Death Valley. It’s one of those places most people would marvel at from afar, especially during the summer months. But somehow we ended up on a road trip, passing through Yosemite National Park and down to Death Valley into temperatures I’ve never experienced before in my life. We arrived in the evening and it was still a scorching 49°C (120°F).
Surprisingly, Death Valley isn’t actually covered in sand, as I believe most of us would expect to see in any desert. In fact, less than one percent of the desert is covered with dunes. There are five major dunes in Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Dunes, Eureka Dunes, Saline Valley Dunes, Panamint Dunes, and the Ibex Dunes.
As we were due in Lake Powell the next evening, we barely scratched the surface of the magnificent Valley and only saw the Mesquite Flat Dunes and Badwater Basin. These dunes are easily accessible from Hwy. 190 and are only a few minutes drive from Stovepipe Wells Village. Although less than a mile to the peak of the dunes, walking through the sand to get there is no easy task (especially in such intense heat), so if you plan on going, do bring water.
We stayed at Stovepipe Wells Village, which to be honest, wasn’t much of a village, but we were grateful to have an air conditioned room and running water. That night we went back toward the dunes to catch a glimpse of the night sky. I have never seen stars that clear and bright; it was truly breathtaking. We stood in silence as we were moved to tears.
The next morning on our way to Badwater Basin, we stopped by the Furnace Creek Resort, which reminded me of one of those deserted towns you often see in old Westerns rather than a resort. I can’t imagine who would want to play golf in such suffocating heat, but I did see a few people driving around in golf carts. That made it all the more strange, almost eerie. Zombies in the desert? Perhaps the heat was getting to me…
282 feet below sea level, the salt flats of Badwater Basin extend for miles across Death Valley. The view over the salt flats looked like another planet. In fact, the scenery throughout the entire desert looked like we were in another world. A world that, save for the occasional creature crawling around on the baking earth, seemed to hold no signs of life.
Although we didn’t have that much time in Death Valley, the desert left a deep impression in my mind. I’m hoping to do a repeat visit one day. I felt completely humbled by the desert and was reminded of how important water is. Respect the desert. Conserve water and use only what you need. For without water, there is no life.