My only experience with Death Valley prior to actually being there was strangely enough, watching a Japanese TV show about 20 years ago in Tokyo. It was one of those oddball Japanese shows where they go to curious places and explore the curiouser – very Alice-in-Wonderland. In that segment, they went to Death Valley and fried an egg on a rock in the 130 degree summer.
We all wanted to see that, but hey: we were wearing down jackets. It was pretty freezing and that egg frying wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Still, we wanted to explore Death Valley by driving through and reconnecting with 395 at the other end and continue heading south to the Mexican border. Yep. We nodded. Okay. We’ll “make it so”; ENGAGE!
After leaving the campground, the first thing we did was visit the Mosaic Canyon. Like Darwin, that was totally spur of the moment:
“oh look! MOSAIC canyon!”
- that sounds cool
Truly, the masters of scintillating conversation, we are NOT. But get there, we DID, and when we pulled up, Mac and Moxie were fast asleep. Mikey let me go with Micah and this is what we saw:
Remember Indiana Jones? Yeah, Mosaic Canyon is straight out of The Last Crusade. The rocks are intense! One side would be almost white and the other side would be red. And the layers! It was like marble pie
This is the part where I really, really wish we could take a tour. Like, the California Discovery Tour offered by My Adventure Store. Growing up in Fiji and then Hawai’i, I used to really laugh at people who took tours, but then when I went to South America with my friend Dreama, I took the first tour of my life and got pretty hooked. The thing is, a good tour can take you places that you couldn’t go to on your own and you can learn oceans more with a solid tour guide than you could wandering around with the Lonely Planet guidebook in your hand.
I asked Mikey if he’d like to join a tour in Death Valley:
“Wanna go for a tour?”
“Why not? They can be really good”
– it’s Thanksgiving; there isn’t enough time
And he was. It *was* Thanksgiving and there really *wasn’t* time to get it all together, the whole Death Valley trip being spur of the moment to boot.
So we played in the desert
Micah and I are both trying and learning to take photos – he was all over the place with his little canon – I have dreams of him guest posting on this blog. Won’t that be fun?!!
I was having fun with the hipstamatic stuff on the iphone and I know it’s achingingly artsy/fartsy but I’m still fond of it:
Micah capturing the sunsets.
Sky explosions of the “holy shit, that can’t be real!” variety.
aaaannnnnnnnd, we have big news: a Junior Ranger is among us!
We were able to join the program while staying at the Death Valley Campground. This was way, waaaaaaaaaay cool. He had to complete a pretty challenging series of activities (stuff like selecting nocturnal/diurnal animals, actually interviewing a ranger, picking up trash and recycling and more). When he was done and came in his completed book, they really put him through the wringer! He was interviewed on his book for a full 15 minutes (- of which I felt every second, as I was struggling to contain two back arching, put-me-down-now-OR-ELSE little flesh-bundles of child)
He raised his right hand, took The Oath of the Junior Ranger, and here he is, Sir Junior Ranger
Crazy proud of this kid.
Onward we went and wandered into the China Date Farm. That happened just like everything else:
“oh look! that sign says a date farm!”
So we drove 8 miles or so off the road to this CRAZY COOL canyon – it used to be a mine of some sort, twisted spirals of mud and sharp bends and twists in a narrow road. Very romantic. I wish I could actually capture it with the camera, but I can’t and I’m trying so I’m sorry and bear with me.
The road led to this delightful oasis right smack in the middle of all that desert – INSANE, right?!!
Well, cars brimming with Chinese tourists kept driving on up and spilling their contents – I got the feeling that the date farm is featured heavily in Chinese guide books. How else would they know?
Boy, there were a lot of them! Very, very few American tourists. I think… about 5? Yes. Us. Oh – and Pugsily
And this is the cactus that I backed my butt into:
I was picking the thorns out looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnggggg after we had left, holy cow those things go in DEEP and made me squeal like something being butchered. Or Moxie getting her hair washed.
Are you still with me? I know this is the mac-daddy of all long posts.
We left Death Valley and spent some time in the Native American reservation of the Shoshone. There are a lot of hot springs in the region, highly concentrated in the village of Tecope. Of course we went
These are mostly all free and fairly undeveloped. Camping is allowed but not next to the springs. There are very cheap municipal baths in the village – sex segregated and (get this) clothes are not allowed. They also have a Korean hot springs resort there! I wanted to check that out some more – what’s the story behind that? A Korean hot springs resort on a Shoshone reservation?! – but there wasn’t time.
Next stop: Mexico