Death Valley was not what I expected. This first trip was full of surprises. Let me preface my story by confessing that the desert isn’t one of my favorite places and I’ve avoided this park for decades. But how long could that continue? My curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to go. Only after I made the reservations did I learn that this was a banner year for wildflowers, but that’s a story for another day.
My tale is about discovery and learning. Let’s face it I really didn’t know what I was in for. As my daughter and I drove north the words to that old song Cool Water were in my head: “All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water, Cool water.” Perhaps that wasn’t the best way to begin, but there you are. In some ways those lyrics were coming true. The closer we went to the park, the worse the weather grew as the wind became gusty and sand started drifting across the road. By the time our little car crossed the mountains and we drove into the park itself, all we could see was a curtain of sand.
The storm worsened through the evening and buffeted the few buildings that existed in Stovepipe Wells, where our hotel was located. Everything had sand in it or on it. One could taste sand! It doesn’t taste good.
I thought my weekend was going to be ruined but by the next morning the storm was gone and all was quiet. I suppose you could say my second surprise was that I could see the horizon! What I really didn’t expect was how beautiful it was.
It isn’t just one valley but a series of basins between mountain ridges. There is a variety of flora and the geology is absolutely fascinating. Yes, the wildflowers were blooming but the rocks were even more intriguing!
We only visited a tiny fraction of the park. We were limited as I had only planned a weekend visit. We were also limited by our method of transportation. We were driving a standard car. Many places would require a high clearance vehicle. I’m not sure we’re even daring enough to drive one much less explore those areas. Still it’s tempting!