I’ve been to my fair share of places around the world, and it surprises me when I say Death Valley is my favorite place on earth. Since my first visit in the winter of 2002, I’ve been back at least once a year — sometimes twice.
If you’re so inclined you can download a PDF file of “Sunny Delight,” an October 2002 Orange Coast magazine article I wrote about Furnace Creek after a July visit that year where daytime temps reached 120 and at night it never dropped below 100 degrees.
For all I’ve explored, I’ve seen but a fraction of what the park has to offer… and that’s part of its allure. For all its vast nothingness there’s always someplace else to go and do. Even if that someplace is a hike into the broad flat of a desolate saltpan.
I can’t nutshell what the place means to me other than to say if you’ve never been, it should be somewhere on your life’s to-do list to go get some of its magnificent fulfillment for yourself.
Susan and I are going back for more this weekend, our sixth visit. I’m thrilled to be able to share it with my cousin Nathan who’s flying out from Tennessee on a mini-vacation to come with us. We’ll be driving out early Friday morning, coming in the back way through the Panamint Valley and after a stop at the Charcoal kilns at Wildrose we’ll be dropping down into the valley proper and hitting a lot of the sights up and down the park’s main roads: Stovepipe dunes, Furnace Creek, Badwater, Zabriskie Point, Salt Creek, Rhyolite, Titus Canyon. We’ll camp that night at Mesquite Springs. On top of all that, I’ve never been during the early spring so I’m looking forward to what’s expected to be a pretty glorious wildflower bloom along the way, fed by above average rains this past winter.
Come Saturday morning is The Main Event: my long-delayed/canceled/ruminated-about mountain bike trek from Ubehebe Crater to Racetrack Playa. Word isÂ that parts of the 26-miles of bad washboarded road between the two landmarks have been graded for the first time in a long time, so it might be not-so-bad road. We’ll see. The plan is Susan and Nathan will see me off early and after a couple/three hour headstart will catch up with me and we’ll end up pitching tents at the south end of the dry lake bed, which might still be coveredÂ with a few inches of run off from the rains, as it was when Susan and I went out there last in 2005.
Sunday morning we’ll come back out and go out the way we came in except we’ll go over the 190 across the Panamint Valley to end up around the backside of Owens Lake backdropped by the Easter Sierras for a stop at Manzanar before heading home.