In 1997 we spent Christmas Eve with the kids in Phoenix and then headed out camping until New Years. This trip took us to the deserts of California and up to Death Valley. At the time we were using the original camper on a Chevy truck and we had the Tracker that we towed. We really enjoyed this break, it was different and a bit of an adventure.
Sunset At The Salton Sea
First stop was the Salton Sea outside of Indio, California. The sea was created by a breach in the Colorado River Canal System. By the time the breach was fixed in 1907 the lake had been formed and survives to this day. Although the average depth of the lake is only about thirty feet, it is forty- five miles long and twenty miles wide. We enjoyed watching the water fowl and following the nature trail. This is a delightful winter destination, but in the summer the temperatures soar. The sunset was spectacular.
We moved on to Joshua Tree National Park and spent the evening scampering over the huge boulders and taking pictures of the strange trees. One of the not so memorable moments from this stay was the alarm horn on the truck started beeping at day break. We were in a panic trying to get it to stop, the campground was full of young college kids spending the Christmas break rock climbing and partying. They did not intend to get up at the break of dawn. Needless to say they weren’t too happy poking heads with bleary eyes out of their tents to see what the commotion was all about. We were properly chagrined and eager to pack up and move on.
Joshua Tree National. Park
Mohave National Preserve was next on the itinerary and it was a delight. We climbed on rocks, using rings secured to the rocks for hand and foot holds. The best part of the day was spent at Mitchell’s Caverns, a limestone cave full of gorgeous formations with an informative guide to share the cave history. In a quick count I can come up with six caverns we have visited over the years and enjoyed them all, but this one was especially nice, small and intimate with a good feel.
Next stop is Death Valley National Park. We weren’t sure what to expect from this park, but it was a real treat. We passed up the usual park campground, instead, finding a place off the road to spend a few days. It was wonderfully quiet and the night sky was absolutely spectacular. The trouble with winter camping is night falls about 5:30 p.m. instead of summer camping when the sun goes down at 9:30. You have to have a plan for the long night, hummmm I remember this is when Monty shared stories of his youth and introduced me to tequila shooters. I really think it best not to go any further with this story, but I did take a fancy to the whole tequila, lime, salt deal.
Ring Climb Mohave Preserve
The hike through Marble canyon was a challenge, although the sandy bottom of the canyon is easy walking there are outcroppings of marble-like rock that must be crossed and it was very slippery. It was almost impossible to keep your footing. Some places I just sat down and scooted.
The salt flats in the two hundred square miles of Badwater Basin is a must see. Rain from higher elevations runs off the rocks and brings minerals down to the Basin. Delicate crystals form intricate patterns for miles on the flat desert floor. Since the average rainfall in Death Valley is about two inches a year it has taken more than a couple of years to lay down these deposits. The Basin is 282 feet below sea level and the lowest point in North America. It is amazing to see these salt flats at this low point and in the background you see mountains with an elevation of 11,000 feet. Spectacular scenery to be sure.
Death Valley National Park
At a view point looking over the valley floor, we met a group of French tourists. Of all the people standing at the view point a pretty young gal selects Monty to take her picture. I might as well get used to this, it will happen often over the years. Death Valley is a popular destination for European and Asian tourist. I’ve heard they are anxious to come in the summer and experience the extreme heat. The summer temperatures can range from 115-120 degrees on a regular basis. Winter temperatures are mild but chilly after sundown. Spring is a good time to visit this park, if they get some winter rain the wild flowers are abundant. We took the Tracker on a side trip through a rugged canyon and while gazing up at the steep cliffs we spotted a big horn sheep. He was beautiful, such a treat!
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