West 2018 Day 13 – Death Valley

Friday 5/25/18

I don’t recall where exactly we stayed that night – some random hotel between Yosemite & Death Valley.  I do recall a late-night stop at a McDonald’s on the way out of Yosemite for coffee and to use their WiFi to find a hotel.  We had a late flight out of Las Vegas (10:30) so we had a pretty full day available.

Our last stop on the journey was Death Valley, the lowest, hottest, possibly most hellish places I the world.  Given that description, we didn’t plan on doing any super huge hikes, mostly just a drive through to hit a few of the points of interest.  We drove in the west entrance to the park and progressed east with a diversion to go south as far as Badwater Basin in the middle.  I think this allowed us to see most all the aspects that the park had to offer.

We started with the dunes, which are much different (shorter and more wind driven) than dunes in Michigan.  It was 97F when we hit the visitor center, so we loitered there a bit in the AC before heading down to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the US.  There’s a fun little placard on the cliff side above pointing out where sea-level is and a lot of salt.

On the way back we stopped off at Artists’ Drive to see the colors from minerals other than salt.  We took a quick hike there, fighting the wind – I’m aware that the salt flats are known for the wind, but this was pretty impressive.

Our second stop on the way back north was to chance the off-road drive out to Devils’ Golf Course to see the salt boulders.  Maybe I should have been more concerned about this – there were lots of warnings about tire damage due to heat and sharp rocks, but I figured it was a moderately traveled dirt road, so we just took it slow and made the trip fine.

Our last stop was at Zabriskie Point looking back over the valley on our way out before heading toward Vegas.  There was some trail from Artists Drive to Zabriskie Point that we could have hiked, about 4 miles round trip, the heat had sucked some of our motivation out so we skipped that.

We got to the outskirts of Vegas just before sunset and stopped for some dinner and to do some final organization before the flight then drove into the city for our departure.