Adventures in Death Valley - Part 1

I want to tell you something...Death Valley is rad!

Hold up, let's back track a bit so you know where this is coming from. 

After Christmas, my in-laws brought Josh and I to Death Valley National Park for a fun holiday trip. To be honest, I always assumed Death Valley was a large desert with nothing much to see - just hot and boring. Silly me! It's actually like a small amusement park with different "lands" (like Disneyland has "Adventure Land" and so on). There is Badwater Basin, Artist's Palette, San Dunes, and so much more. 

I loved it so much I took over 275 photos. Wowza! So lots of photos to share. But, do you know what I have a problem with? Decisions. You know what's not good for a blog? Lots of photos and poor decision-making. I've had a heck of a time deciding which photos to share. Argh! I wish I could show them all, but that's guaranteed to bore you to death. I'll do my best to limit it, but I really want to show you the awesomeness that is Death Valley (not to mention, show the handsome people that visited it - eh hem, that would be the Brown family). 

Because of all this awesomeness and lack of decision on my part, I'll be breaking this up into a two part blog post. This first post will cover our first day at Death Valley. The next post, which I pinky swear will come soon, will cover the last day. I might even through in a third post, if you're lucky, with some other random stuff. So get comfy, here we go...

Amargosa Opera House

We entered Death Valley from the Southeast entrance (map) since we were coming in from Palm Springs. One of the first attractions is the Amargosa Opera House. This was originally constructed in 1923 as a company town by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. It was abandoned and later discovered by Marta Becket who restored the building and turned it into an opera house. 

We didn't see an opera show, but it was an awesome building and we arrived at sunset, so the lighting was just right. This was my first taste of Death Valley, and I was instantly intrigued. 

Amargosa Opera House and Hotel

Badwater Basin & Below Sea Level

Our first full day in Death Valley started with Badwater Basin. It is one of the lowest places on Earth, at 282 feet below sea level, and it's the lowest point in North America. See Josh in the picture pointing up? No, he's not doing a disco move, rather pointing to the sign on the mountain indicating "Sea Level." (see that tiny sign?!)

 Below Sea Level @ Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin got it's name from a pioneer/explorer that was traveling with his mule, and the mule wouldn't drink the water...hence the name, badwater. All around is salt encrusted ground, likely the culprit for the bad water. We broke off a piece of the salt rock, and sure enough it tasted salty. My favorite part of this site was how the water reflected the surrounding the mountains (as shown in the photo below). 

Badwater Basin

Devil's Golf Course

Devil's Golf Course is similar to Badwater Basin except that the salt flat is more jagged and has all these crazy holes. The name comes from a guide that stated, "Only the devil could play golf" on its surface (according to Wikipedia). 

As we looked around, there was a kid that kept saying that it reminded him of Frosted Wheat. I could see what he was saying with the white salt layer and ribbed-like ground. Clever kid, although he got annoying after the tenth time yelling this to his dad...

Devil's Golf Course

Artist Drive & Palette

The colors here were awesome. Unfortunately it was mid-day, so not a photographers dream; however, you can still see the various colors from teal to pin to red. I'm no geologist, but apparently this is due to oxidation of different metals and from volcanic ash.  

We got out and hiked around a bit, but the drive through is also a must. This was one of my favorite sites of the park. 

Artist Palette

Devil's Cornfield

Another "Devil" named place. I guess the Devil comes to mind when you're at a place called Death Valley. Uh, hello, Death., here's a fun fact: Death Valley is one of hottest (if not the hottest) place on Earth. On July 10, 1913 a reading of 134°F was taken, the world record hottest air temperature. Some other records say it's Libya is the hottest at 136.4°F. Oh snap! 

Back to Devil's Cornfield. These are actually Arrowweed plants. The are left with there roots dangling out after the wind blows the sand away. Poor things; roots all exposed. How embarrassing. 

Devil's Haystacks

Mesquite Sand Dunes

Sand dunes, now that's what I'm talking about. This is how I imagine Egypt and the sand near the pyramids. I love the ripple the wind creates on the sand. Sadly, there were so many tourists stomping around that finding a clean patch of sand was tough. But I found it! 

Get this, people were actually sledding down the dunes. Crazy. How dare they mess up the sand! I hope they got sand in their underwear. Just looked fun.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

It was sunset as we explored the dunes, and I thought the silhouettes of the tourists was pretty rad. 

Dusk at the Sand Dunes

Harmony Borax Works

You might have picked this up when you read about Amargosa Opera House, but Borox was a big deal in Death Valley. You might have used 20 Mule Team Borax at home for cleaning. I used it to get rid of fleas once. Yea?

Well, back in 1883-89, Borax was mined in Death Valley by Harmony Borax Works. Guess what they used to haul the borax around? 20 Mule Teams and wagons. Yup, that's right. Borax is no longer mined in Death Valley, but the mines and wagons are around for tourist to view. 

Harmony Borax Works

So that ends our first day. Did you know you were getting a history lesson with this post. No sir ye. I surprised you, didn't I? But, not joke, we did all this in one day. There is still another full day to share with you. And as I pinky swore above, I will share it.