Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Adventures in Death Valley!


Since starting our fulltime adventure in 2014 we have spent every Thanksgiving in Utah. 2014 at our daughters house in Sandy, Utah, 2015 at Zion National Park with both our kids and their families. 2016 you ask? Well the Cabela’s parking lot in Lehi, Utah of course!
A lot has change for us here in Utah in the past year. Our son, Forrest, and family hit the road in May and are currently in Bend Oregon where Somer has temporary job. Jessica and her family are in Green Castle Pennsylvania where they recently moved for a new job. So that leaves us all alone here in Utah having Thanksgiving in the Cabela’s parking lot. This also marks the first time Barb has ever cooked a turkey in our RV oven. For those of you with RV ovens you know this can be a tricky proposition.
We have had mixed results trying to cook or bake using the oven. Maintaining an even temperature is probably the biggest challenge. We installed ceramic tiles and an oven thermometer and have been having better success. I am happy to report that Barb slammed it out of the park with the Thanksgiving dinner! Turkey, potatoes, stuffing and scalloped corn were all delicious!

Cabela’s was having a Black Friday sale with the first 500 people receiving free gifts. The doors open at 5:00 am so I thought, what the heck if I woke up early enough and it did not look like there were 500 in line I might jump in line as well. Well….when we took the dogs for a walk at about 6:30 pm the night before people were already lined up! In chairs, in sleeping bags, in tents….needless to say I did not even bother getting in line but when we woke up at 4:00 am the next morning and looked out the parking lot was packed! Craziness…..
Now that we had picked up the Jeep and Ranger, Barb and I would be driving separately. (Which sucks) So the next morning we jumped in our respective vehicles (Dakota and I in the Jeep) and headed south. Our original plan was to head towards Great Basin National Park but the forecast for the next couple of days ruled that out so now our destination would be Death Valley. We stopped for fuel a few hours down the road, Barb headed to the truck lanes and I to the regular pumps. After I had filled up I looked over and notice an attendant talking to her as they are looking at the front passenger tire. Ends up we had a big flat spot on it and did not look good. He offered to change the tire replacing the bad one with our spare for free if we had Good Sam. Since we did, we took him up on his offer. Ironically I was looking at tires the night before as we have almost 60,000 on this set and we still had that plug in one of the back dually’s from the flat we had in Alaska.  We currently have Michelin LTX M/S2 17 80 235 and wanted to replace them with the same. The guy tried to sell us new tires but he did not have those so we passed and headed down the road. Before Barb even got off the on ramp she radioed me saying that the truck was shaking like crazy so we took the next exit and went back to the truck stop asking the guy if he could balance the spare. He did it again for free and we were good to go!

We rolled into the Walmart in St. George Utah about 5:00pm and low and behold across the street was a Discount Tire. 45 minutes later I drove out with 6 new tires, the spare back where it should be and a $100 rebate!
Arriving at Death Valley National Park we drove to the town of Furnace Creek. There are three campgrounds in the area; Furnace Creek, Sunset and Texas Springs. One thing we did not think of was the fact that it was a holiday weekend, we realized this as soon as we entered the park and saw the hordes of people everywhere! We headed to the Furnace Creek Campground and got in line behind about 5 vehicle to check in, when we got up to the window and told them we did not have reservations they said all their full hook up sites were taken but they had 6 dry sites ($22/night) left only one of which was big enough for our rig so we took it. We just chilled the rest of the afternoon and drove the jeep over to the two other campgrounds to check them out.
Site 14 at Furnace Creek CG
The following morning we had to move sites and we had decided to move entire campgrounds. The Sunset campground is not quite as nice but was much less crowded and only ($14/night).

This guys was a constant visitor at Sunset....beep beep!

After setting up we headed out to our first Death Valley excursion. Death Valley is known for two things; being below sea level and being very, very hot. July is the hottest month, with an average high of 115 °F (46 °C) and an average low of 88 °F (31 °C). Luckily it is late November with the highs around 65 °F (18 °C). It should come to no surprise to you then when I tell you on our first adventure into this national park we ran into a snow shower. Yes, only we could manage to find a snow storm in one of the hottest places in North America!
We were headed to a place called Titus Canyon when it started raining and slowly turned to snow. At first it was melting as soon as it hit the ground but soon it was sticking to the ground and the mountainsides became white with snow. After about ½ hour of snow, the sun returned and all the snow was off the mountains in less than 5 minutes.



Titus Canyon Road is a 27 mile one way road winding though some rugged but beautiful country and was the perfect way to spend our first full day in the park. This adventure concludes at the Titus Canyon Narrows, a 1 ½ mile section where the canyon walls close in on the road making for a very cool drive!





The following day we left the dogs at home and managed to get in a couple short hikes. The first hike was Salt Creek Interpretive Trail a short ½ mile boardwalk hike along a small steam. Rumor has it that the rare Pupfish can be found in this stream but we did not see any.



Pickleweed is about the only weed that grows along the stream
Next up was Mosaic Canyon a 2 mile hike up a narrow canyon lined in many places with white marble.



We ended rounded out of morning adventure hiking on the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes.
Sand blasted and polished by the wind


We headed back to the rig for a late lunch and let the dogs out before we hit the jumped in the jeep again to catch a couple of the more popular attractions in the park; Natural Bridge, Devil’s Golf Course and Artist Drive.

Devil’s Golf Course is a large open flat area covered with rock salt that has eroded over time. It has forms jagged edges that are crystalized making for a very unique landscape.


Natural Bridge is another short hike of only ½ mile to a tunnel or “bridge” that spans the canyon. Although it is huge it has many cracks in it and looks like it could come down at any time.


Last but not least was Artist’s Drive. We had not planned on taking this 9 mile one way drive as the park map said it was closed for renovations but the road gates were open and traffic was going in so we headed on in. We hit it right as the sun was setting and what a beautiful drive! The highlight was seeing the mountainside called Artist’s Palette in just the perfect light ….the colors of the rock formation was incredible.

Look at all the different colors!
Day 3 was a Dog Day. Since they had spent most of the day in the rig the day before we planned an adventure they could at least ride with us on. One of the things I was most looking forward to and find most interesting about this park is a place called “The Racetrack” where rocks move across a dry lakebed leaving a trail behind them. The road itself is 26 miles long and very rough but we wanted to see  these moving rocks for ourselves.
How random is this?

It was hard to get pictures of the trails that some of the rocks had left but it was very interesting nonetheless. There have been numerous theories on exactly how these rocks move but they were nearly impossible to prove as some would not move for over a decade. That is until 2013 when a research group saw them move first hand and explains the conditions under which they saw the rocks move. First, the playa fills with water, which must be deep enough to allow formation of floating ice during cold winter nights but shallow enough to expose the rocks. As nighttime temperatures plummet, the pond freezes to form sheets of "windowpane" ice, which must be thin enough to move freely but thick enough to maintain strength. On sunny days, the ice begins to melt and break up into large floating panels, which light winds drive across the playa pool. The ice sheets shove rocks in front of them and the moving stones leave trails in the soft mud bed below the pool surface.



If you are going to take this trip plan at least 5-6 hours as it can take quite a while to navigate the 26 mile washboard road. There was a lot of evidence of flat and shredded tires along the way so you want to make sure you have good tires and a spare!

Our final day in the park was much more laid back, we had a quiet morning and got a few chores done around the rig. The first order of business was to get the new hub covers on the tires. Using the jacks to lift the tires off the ground I removed each of the tires and replaced the covers.
My duct tape temporary fix was still in place!
I did not have a wrench, socket or channel locks large enough to tighten the new covers but an oil filter wrench did the job in a pinch...
Genius!
Our last adventure in Death Valley was our visit to Zabriskie Point. This is a very popular attraction in the park and only 100 yards from your car for views like this.....



Next up....Mojave!

27 comments:

  1. Great visit to Death Valley. I'm sure the cooler temps made for a pleasant time outdoors. It's so muggy and hot here that I finally broke down and turned on the ac. I hate having it on and the windows closed. No black Friday shopping for us. I hate the crowds! Enjoy the west. We sure miss it.

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    1. We will take a little cold and snow over hot and muggy any day!

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  2. Looks like a very interesting place. We will have to go there someday.

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    1. You will have to get on the other side of the country for that!

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  3. Not everyone can say they had snow at Death Valley. We had snow in July at Yellowstone years ago. We were in shorts the day before! Thanks for the tour of parts of the park our truck was too big to travel. We'll have to get back there.
    Safe travels!

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    1. There were quite a few roads with a 25' limit and even more gravel roads that would have been too rough for your truck. They do have jeep rentals though.

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  4. Looks like you had a great time in Death Valley. We sure enjoyed the Artist Pallet as well. Absolutely gorgeous colours.

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    1. That was probably the most beautiful spot we hit in the park. Awesome colors!

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  5. How crazy was staying in the Cabela's parking lot for Black Friday!! Lots of action for sure:)

    Haha! Only you two would find snow in Death Valley:) Better cold than hot! I loved going back to all these cool places with you. We did lots of awesome hikes, but most would have meant leaving the dogs too long for you two. But you certainly got to see most of the highlights. Isn't the Titus Canyon Loop awesome! The Narrows, at the end of the loop, I referred to as a slot for cars. We loved that drive. There was a nice hike from the parking area across from the Narrows. Glad you got to see the moving stones:)

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    1. Funny that you said that about the narrows, I said the exact same thing as we were going through "Look, a slot canyon for jeeps!"

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  6. Looks like you had a great visit to Death Valley! We were there a few years ago, and it was one of my favorite parks. We visited most of the same spots, including the Mosaic Canyon (our favorite!), but we didn't have our Jeep yet, so didn't get to explore those great driving adventures! We'll have to go back!

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    1. When you go back with your Jeep you should drive Titus Canyon, you will not be disappointed.

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  7. Just think of the extreme difference between Death Valley and Alaska. I have been to both now too, huge difference.

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    1. We had an incredible journey this year. Started out the year in Quartzsite, traveled to Alaska and back and just arrived back in Quartzsite again today to round out our year!

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  8. On our bucket list! Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Lots of hikes and roads to explore, you would enjoy it.

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  9. Having lived in CA, we've been to Death Valley several times, but that was years ago. Maybe another trip is due on our way to Quartzite if the snow in the Sierra's isn't bad when we want to head out in January. There are some nice towns and roads to discover on the east side of the park too. Some just outside the park.

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    1. We arrived in Q today, see you guys when you get here!

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  10. Great Photos thanks for sharing looks like a great place to go :)
    Will have to add to my bucket list.

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    1. I think you would like it there, lots to explore!

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  11. Good ol' Discount Tire. That's where I got my Michilens for the truck.

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    1. We like them as not only do they have competitive pricing, you can also find a shop in pretty much every town.

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  12. We're hitting DV in April so thanks for the preview!!

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    1. You definitely want to hit it before June and maybe even May. Way too hot!

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  13. We really enjoyed Death Valley during our visit. We camped in the open dry camping area across the road from Furnace Creek Campground. We would like to go back now that we are not traveling with a pet, it was pretty warm while we were there and didn't want to leave Jack in the coach so we had to take turns hiking trails while one stayed in the Jeep with Jack, of course that was far from perfect LOL!! Have fun.
    Dave & Diane

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    1. That is exactly where we camped after our first night. Not a lot of amenities but fine for us. Having the dogs did alter our planning as we did not want to leave them in the truck at all or in the rig for too long.

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