Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes. It’s America’s hottest and driest national park, and sits on the California- Nevada border. Because Death Valley gets extremely hot, the peak season is from October- April when there are cooler temperatures. We visited in April, just as temperatures were starting to heat up.
Now, I’m going to preface this post by saying this trip was very memorable, but probably not in the way you’d expect it to be. Most of this post will be about our experiences, and not as much about what we saw while we were at the park.
Death Valley is about 7.5 hours south of Salt Lake, so we left after work to get a head start on driving, and to ultimately have more time at the park over the weekend. Best case scenario we would’ve made it half-way, but it started to snow, so we stopped in Cedar City, UT for the night.
We found a hotel, checked in, and made it to our room, only to hear what sounded like a loud TV on in our room… Not really knowing what to do, we walked back down to the front desk to see if they had double booked our room. After some back and forth, the front desk guy agreed to go check out the situation. He knocked on the door, only to have an angry, naked man answer!! The front desk guy somehow held it together, while we all but lost our sh*t. We eventually got set up with a new room, and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep chuckling that night.
The next morning, we made our way to Death Valley National Park. The day started off beautiful. We arrived to the park, hit the visitors center, and reserved a camping spot. We set up camp, ate some lunch, then set off to explore.
Throughout the day we explored Zabriskie’s Point, Natural Bridge, Badwater Basin, Darwin Falls (which is the only waterfall in the park), Devil’s Golf Course, Artists Palate, and were hoping to catch the sunset at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. While at the sand dunes we realized we weren’t going to get much of a sunset, so we decided to head back to camp and get dinner started. I wondered for a second if it was going to storm, but that thought came and went because Death Valley only gets 1-2 inches of rain ANNUALLY, and the probability of us getting stormed on was quite low.
Well, turns out, you shouldn’t assume anything. Don’t assume a naked man won’t be watching TV in your hotel room (LOL), and don’t assume it won’t storm on you in Death Valley even though they only get 1-2 inches of rain per year.
Picture this, my friend is tending to the fire, getting our hobo dinners cooked, while I’m just chillin’ in my chair trip planning, when all of a sudden a massive wind storm hits. At first, it was just a few large gusts that blew away our plates and some embers from the fire, but then it kept getting stronger, and it started blowing away everything we had set out. We started running around like crazy, literally just THROWING stuff in the back of my car.
After we got everything except our tent in the back of my car, we were trying to decide if we should wait it out, or take the tent down too. We finally decided to take the tent down, and while we were doing so, a huge gust comes and my friend loses her grip on the tent. Meanwhile, I was still holding on and am LITERALLY flown into the air (like actually airborne) while holding onto the tent.
It’s crazy how many thoughts you can have in your head in such a short period of time, but I specifically remember thinking that if I didn’t let go, I didn’t know how far the wind would actually take me. The tent was acting like a parachute, and I was at its mercy. I knew I needed to let go, so I decided to tuck and roll and hope for the best. After landing, I was lucky enough to just end up with a little road rash, but our tent wasn’t so lucky, and it flew into our neighbor’s Dutch Oven. Let’s just say, he was less than impressed.
Once back in my car, we attempted to eat our half-cooked hobo dinners and recap/laugh at all the craziness that had ensued. We eventually finagled the mess in the back of my car so we could recline the front seats, in hopes of getting some sleep.
We made it through the night, barely. Originally we had planned on going to see the sunrise and following it up with a 5-mile hike through some slot canyons, however we weren’t really in the mood for any of that when we woke up. We went to the sunrise for a bit, but then just ended up rearranging the car and heading back towards home.
As we were driving though we decided we didn’t want the whole trip to be a bust, so we stopped at Valley of Fire State Park in hopes of turning our spirits around. The skies were pretty dark when we arrived, but eventually the sun came out and blue skies followed.
We had so much fun exploring Valley of Fire. We did a few hikes and then camped at a KOA in St. George that evening. We seemed to get a lot of funny looks at our somewhat busted tent, but it didn’t storm and we didn’t get blown away, so it was a successful evening.
While I might remember Death Valley as more of a death trap instead of for all the beauty it has to offer, I will still always look back on this trip and laugh at all the hilarious memories made. It might be a while before I return, but I will eventually give Death Valley the second chance it deserves 😉