Expedition 2: Death Valley

About a year ago I was driving through Death Valley, I’ve probably spent less than 4 hours in it, but I was confident that one day I have to come back and spend at least couple days there. Well the time has come. My 3 day weekend was coming and we as a family decided to go to Death Valley. When Kate told some of her friends that she’s going to Death Valley, some of them believed that “it’s the place where people die”. Now we had to prove that they were wrong =)

We did not have detailed plan on what we want to see in Death Valley. One reason for that is as w wanted to take some of the back country roads, it was hard to predict the state of the roads as well as how much time they could take. The second reason for us not having a detailed plan, was that we were not sure if we will be comfortable sleeping in tent in the wild. It is the first tent trip for Mark (8 months). But, the good things about having no detailed plan is that we’re flexible and can go wherever we want.

Day 1 – Getting to Bakersfield

San Jose to Bakersfield leg

San Jose to Bakersfield leg

We took of at about 5pm Friday. The goal was to get to Bakersfield, where we had a room reserved. As it was Friday, everyone was trying to escape from Bay Area and the traffic was terrible. It took us about 5 hours to get to Bakersfield, about 260 miles. Nothing interesting on the route.

Day 2 – Entering Death Valley

Bakersfield to Death Valley

Bakersfield to Death Valley

Woke up. Had breakfast at Dennys and took off. We had to cover about 250 miles to get to Death Valley. The landscape changed to more desert one. We’ve seen tons wind power generators along Highway 58.

Wind Power Generator

Wind Power Generator

While driving we’ve noticed a sign to Red Cliffs Natural Area. Stopped there to stretch legs and take some pictures.

Red Cliffs

Red Cliffs

Red Cliffs

Red Cliffs

Mark stretching his legs

Mark stretching his legs

Kate has developed this new feature: she likes to climb on a rock and asks to take a picture of her.

Kate has developed this new feature: she likes to climb on a rock and asks to take a picture of her.

Red Cliff

Red Cliff

I also used this chance to fly my DJI Phantom around to capture some aerial video. It’s a bit long and boring, but shows how beautiful it is out there.

A little bit more of driving and we’ve got to our destination.

Death Valley Park Entrance

Death Valley Park Entrance

We’ve been lucky with the weather. It was about 70-80F, a lot of nice clouds in the sky and no rain. Perfect weather for enjoying Death Valley and taking nice pictures =)

On the way to Stovepipe Wells

On the way to Stovepipe Wells

One of the canyon names that captured my attention was the Marble Canyon. To get to it you had to drive 10 miles on the unpaved road that starts near Stovepipe wells. I’ve aired down tires to about 20 PSI to get a softer ride as well as better traction in case if we need it and our first family offroad adventure began.

Tundra on the road to Marble Canyon

Tundra on the road to Marble Canyon

 

A reminder that we're in desert

A reminder that we’re in desert

First 5-6 miles of the road were sandy, but it was packed and formed small waves that were not pleasant. Everything in the cabin rattled. the surface change to more rocky, we had to slow down a bit and watch out for big rocks.

Marble Canyon Road

Marble Canyon Road

We were stooping here and there to take pictures and spotted the first live creature of death valley

Lizard

Lizard

After about an hour of driving we’ve got to a dead end and a sign saying that road ends here, pedestrian traffic was allowed beyond that point. We’ve decided to prepare lunch and hike into Marble canyon after it.

Kate practicing rock climbing

Kate practicing rock climbing

We've found a shady spot for our lunch stop.

We’ve found a shady spot for our lunch stop. Food definitely tastes better when it’s cooked in the wild.

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon

Kate posing on a rock in Marble Canyon

Kate posing on a rock in Marble Canyon

Everyone enjoyed an after lunch walk.

It was time to get back on the road. Next stop: sand dunes.

Death Valley San Dunes

Death Valley San Dunes

Daddy-Camel in Dunes

Daddy-Camel in Dunes

After Dunes we drove south through Death Valley to see the Artists Drive.

Julia blocking traffic on Badwater road

Julia blocking traffic on Badwater road

Artists Drive

Artists Drive

Death Valley Artists Drive

Death Valley Artists Drive

It was about 6pm already. we had about an hour of sun left. It was time for us to find a tent site. In Death Valley, you’re allowed to camp anywhere 2 miles away from developed area. We decided to camp on one of the side roads of West Side Road. West side road is an unpaved road but it is well maintained. It has several side roads that take you to different canyons. those roads are rocky.

We took the first right turn on West Side road and after driving about 1 mile we’ve started looking for a good spot for our tent. The was one place, that has been mostly cleaned out of rocks by previous campers and we decided to use it.

Our tent site in Death Valley

Our tent site in Death Valley

At first, truck was not standing that close to the tent. But wind was so strong in the middle of the night that it started pulling out tent stakes, so we’ve decided to move truck to create some wind protection. It helped a lot.

Mark and Kate were both excited after getting into the tent. The first camping experience for Mark went well.

Day 3 

Two little campers

Two little campers

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

In the morning we’ve studied the map and finalized our plan for the day:

  • Badwater and salt lake
  • Zabriskie point
  • Titus Canyon
55mph on West Side Road

55mph on West Side Road

After about 6 miles of unpaved road and then another 10 on paved, we’ve got to Badwater – the lowest point in Western Hemisphere

Lowest Point in Western Hemisphere

Lowest Point in Western Hemisphere

Kate at Badwater Salt Lake

Kate at Badwater Salt Lake

Space Launch

Space Launch

 

Badwater Lake

Badwater Lake

Next – to Zabriskie Point. The weather was nice the second day too.

Death Valley

Death Valley

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

Next – to the Titus Canyon. Before we’ve got to Death valley, we were hoping to see the Super Bloom that everyone was talking about. But we were too late for it. We did manage to capture some flowers on our way to Titus Canyon.

Flower A

Flower A

Flower B

Flower B

Flower C

Flower C

Lizard B

Lizard B

Flower D

Flower D

Titus canyon road begins one the Nevada side and is one way. It is about 26 miles long.It starts with a desert road, then transitions into mountain road and ends up in a canyon. This canyon alone was worth the entire trip. Nature also reminded us how powerful it is, our 26 mile trip started under sun heat, then it switched to rain, then hail got added to it and ended up with a heat again.

Titus Canyon Road

Titus Canyon Road

Titus Canyon Road has a lot of nice views.

Titus Canyon Road has a lot of nice views.

Titus Canyon Road

Titus Canyon Road

As it was raining heavily, we've been driving through a lot of red clay streams. At one point, there was a huge rock in the middle of the road, probably ground under it got washed out and it fell down. Three drivers had to team up to push it to the side.

As it was raining heavily, we’ve been driving through a lot of red clay streams. At one point, there was a huge rock in the middle of the road, probably ground under it got washed out and it fell down. Three drivers had to team up to push it to the side.

The narrow part of the canyon is almost at the very end of the trail.

Tundra TRD Pro playing hide and seek in Titus Canyon

Tundra TRD Pro playing hide and seek in Titus Canyon

Our truck in Titus Canyon

Our truck in Titus Canyon

This was a beautiful trail and weather and road conditions added some excitement to it.

We’ve decided to stay in the hotel next night, hotel somewhere on our way back home. So I’ve booked a room in a hotel I’ve been before at Mammoth Lakes.

On our way to Mammoth lakes

On our way to Mammoth lakes

Sierra Nevada Resort and Spa in Mammoth Lakes has a nice interior.

Sierra Nevada Resort and Spa Fireplace

Sierra Nevada Resort and Spa Fireplace

Mark watching fire

Mark watching fire

 

Playing chess with Kate

Playing chess with Kate

The next day we kept driving North and visited the Mono lake.

Driving North to Mono lake

Driving North to Mono lake

At Mono lake we’ve decided to have a short hike to see the rocks sticking out of the lake. It was a maintained trail at first, but then switched to rocky/muddy trail, you basically had to jump from rock to rock .

Mono Lake Hiking

Mono Lake Hiking

Mono Lake hiking

Mono Lake hiking

Kate stepped into the mud

Kate stepped into the mud

Mono Lake View

Mono Lake View

Mono Lake View

Mono Lake View

When we got back to the car, we washed our shoes and took off. We stopped somewhere not far from lake Tahoe to have a wild lunch and tea.

Lunch Stop

Lunch Stop

Lunch Break

Lunch Break

Got home at about 5pm that day.

It was a 3 day/ 3 night trip, we’ve covered about 1200 miles. We all definitely want to come to Death Valley again.