Road Trip: Death Valley National Park

This post is part of  our 26-day road trip from Wisconsin to California.

Hoover Dam and The Buffet

After camping at Grand Canyon for several days, we figured Las Vegas would be a good place to rest and EAT.  We stopped at Hoover Dam, but didn’t much more than snap a few photos.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

After resting in the hotel for a few hours, we headed directly to THE BUFFET at the Wynn.  After having five plates of food and a full plate of desert,  I swore to myself, “Never EVER go to a buffet in Vegas again!”. To my surprise, when I woke up the next morning, I actually was hungry again!

buffetThe Dramatic Ride from Las Vegas to Death Valley

We headed to Death Valley from Vegas the next day around 9am since we had absolutely zero interest with the city itself.  The NPS website nicely listed four routes from Vegas to Death Valley,  including the shortest route (about 2 hours), easiest route ( 2.5 hours), ghost town route ( 3 hours), and most scenic route ( 3.5 hours).  We decided to take the scenic route  and figured we would surely arrive at Death Valley shortly after noon.  Oh, we couldn’t be more wrong about that! We made several Epic mistakes!

Mistake one: Didn’t stop for Big Horn Sheep.  While we were driving on the old Spanish trail towards Tecopa, four or five big horn sheep were eating grass right by the side of the road! Before I could respond, Ben continued driving without stopping at all, even though our car was the only one on the road!  Those are BIG HORN SHEEP !!!  In the next several days, I made fun of Ben for not stopping at least three times a day. If I have to rank all the foolish things we did in this trip, this would definitely be ranked as No.1.

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Since I missed the opportunities of taking pictures of REAL big horn sheep, I had to take the faked ones at the Furnace Creek visitor center

Mistake Two: Didn’t add gas before driving to “death zone”. Don’t even ask me why didn’t we top off our gas tank before heading to a 3.5 hour “scenic” off the beaten path road that barely sees any human beings. We thought we might be able to get gas at Tecopa, a tiny town with less than 200 population. Instead, we saw a sign ” Road Closed”. We had no idea why it was closed until we finally asked a lady walking by.  She said it was due to flooding although her brother managed to drive the road that morning.  Hmmm, should we risk it and drive to the next town ShoShone 9 miles away while low on gas, or should we turn around back to the main highway?  Actually, now thinking about it, we should have had just enjoyed the natural hot springs instead, the popular feature of Tecopa.

Mistake Three: Didn’t study the road conditions ahead.   We chose to turn back from Tecopa back to highway 160, which turned out to be a “wise” choice since the original roads we planned to take were all closed towards Death Valley.  Once we were back to 160, we saw more and more signs saying road closed. At least, highway I-95 still worked!  By the time we finally arrived at the  Furnace Creek Visitor Center inside the park, it was almost past 3pm. So, 6-hours from Vegas to Death Valley!

Death Valley: It Is Just Amazing

Death Valley is a park that’s full of personality. I absolute love the name. Death Valley, how cool is that!  Even though part of the park was closed due to flooding, such as badwater, the park is still amazingly beautiful and fun to visit. With the pictures, I don’t think I need to say anything.

Dantes View

Breathtaking Dantes View. I swear I forgot to breath the moment we arrived there.

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Dantes View

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Zabriskie Point

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I am a HUGE fan of sand dunes. Gosh, we had tons of fun playing with the sand

I am a HUGE fan of sand dunes. We had tons of fun playing in the sand…

Death Sign

Death Sign

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Two coyotes (or foxes?) playing around

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Father Crowley’s Point

Best Camping Experience

We camped at the Furnace Creek campground, where the elevation is -190 feet ( below sea level, how exciting is that!). You would think that camping at a park with the word “Death” would be quite rough and uncomfortable. On the contrary, among all the campsites we stayed during this trip, we had most fun at this one. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any picture of our campsite.

Since altogether there were about five campsites occupied in the whole area that allows more than 100 campsites, we pretty much felt we owned the whole place.  The campground was super soft because of the sand, and surrounded by trees. The weather was incredibly comfortable ( around 70 at night) .  Our food was just first-class! We sat by the fire, drinking wine, watching the moon, and couldn’t help thinking, gosh, life is just wonderful!   About 4am at night, we got up and enjoyed the beautiful stars under one of the darkest skies in the whole of North America. ( I need a real camera for star pictures !!! )

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Camping 190 feet below sea level

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Our delicious food!

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Pink Moscato, Campfire, and Stars

I Will Be Back

While I am writing this post, I cannot help thinking, why didn’t we stay there longer?!  What’s the rush?! It is such an amazing park that definitely deserves several days to explore. I am sure I will go back there again in the future.  I will make sure check the road conditions ahead, and will definitely stop for big horn sheep!

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