2013 / Camping / Desert / Hiking / Nature / Travel

Death Valley: January 2013

J-

After a little over a week and a few thousand dollars later our mobile living set up has taken a major turn. Gone is Sunshine our Ford Ranger with her futon mattress, storage drawer, and leaky camper shell and enter Sunny a ‘97 F-150 and Skampy a ‘92 pop-up cab-over camper. With a few modifications and a little TLC these two are now married into what we think is the ultimate adventure rig! To give Sunny a proper test run we headed out to Death Valley to spend a week.

We left with no real plans for our visit, we knew a couple of Rangers out there, and hoped to spend a little time with them. We also wanted to take in the popular sights and hike a bit. Because we went in with no real plan we ended up crisscrossing the park haphazardly but also got to experience Death Valley in a super unique way, first of all it RAINED! And this was no weenie little rain, it actually rained.

Mesquite DunesSo after 6 nights and 5 days, the trip went something like this: We got in just after sunset the first night and swung into the Furnace creek campground. We woke up the next day and after a slow morning in the Visitors Center and after much debate ended up in Stovepipe Wells where we hiked up Mosaic Canyon in the afternoon and spent the evening playing and lounging on the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. That night we grabbed a spot in the Stovepipe Wells Campground (which was more like a parking lot) and realized that out of the handful of parties there, we were probably the only ones under 50.

The next day after another slow morning it was back over to Furnace Creek for an overpriced lunch in the Saloon and a stop up to Cow Creek to meet a Ranger we knew from Moab. James who works on the River in Canyonlands was a sight for sore eyes, we caught up and got some advice and left to meet up later that night. From there we drove down to Badwater Basin to stand at the lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level. After that it was a drive further down Badwater Road in search of a canyon James had recommended we found the parking area, an old gravel pit off the main road. while Leigh hung back at the camper I took off for a quick hike before the sun went down.

Darwin Falls

That night we met up with James and Jess, a Ranger who also worked in Moab, at the dorms; Death Valley housing. We cooked dinner with Jess and had a few drinks before we parked out back for the night. We woke up in the night to an unfamiliar sound, rain drops bouncing off of Skampy’s roof! Rain in Death Valley! The rarity of the moment was not lost on us.  The next day we woke up to a wet desert and overcast skies. The night before, James and I made plans to go canyoneering on the far side of the park, up past Panamint Springs and near Father Crowley Point. So James, Leigh and I piled into Sunny and started out on the hour-long drive. The entire park was socked in with fog that got worse over the passes. We finally got to the start of our route with a light drizzle falling. James and I geared up while Leigh cozied up in Skampy with the furnace on and couple of books to read. James and I spent the next few hours in the fog and rain canyoneering in DEATH VALLEY! Truly unforgettable!

On the way back to Furnace Creek we stopped and hiked to Darwin Falls which Leigh really enjoyed and got over priced pizza for dinner in Panamint Springs, which Leigh really didn’t enjoy. That nigh we again parked out by the dorms. The next day we woke up early and got moving. We stopped into the Visitors Center to say good-bye to Jess and headed up to Dante’s View for a hike along the high ridge of the Amargosa Range on the east of Death Valley which overlooked the salt flats of Badwater Basin over 5500 feet below. We hike out towards Mt Perry along ridge line trails and narrow paths on scree slopes. Leigh did her best with extreme heights and exposure and by the end I was super proud of her.

Sunny and the Skamp

That night we drove back out over Towne Pass and into the Panamint Valley to camp along the dirt road that leads to the remote Panamint Dunes. We got to a place to camp just after dark with even more drizzle falling. It rained all night and Leigh and I had our best night of the trip lounging in the camper, drinking wine in the backcountry, dry and warm in a wet Death Valley. Our final day was more overcast with patches of sun throughout the day; the clouds hung low on the mountains surrounding our valley. We relaxed, took a nice easy walk, explored around our camp, read books and napped. The solitude was wonderful!

Death Valley was the best first trip in our new set up. We almost skipped it and that would have been a mistake. We learned that camper living is for us and we fell in love all over again. I feel like we could live forever in Death Valley.

Desert Art Panamint Valley Cracked Mud Dante's View Dune Sand Him, Her and Sunny

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