Our first thoughts about Death Valley National Park were that it was going to be hot, flat and dry. When we got there two of those things were true. It was hot and dry, but it was not necessarily flat. Surrounding the valley within the park were several mountains. I guess, thus creating the valley. Death Valley National Park is home to the lowest point North America, which is pretty impressive. In the summer time temperatures can get past 120-130 degrees! It was March 20th when we arrived and it was 99 degrees. We hadn’t slept much because of our Las Vegas adventure, but it was way too hot to hang out in the tent so we decided we had to sightsee instead.
Our first stop was the Badwater Basin, this section of the park is -282 feet below sea level. There is a plaque reading “Sea Level” 282 feet over the Badwater Basin to really let you appreciate how low you’ve visited. All of the water that does end up within the basin (less than two inches a year) gets trapped then evaporates, then leaves behind mineral deposits… basically table salt, but looks like a dusting of snow. Because you’re in a valley there’s a “breeze”, however this breeze was more like 30 mph. You can taste the salt on your lips! From Badwater Basin we traveled almost an hour up to Dante’s View nearly 5,500 feet. We were surprised when we got out of the car because it was only 65 degrees! What an amazing view Dante’s View had to offer. We took several photos then made our way back down the mountain. The next morning we went on a small hike through Golden Canyon, one of the more popular hikes, semi-shaded and leads to Red Cathedral. We thought the rock formations at the end of the trail would be much more red since we had just come from some pretty red rocks.
Our next stop was Joshua Tree National Park, we’ve both been craving pizza so on our way into the park we grabbed some from Pie For The People. We visited the visitor center on the west side just before entering and grabbed a map then headed to our BLM site (almost an hour and a half from the entrance), we knew camping would be full so we came prepared this time! This BLM site was literally right outside the south entrance and was blooming with flowers from the recent rain, it was mostly RV’s or campers but tents are most definitely welcome.
We were only giving ourselves one day to hike through Joshua Tree, since we were camping outside of the park we picked out a few mini “hikes” and one longer hike. On the way into the park the scenery changes quite a bit, of course it’s the desert but from where we were camping it went from wild flowers to Ocotillo patches to Cholla cactuses in a few miles. Our first stop was the Cholla Cactus Garden, it was a short walk but you were able to admire the cactuses and some were almost blooming. Our next stop was quite a bit away… We chose to hike Panorama Trail from the directory, but didn’t realize you had to leave the park to get to the trail. We had a great hike in, we saw a bunch of wildlife then when we got to the top it rained for a few minutes and it passed.
As we hiked back down we were sort of planning what we wanted to do with the rest of the day. We were still almost 2 hours from our tent, so we planned to see the sunset. We ended up visiting Skull Rock, then stopping at Keys View for the sunset but there were just too many clouds. The next morning we left, we were on our way to Phoenix, AZ to visit Slab City. We decided not to camp there because of the reviews that we read on free campsites. However, visiting during the day seemed completely safe to visit. We were greeted by a man that gave us the whole run down of the area.
Slab City, more or less, is an area in California that has no laws. The area used to be used for some sort of military testing, and part of it still is. Seems kind of sketchy right? It’s not as weird as it sounds once you get there, they’ve got their own system and people come and go as they please. While we were there the population was around 80, but it changes day to day. They’ve got their own hot springs, “taxi service”, library and art community. Their several art exhibits are made of things that are easy to find, anything from hay bails, wrecked cars, bullet casings, Barbie dolls, bottles and apparently plastic birds and mannequins.
Before leaving we interacted with a few of the “locals”, one of them had only been there for 4 weeks while the other had been there for 2 years. Totally bizarre but an amazing thing to stumble upon if you’ve got the time to play with. When we left we were heading to Phoenix. The scenery on the drive over changed so much! We went from driving through a desert environment with trees & bushes, to a desert environment of just sand dunes, to a desert environment riddled with Saguaro cactuses. All we’re a truly amazing sight to see.