The continuation of my travels in February 2016. These travels were an exploration of an area of the states I’d spent very little time in, with the intention of leaving Colorado permanently, and finding a new place to call home (or home base anyway).
I didn’t really know what to expect of Death Valley. I hadn’t done any research first, preferring to be surprised by what I saw. The raw beauty of this place grew on me as the days went on, and I got to know it on a more personal level. I met some of the staff that works there, and ate Indian flatbread made by the Timbisha tribe enough times that they recognized me when I walked in. I also started to feel a connection with the desert environment around me. It’s beauty grew on me with it’s badlands and canyons, and colors and geology, and the way the wind that came down the Badwater Basin and stirred up the salt, creating a white dust storm. I found many other flowers aside from those that were in the main area of the super-bloom, and actually started to grow quite fond of the place, as so often happens when one gets up close and personal with an area. It seemed that most visitors were in a hurry to get through as quickly as possible, and to them it just appeared to be a wasteland with nothing to offer. One couple was very unhappy with everything about the place, and their main complaint was that there was no cold coca-cola available anywhere because there was no ice, and no wonder it was called Death Valley, they worried that they would die of thirst without a cold pop! (I suggested water, but that wasn’t good enough). ha ha!
Free Camping in Death Valley – Please Follow the Rules
There are places to camp for free in Death Valley, and one of them was close to Zabriski Point, which was very convenient for me (you can find these spots by consulting the park map, or talking to a ranger). However, I must stress that if you choose to camp in these free spots, please, please, respect the rules! You have to be a mile from the road, and only camp in spots that are already there. During the time I was there, I personally witnessed many people breaking these rules, and I saw the damage they caused. Camping a mile from the road, means camping a mile from the road. Don’t just guess, set your odometer! If people continue to break these rules, the park service could take away our free camping spots entirely. Without those free spots, I could not have stayed there more than one night, let alone for the time it took to get my new card in the mail.
Anyhow, onto more pleasant subjects:
I wouldn’t say that Death Valley has a lot of hiking trails, but there are enough. I hiked in Dip2 Canyon (no real trail) and of course Zabriski Point, Golden Canyon, Ashland Canyon, Mule Canyon, and more. A friend I met at the RTR was also visiting DV for a couple of nights and we met up and did a couple of hikes. It was nice to have company for a while. I also got ready for a backpacking trip on my own, but after all that packing and getting ready, I couldn’t find the right trail because the directions I’d been given were incorrectly worded. Good directions are important, especially in wilderness areas, so I gave up and slept in my bivy sack a little distance from my vehicle that night, so I at least felt like I was on a backpack trip.
Look for the black spec in the image below, it’s a person. (Hover over images to see what they are).
Waiting and Waiting
I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the back of Mitzi at Furnace Creek, looking at my many pictures and working online (a kind employee gave me the password for the employee WiFi). I also got to know the lady at the Post Office fairly well. She even started bringing me treats from her home. Day after day I stopped in to see if my card had arrived, and day after day she shook her head, and sometimes handed me a treat. I couldn’t understand why it took so long for a card to get from Colorado to California, I’ve had mail come from England to California in just three days in the past. When one of my nomad friends told me it always took a long time between those two states, and I could expect it to take ten-days I was shocked. I wouldn’t have minded, except it was such a long way between things in DV. Hiking trails were far apart, and it was a 30-mile (or more) drive from Furnace Creek to the super bloom. It was easy to burn gas in DV.
Running Out of Food and Cash
After a few days I ran out of ice, and in about a week I ran out of food, but I flat refused to pay the extortionate prices for food at Furnace Creek. I also didn’t have much cash, and didn’t want to use my American Express card for anything other than gasoline, because I feared I wouldn’t get it paid off immediately (I know myself). So I resorted to selling things. It’s probably totally illegal to sell things in a national park, but I had no choice, I was desperate. I hung a hip pack from my rear wiper with a for sale sign on it. When asked, I told my story, and sometimes people wanted to give me money without taking my items. However, I couldn’t bring myself to accept money, but when two young ladies insisted on giving me their food (they were going to toss it anyway on their way to the airport) I accepted their offer. With this act of kindness, I managed to get by without having to use my AE card for anything other than gasoline. They even included some beer and whisky. Eventually, someone actually bought the hip pack and some other items, and I had a bit of cash in case I had to resort to buying something at the FC Store, but I didn’t have to do that because my debit card card arrived in the nick of time. The lady at the post office greeted me with a big smile, and I knew I was saved. It took ten-days to cross two states. Incredible.
So you might be wondering where my shots of the super-bloom are. Well, I decided to save those for my next post.
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Until next time, remember to stop and smell the flowers, but don’t tread on them.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature