Death Valley / The Desert, California
Favorite thing: We knew that the best hours to visit Death Valley were the afternoons and early morning, not only because of the extreme heat of August, also for the light (for photos), we went to the Dunes for the sunrise, that was very close of the hotel.
We were leaving today and still had not been able to go up to the stratosphere, so before checking out, we got at the car and drove to the other side of town to go up, quite an experience for a Vertigo women as me ;-).
But from now is where I really began to enjoy California, the Natural parks, we promised ourselves that the next time we were coming to USA, we would spend less time in cities and more time enjoying the parks.
We saw a wonderful sunset from the Artist palette at Death Valley
Happily drive along through Grapevine Canyon, go pass the mouth of Titus Canyon, and start paying attention when you see lots of sand dunes. Nearby, turn right and go forth (don't multiply) to look over the grounds at Stovepipe Wells Village. It's an OASIS!
Check in for the night, they have a POOL. Just about the only water you'll see for days.
I'm joking but seriously, this is the best place I know if you're going to lose your car keys in the sand dunes at sunset. We lost those car keys that night, really, and the Stovepipe Wells Motel people were the best. They nurtured us and let us phone our friends around the world to tell our story! The next morning, they sent one of their men out with us to look for the keys, in the sand dunes.
The place looked so different at sunrise...
but I spotted the keys and off we went. Goodbye Stovepipe, hello Zabriskie Point, hey there Artists Palette (oh you are so beautiful!), wow! look at that Panamint Range! and hello Sequoia Forest, hello mosquitoes...
Time to make a contribution to culture, archi-culture, er, architecture. Even in Death Valley Desert, you can see some Doric or Corinthian columns, and imagine you are sitting under some shady roof, on some cold stones, listening to Socrates and drinking it all in, the meaning of life, of heat, of sweat, where is my deodorant, etc.
I *had* to get up from those stones, even in the shade, they burned! But I would not leave Scotty's Castle before showing off my biker's T-shirt from UTAH! no sir!
Tip: great Ice Cream is sold somewhere on the grounds! Now drive further into the desert.
I wanted to stop in Reno and check out the marriage rules, but my travel mates were not interested. They would have liked to stop in Reno for the gambling, but I was not interested.
We drove on to Death Valley and stopped for another leg stretch at Scotty's Castle. There's a story about this Scotty, he was quite an excentric etc. Well we just walked around his grounds and sweated and marvelled that he bothered to build this temple to his ego out there. The gates to the main house were something to behold, as you can see.
Favorite thing: Marvel at the bizarre landscape of DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK! This is where one of my VT friends remarked about me 'walking on the moon' :D. No, Death Valley is certainly more than that; although I'm not sure if I know what's 'walking on the moon' like ;-). One needs to be there to experience & take in the panoramic views in order to know what it's all about. In that sense, he's absolutely correct :).
Death Valley is the lowest point in the USA hidden behind some mountains. The rainclouds coming from the ocean are stopped by these mountains. Making the valley very dry. Other pics in the travelogue.
More info on Death Valley:
National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/deva/
sweat at the Death Valley. It is a deep valley (86 meters under the sea level) between 2 mountains which hold the air under a hard sun. The temperature in Summer goes over 40°c. Have a think to those who extracted potash and salt from this dry piece of earth.
Fondest memory: When you go there think : 1) to bring water especially if you have children with you - 2) to take gas before going because it is rare and more expensive than everywhere (it evaporates quicker...) - 3) to look at the motor temperature. It may be not bear the air conditionning - 4) to respect the speed limits even if the road is (or seems) empty. The policeman is not far from you.
If you have time, you have to drive along the Pacific Highway. The scenery is spectacular all the way along. As we drove along we saw pods of Whales, Dolphins & Ottersin the ocean along with a multitude of Seals and Sea lions. We stayed in a few of the coastal towns on the way back to LA. The nicer ones were Carmel and Fort Bragg.
Fondest memory: One of the nicest places we stayed on the trip was a small town as we left Death Valley. The town was called Lone Pine. It was a one street town with a couple of restaurants and one bar. One of the locals commented that seeing seven people on the street at 8pm made it feel like rush hour. Lone Pine is famous because a lot of the western movies were filmed in the area. At the hotel we stayed in (dont remember its name but there was only one) they had a map of all the movies filmed in the area. The picture shows the snow capped Sierra Nevada's from the car park of our Hotel
Favorite thing: A must to see place u gotta visit is no doubt the 'Death Valley'. Here is an example of how nature can be amazing here ... here is a pic of 'Zabriskie Point'!!!