Death Valley National Park and Zion
What: "Drive through Death Valley National Park"
Visit Badwater Basin (Lowest Point in North America)
Who: Brad, Jeremy, and Tired.
Goal: Enjoy one of America's most coolest drives...rest.
After hiking down from Upper Boy Scout Lake on Mt. Whitney, we showered up, loaded up the car, and made our way back down to Lone Pine. We stopped by the National Forest Headquarters and cleared our permit with the Rangers and got back in the car. Destination was Zion, via hwy 136 (scenic hwy), through the heart of Death Valley National Park and the heart of the Mojave Desert. I was especially excited to visit Badwater Basin...I thought it would be really cool to stand on both the highest point and lowest point in the contigous United States in a day's time. The drive from Lone Pine to the entrance of Death Valley is relatively short...maybe an hour...and it's desolate. There are a few small Joshua Trees sprinkled about, but it's desert. Everything you assume a desert looks like holds true on the drive in. Once we passed the Death Valley welcome sign and were in the "park", the mountains got bigger, the colors changed, and temperature fluctuated....the temp range from the highest and lowest point on our drive within the park were 83 degrees at 5000 ft to 111 degrees at -282 ft below sea level. Another interesting point...Telescope Peak, of the Panimint Mountain Range in Death Valley has an elevation over 11,000 ft and it's only 15 miles from Badwater Basin (-282 ft). That's prominence...BTW, this place is huge!!! Even for National Park standards. I surprisingly learned this park is the largest park in the lower 48...yes even bigger than the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Of course, we are talking square mileage wise, but still it's huge. I just always think Badwater Basin when I think Death Valley. But there is so much more...there are huge mountains (snow-capped for months), Sand Dunes, Canyons, and much more.
As you enter the Park from the West, you drive up to Beim Towne Pass and you get your first views of the valley floor below (the picture before the picture above). I was very eager to get down to the valley floor, and be at the lowest point. However, this is not Badwater Basin. I though it was...but I knew something was wrong when my watch said that we were at 1500 ft. Turns out, this Panamint Valley within Death Valley National Park. Also turns out, Death vValley National Park is not just one valley...it's several different valleys that make up the park. Panimint Valley's sand basin you see above stretches close to 15 miles North to South.
After driving through Panimint Valley, you go over another pass and drive down into another valley where the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are located. I didn't know these existed either. Before this year, I have never seen large sand dunes. In 2012, I've been to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and now these. I'm very grateful...
20 minutes south of the dunes, you arrive at the town of Furnace Creek (appropriately named). There is are two resorts in this town...extremley lush with green golf courses and huge palm trees. Seemed out of place to me...I thought, no wonder there's no water here...these two resorts suck it up dry. Not really, but really, where does the water come from? Few minutes past Furnace Creek, you dip down a few hundred feet and you get your first glimpse of Badwater Basin. From a distance, you can see the heat waves covering the entire basin.
This is what it looks like at 282 feet below sea level. Dry...completely dry. It was hot...but a very dry hot. I was out there 15-20 minutes, reached 111 degrees, and really didn't break a sweat. With no humidity and a good breeze, it really didn't feel too bad out there. I have felt worse on a 85 degree humid and muggy day in the DFW.
After Badwater, we continued East towards Vegas. It was my first time in Vegas. And I hated it. Not so much because it was Vegas, but because it reminds me of what I am trying to escape from when I leave for vacation in the first place. When we drove in, the mountains were beautiful, I could see Red Rocks from a distance (dreaming of climbing there one day), and enjoyed the Sun coming down on the horizon. As I looked ahead at the city, I cringed. All I saw was traffic, pollution, concrete, lights, consumption, money, greed, fast food (though we did stop at Carl's Jr [I know, I suck too...]), cars, faces of celebrities everywhere, buildings, and more and more things that overloaded my circuits. I wanted more than anything to get passed this city and get back to the beauty of nature. All it took was a few minutes.
Zion National Park
Who: Brad, Jeremy and I
What: Angel's Landing and Narrows
I will not go into detail about the Angel's Landing or the Narrows since I did a trip report on the two of them earlier this year. However, I would like to mention that I did get to go farther down the Narrows than the previous time before. Partly because the water levels were down from July and also because I was more familiar with the terrain this time.
Angel's Landing: 4.6 miles RT in 2:19 Hours.
Narrows: Went passed Big Spring...don't know mileage and lost my time.
I'll just post a few pics from the day...
(View of the canyon looking South)
(Brad enjoying views...looking towards the North of the Canyon.)
(Brad on the true summit of angel's Landing)
After we concluded our day in Zion, we drove to Flagstaff, ate at Beaver Street Microbrewery...had a few seasonal micro-brews and ate like pigs! Sorry no pics...
...this trip was a success. Climbing at the Alabama Hills...backpacking in to Whitney Zone...Summiting Mt. Whitney...driving and visiting Death Valley...and exploring more of Zion national Park. Add good buddies and great fellowship...that's a recipe for good times. This has been one of my favorite roadtrips! Thanks to the many people that helped me with trip reports, beta, support and prayers, and Brad and Jeremy for being great team members!