Our initial plans for this year did not include traveling this far west; however, as we continually re-evaluated it was apparent that we had the time and opportunity go farther west. This is the beauty of being fulltime RVers, you can change your plans on the fly. Neither one of us had ever been to Death Valley or the mountains of California, so that’s where we headed.
Rather than dry camp at the National Park campground in Death Valley, we chose to stay at the Longstreet Inn Casino & RV Park just outside the National Park with full hookups. A bonus of this decision is that Bob (the family political junky) got to watch the Presidential Debate on TV.
We got an early start because we planned on doing some hiking and wanted to avoid the heat of the day. Bob had done some research to identify possible hiking locations. As we drove into Death Valley we spotted one of the sites at Zabriskie Point, and were able to get on the trail by 8:15. We hiked the Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch loop. This part of Death Valley is a mix of the Badlands and the Grand Canyon. We hiked down into the canyon which was nice because it kept us in the shade. The temperatures were fairly cool at the beginning and the shade certainly helped; however, by the time we were done the temperature was over 1000. Going back via Gower Gulch had us hiking up a dry river bed. There was no real defined trail nor any trail markers like we had in Golden Canyon. It reminded Bob of fitness runs in Ranger School – you didn’t know where the end was so you just had to keep going. The hiking was rough in that the river bottom was all loose rock and we had to do some occasional rock climbing to get to the next level of the Gulch. We were fortunate that the walls of the gulch provided more shade than we expected on this part of the hike. Finally we were able to see Zabriskie Point and our spirits lifted knowing the end was in sight.
From there we went to the Visitor Center where we learned more about the history and environment of Death Valley. One interesting site at Death Valley is the “Racetrack” where boulders the size of a compact car move across the desert on their own and no one knows how it happens, even though the tracks they make are very clear. We got some strange looks as we drove through the park as we still had our kayaks on the truck. We’re sure some people thought we we crazy, bringing kayaks to Death Valley!
After lunch we visited the Borax Museum and learned the Twenty Mule Team wagons were not just something we saw on “Death Valley Days” on TV. If you don’t understand what we are talking about, ask your parents. Yes, the show was that old!
It was great to see Death Valley and learn about the challenges the settlers of the Old West had to deal with, but one day was enough for us. We pulled out the next morning for the OH! Ridge Campground in the Inyo National Forest near Yosemite National Park.