Today, we drove from Pahrump to Death Valley. Interesting drive across wide deserts between mountains. We dropped from 2900 feet to below sea level. The campground is at -190 feet. Our ears were popping a lot.
For Star Wars fans, this is where many scenes from the first movie, A New Hope, were filmed. The park service even has an Audio Tour for the locations. At the time it was being filmed no one knew much other than it was movie. Many of the children of the park rangers stood in for Jawas. Scenes filmed here include the background for Jabba the Hutt’s place, the cave for Luke's light saber training, the overlook for Mos Eisley, Jawas shooting at Luke, the sand crawler scene, R2D2’s lonesome trek and capture, Tusken Raiders riding Bantha, the sand dunes where R2D2 and C3P0 were lost. Oh, we are going to be at most if not all of these locations. Of course after 46 years, the landscape will have changed.
First stop the visitor center to get our pass. It was nice a day not hot or cool. It was late February. In August, it will be at least 40 degrees hotter midday.
The park is known during summers to be one of the hottest places on earth. It is not unusual for temps to exceed 120 degrees in the day and some summer nights not to fall below 100. OUCH! The mountains that surround the valley focus and contain the heat but the highest ones regularly are snow topped in winter. We are visiting in the coldest part of the year. The highs are in the 70’s and the lows may drop below 40.
The park is HUGE at almost 3.2 million acres. Bigger than the land mass of Connecticut.
This national park has the highest temperature on earth at 134 degrees and the driest national park.
It is also the lowest point in North America at -282 feet below sea level. The lowest point is not as low as it has been. Sand and silt has fallen down from the surrounding mountains and this has been filling valley for thousands of years. Two thousand years ago, the valley floor was much lower. Each earthquake causes the floor of the valley to fall even lower.
After setting up camp, we drove to the far south end of the park.
Badwater basin is one of only a few only natural water locations in Death Valley. Shawna remembered being here as a child. It was amazing.
From a distance the wide salt, calcite, gypsum and borax deposits look like water but there is actually only a very small creek and pond near the parking area which contain actual water. The water is so mineral infused that only a very a few plants and a small snail can live there.
The walk out was 1 mile but the landscape was bizarre. Large areas of mostly salt are folded up at the edges. The darker areas have a layer of dust and sand on top of the salt and curl as it absorbs heat from the sun. The bright white is where people have walked. Purer salt is pushed out along the outer edges of irregular shapes on the ground creating ridges.
The Sea Level sign is really big. Being over 280 feet above where we were standing I had to be big to even read it.
After the mile walk back to the truck, we decided to take a short detour. Along the highway back to the RV is a dirt road that takes us to a natural bridge. The drive out to the trail head was very difficult. That road needs to be regraded. I thought we were going to bounce the truck apart even at less than 5 miles per hour.
We almost could not see the canyon entrance from the beginning of the trail. But once in side it was impressive.
The natural bridge is deep in a canyon and the walk up is through a wash. The bridge formed long ago when the valley had much more rainfall than it does now.
The opening is about 35 feet high and the arch about the same diameter. The rock hanging over our heads is thousands of tons. The trail was not long being only 1/3rd of a mile out but because of the loose gravel and sand in the canyon it was tiring.
After walking a little further up the canyon, we decide we had seen all we wanted. It was interest seeing a huge wolf shadow on the canyon wall.
It was only visible from one location at a specific time of day.
Time to head back.
As we walked out of the canyon the view was pretty stunning.
It reminded me of a scene from Star Wars.
Back down the rutted road to the RV for dinner and some rest. Our campsite is paved but has no hookups. Boon-docking. Our batteries and solar panel should keep power up but we can run the generator if needed.
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We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...