Christmas trip to Death Valley

Just a couple of weeks before Christmas last year, our friends asked if we would like to go somewhere for a couple of days. We agreed. Our initial options were Mammoth Lake, skiing in Big Bear or Death Valley. I had heard about Death Valley, I thought there’s nothing to do other than experiencing the dryness and desert vegetation and scorching heat, but our friend SG who already had gone there said it’s very interesting geologically with different type and color of minerals. I went and looked for “things to do in Death valley” on net and learnt that he was true, many had written interesting reviews on Yelp. I further looked for places which they had mentioned on Yelp, and felt it might be interesting to witness a different vegetation for a change. So we decided, it was going to be “Death Valley” for Christmas.

Based on what people had suggested on Yelp and Death Valley home page I made a schedule for us depending on what’s all close and can be covered in one day.

1) Furnace Creek Area

Zabriskie Point
Artist Drive – Artist Palette
Badwater basin
Telescope peak???
Dante’s view
Natural Bridge Canyon hike – Natural bridge road
Scotty’s Castle area and Stovepipe wells area

2) Scottys castle
Titus Canyon –
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, CA – hiking ???
Golden Canyon hike – easy 1 mile hike(early morning??)
Ubehebe Craters, Inyo, CA

I and my hubby started on Friday eve towards LA, it’s 9.5 hours drive from LA, we decided to halt at Barstow where our friends from SD would come and join us and the next day we would leave to Death Valley together. When I think of LA first thing that comes to my mind is Traffic. As always even that evening we got stuck in traffic and by the time we reached Barstow it was 10 p.m., we had left SFBA at 2p.m.. Very tired yet excited to meet friends after long time, we chit chatted for some time and went to sleep.

Day 1:

Artist Palette

Next day we had breakfast at Denny’s and left to Death Valley. We first stopped at Badwater basin which is lowest point in US and 282 ft. below Sea level. Interesting thing is the lowest point and highest peak in Death Valley, Telescopic peak are just 10 miles from each other. There’s nothing but lot of salt residues here , we spent 30 min taking photos, walking on the basin. After that we left to Devil’s Golf Course. The road was rugged. Salts again deposited by ancient salt lakes and shaped by winds and rain, the structure was amazing. By then it was afternoon and time for lunch. There was only one restaurant and on the way there’s Artist Drive – Artist Palette. We went via this road. It was unbelievable to see different colored rocks and sands. We realized why it’s called by that name. After lunch, we went to Zabriskie point which was close by. Truly beautiful to see the formation of the hills, just like waves, formed over millions of years due to wind and rain, it was colorful too. We still had a couple of hours before sunset. We decided to go to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. I had never seen sand dunes before, walking in Sand is fun but requires energy since legs go deep inside and need to lift it up every time. It had started to get dark and cold. We walked on Sand dunes on barefoot for half a mile or so. Then we left to our motel in Beatty, NV where my friend had booked rooms for us. On the way was a ghost town. It was pitch dark, and to scare us the two boys took us to the abandoned village. There was nothing!!! We returned to our motel.

Day 2:

Ubehebe Crater
Darwin Falls

We got up early and drove to Scottys castle. We had already seen Hearst Castle. So none of us were interested to take tour guide. Again we took some pics and left for Ubehebe Craters, Inyo, CA. This crater is formed by powerful volcanic explosion. Oh my God!! a sight never seen before. Really amazing, we hiked Little Hebe Crater Trail, a half a mile hike. It was very windy as we went up. Hunger stricken us, left to the restaurant which was not so close!! It’s a bad place for vegetarians in Death Valley. There’s hardly two restaurants and in that hardly two veg options. We filled our stomach with veggie burger and finger chips. Burgers are the last thing I would eat!!!

I had read about Darwin Falls. What interested me is that this is perennial. I wondered how can this be in a place where there is not even trace of water!! We left to Darwin Falls, excited to see some water!! The road to Death valley is gravel road for nearly a mile or so from the highway to the parking spot. I was so scared our car tyres would get punctured and we might get stuck in a deserted place with no mobile signal. Luckily we reached safely to parking spot. It is a 2 mile round trip hike. As we walked the trail there was not even a tree, I kept wondering is there really a fall forget perennial. There was little bit of rock climbing we had to do to reach the falls. Though it was not what I expected, what I had seen in photos in net, it was beautiful. It was cool, heavenly! The trouble was worth it.

All this was too much for a day. We ate ice-cream at a shop sat for a while and headed back to our room in Beatty.

Day 3:

Natural Bridge

This was the last day, we had enough time to cover just one another point. After lot of discussions we went to Natural Bridge. A hike of 1 mile from parking lot to the bridge. We walked till the end of the canyon spent sometime taking pictures and left Death Valley.

It was an amazing 3 days with our friends SK and SG. We all loved the place, there’s lot more to see, but one needs to travel a lot from one view point to other.Spending time in car is more than spending time at a view point. The drive to and in death valley can get monotonous. We were glad we had each others company, else it would be really boring. We had lot of topics to talk since we were meeting after about an year. I don’t think we are going to visit this place again for it is too far.

Overall a lovely experience, memorable one. We were happy to see trees once we crossed Barstow.

I came home and searched for Death Valley’s history. There was a sea here in Paleozoic Era (542 – 251 million years ago.).  With time land was pushed up and sea moved towards west.This uplift was due to movement occurring far beneath the Earth’s surface. Scientists have discovered that the Earth’s crust is composed of inter-connected sections, or plates. Death Valley lies near the boundary between two of these plates. As the plates slowly move in relation to each other, compressional forces gradually fold, warp and fracture the brittle crust. This widespread rock deformation and faulting occurred through most of the Mesozoic Era (251 – 65.5 million years ago.) While the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada formed, active mountain building alternated with times when erosion prevailed, worked to breaking down the mountains that had formed. I have borrowed this information from ““.

It is so evident we see so many varieties of minerals and salts. The mountains have wavy structure , in natural bridge there’s even a place where it clearly shows water falls existed long before and drained now. How the name “Bad Water Basin” came, a traveler and his mule long ago came to Death Valley, the mule refused to drink this water. So the name “Bad” Water basin.

Why is it called Death Valley?
Death Valley was given its forbidding name by a group of pioneers lost here in the winter of 1849-1850. Even though, as far as we know, only one of the group died here, they all assumed that this valley would be their grave. They were rescued by two of their young men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, who had learned to be scouts. As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said “goodbye, Death Valley.”

This information I have used from “


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