ways about it. It’s hot, 115-120 degrees hot, dry and most of all, very intimidating. But there are perks to it – you have the largest national park in the 48 states mostly to yourself, empty parking lots and fancy accommodations at dirt cheap prices.

Death Valley, Mohave and Joshua Tree are now checked off from the list. A peak into the trip for anyone planning to do a part of the route.

The trip started off on a tuesday evening with a 5hr/350 miles nearly non-stop drive to the largest American naval land base-town of Ridgecrest. Just another small army town with clean motels, starbucks and a Dennys to feed the hungry at odd hours. Crashed at a chain hotel and day 1 begins. Ridgecrest hits you hard at 7am with 100 degree heat and the first view of the vast expanse that is a desert which would be a constant companion for the rest of the trip.

Made a quick decision to hit death valley straight. The other option would be to drive up 395 and pull into the base-camp of Mt. Whitney which at 4,400+ mts is the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. Just 120+ miles from the destination for the day, Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the lower 48 states. California is amazing!

Left Mt. Whitney for another trip and drove past ghost towns and former industry towns to get to the kindred spirit that is the entrance to the national park. It standsway before you actually enter the park and there is a still a good deal of driving before you pass through the barrier mountains that leads to the actual death valley. The actual park is the largest in the contiguous USA but as you can actually see for miles on end in all direction, the scope makes this park feel small. But the canvas is HUGE! The actual valley floor from the Northern most point to the southern most point is close to 100miles. And at Furnace Creek, that is the central point on the valley floor that recorded the highest US temp of 134 degrees, you can see close to 50 miles in each direction.

Furnace Creek is also the only spot for food and gas in the entire park. Decent food later, at 120 degrees of heat, the next stop was Badwater Basin , the lowest point in the US at 285 ft. There is actual “bad water” here that is pretty gory to look at. A quick detour enroute badwater leads to a place call the Devil’s Golf Course which is basically the valley floor all dug up due to heat. The moisture is so less that the earth actually cracks up for miles on end. Pretty awesome sight.

The valley floor is hot. Very very hot. More hotter than that is the actual air trapped inside the valley. Summer nights the minimum holds up at around 90-95 degrees which us quite awesome to experience. Burning, truely at the midnight hour!

Twilight is supposedly gorgeous but had cloud cover on that particular day. The lights play an interlude apparently on the valley floor but was too exhausted to trek down from the mountains.

Outside the park, spent the night at this opera house called Amaragosa. I would call it creepy but it actually was not. Definetly not a regular hotel… long, really long corridors and open ceiling rest rooms!! All non fussy traveller should stay in a place like this once to experience the times gone by.

So much for the one day-one night trip to Death Valley. I don’t forsee going here again but definitely will not rule out for a California enthusiast. The drive in and out is a pleasure with parking lots, ghost towns, borax works preserved sites and mountains with an artists palette all over them all for yourself with very little disturbance.

Part 2 coming up shortly. Will cover the great trails highway, Mohave and Joshua Tree next. Some pictures from the trip.

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