California Road Trip 2010: Death Valley

After visiting Joshua Tree National Park, I didn’t think there could be a landscape more otherworldly. Well I was mistaken because some 6 hours later, pulling into Death Valley National Park (to the strains of The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” – Neil always has a soundtrack to match the occasion!), it was obvious that this scenery was becoming even more otherworldly…

(we saw a LOT of these on hillsides in Southern California – I guess everyone wants to be Hollywood!)

One of the first places you stop as you enter the park from the south-east is Zabriskie Point:

Named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, (vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the early 20th century), Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in east of Death Valley noted for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago before Death Valley came into existence.

Wikipedia provides the following information about Zabriskie Point in popular culture:

Zabriskie Point is also the name of a 1970 movie by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, notable for its soundtrack featuring music by British band Pink Floyd and Jerry Garcia.
The philosopher Michel Foucault called his 1975 acid trip at Zabriskie Point the greatest experience of his life.[2]
This location is featured prominently on the cover of U2’s album The Joshua Tree.
This location was used to represent the surface of Mars in the film Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
Zabriskie Point was mentioned in the cult horror film Dog Soldiers.
Zabriskie Point is the name of Radio Massacre International’s album released in 2000.
Zabriskie Point is a Soviet Code for a location on the Surface of Mars in Omon Ra, a dystopian thriller novel by Pelevin

Heading on into the park,you simply cannot ignore the fact that it is hot.

And dangerous: The day we arrived it was 113F in the shade in the late afternoon. Uh huh.

Despite the heat, we managed to get out and enjoy the magnificent, breathtaking (literally!) scenery.  Early the next morning, we headed to Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level and the lowest point in the Unites States.

And boy, it is HOT!

Of course, we all headed out into the middle of the basin (the hottest part!):

(yes, I wore all black out to the hottest place in the Valley. But my t-shirt does say “N’importe quoi” – “whatever!”)

Can a foodie forage for food out in the hot basin?  Seems they can:

What on earth???


It was SUPER salty (if you can imagine teh saltiest salt you have ever eaten…)

After leaving Badwater, we headed out in the airconditioned car to check out the area known as Artist’s Palette –  an area noted for having various and striking rock colours. These are caused by oxidation of different metals (red, pink and yellow from iron salts, green from decomposing tuff-derived mica, whilst manganese produces purple).

It’s quite something to behold.

Of course, in any valley there is sand. And where there’s sand, there must be dunes.

We waited until later in the day to go walking on them…

(that’s my dad – don’t worry, he came back!!!)

Apart from the salt discovery, there was not much exciting going on food-wise in the Valley.  We stayed in Stovepipe Wells Village which smacked a little of a British holiday village (“Hi di Hi” anyone?).  The accommodations were fine and certainly amongst the best priced in the Valley, though there was only one place to eat.

The food was not cheap (you kind of understand because well, you are in the middle of nowhere) and nothing special.  This was the salad that accompanied the meals:

(Hellooooo 1970!)

Neil had a decent steak whilst we were there but again, very 1970s-esque:

Since we weren’t really there for the food, I guess it was ok.

Possibly the highlight of the “village” for us was this:

Yes, it seems we are destined to find awesome “saloons” on this trip.  Unfortunately, unlike the hopping, happening Joshua Tree Saloon, this one was strangely empty for most of the day. And night.

Our last night there, we wandered in for a nightcap. It was empty then at 8pm. Not to be deterred by the cavernous room, we sat ourselves down and ordered some drinks. And put some tunes on the jukebox, you know, as you do.  And all of a sudden, it started filling up with people.  But these people were not there to drink or party – noooo, they had been sent there to “wait for a table” in the all of a sudden “so busy” dining room.  So busy that they were assigning numbers and people were having to wait for their table. Listen people, it’s not New York City.  Both nights we ate in the restaurant, there were far more servers than diners so I couldn’t understand that they were making people wait.  We got chatting to a lovely Belgian family who were confused and perplexed about the system (not to mention hungry) and when they were finally called into the dining room, we all raised a cheer. To which the “host” replied “You’ll be waiting a long time”. Excuse me? I BEG your pardon? Totally unnecessary. Fortunately for us, we had already beaten the European dinner hour so would not be at this man’s mercy but really…  Unfortunately, you really are at their mercy when staying in these villages as there is nowhere else to go but that should not be a reason for the staff to behave unprofessionally.  And so ended our night at the “saloon”…

The next day we headed off, still marvelling at the scenery…

Stay tuned for more Road Trip posts – coming up, Yosemite National Park!

Today I am pleased to announce the winner of my President’s Choice Canadian-only giveaway.  I used to choose our lucky winner Tonya who said:

Congrats Tonya – email me with your address so the kind folks at Hill and Knowlton can get your prize pack to you!

41 thoughts on “California Road Trip 2010: Death Valley”

  1. wow! what amazing photos! and SO glad you didn’t keel over from heat exhaustion! 🙂

    haven’t been there since i was knee high but your photos are amazing!!

  2. I love Death Valley! I was actually thinking about going again in oct bc the park is so huge that you just have to go again. I loved the salt fields too, really cool and esp interesting from a scientific perspective. 😉 Lovely photos!

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  4. I love your travel posts. They are sooo funny! I haven’t been to the Death Valley yet…hopefully this year. Now that I’ve seen your pictures I want to go even more!

  5. Your pix are just beautiful! A funny coincidence that we seem to be almost on on the same trip at the same time. I’m traveling now across CA/NV/AZ with my German husband’s extended family in 2 RVs and 2 motorcycles. You are braver than us – we skirted Death Valley and pushed on to Vegas….

  6. I’m loving your travels! Looks like you need a travel blog too… 😉
    Can’t wait for Yosemite, one of our favorite destinations. Looks like you are going from hot, to more hot, though. If you get a chance check out Tuolumne. Just beautiful…

  7. First I was excited that you foraged for salt and then was even MORE excited to see that I had won!

    Thanks so much! Looking forward to my prize 🙂

  8. Awesome scenery and soooo my kind of weather……can’t wait to visit CA again. Now I sure hope Mr Neil had my fave U2 album playing the day before – The Joshua Tree!!

    Goodness you wouldn’t even come across that sort of crappy service here in Oz……now I wouldn’t have been EATING those onion rings……other plans come to mind with such a rude person.

  9. I see what you and Denise were talking about with these photos…there are some stunning landscape shots here! Great post, Mardi! Again, I feel silly that I’ve never been to Death Valley OR Joshua Tree National Park. Must fix that soon!

  10. Yes, a ziplock full of salt. No doubt it was illegal my scraping it up – and difficult, in fact, as it was rock hard – but, umm, I did not see a sign saying so? The few people walking by looked at me like I was bonkers. The challenge will be when/how to use it in a “distinctive” fashion.

    And Tami, yes, of COURSE U2 was playing two days earlier. 🙂

  11. such a starkly beautiful landscape! i love the colors and textures and you have some lovely photos of the area. so cool that you were able to find and taste salt there too. i can’t imagine living in a place so stark and so spectacularly hot, but certainly interesting to visit!

  12. Hi Mardi,
    Nice post. I can’t imagine if I was there and eat the salt. I think it will make my blood pressure increase.


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