The next day, we took the 120ish mile drive into the west side of Death valley. I’d wanted to visit Death Valley since many of my French colleagues told me they had already experienced this national park. We descended into the valley which is essentially a protected desert, mountains, and HEAT!
Our first stop was at this open air display of an old railroad. Apparently back in the day (ok, starting from 1848) when gold was discovered in California, everyone rushed out west to make their fortunes. People even came to Death Valley to mine. One of the earliest successful mining operations was the Harmony Borax Works, famous for the Twenty Mule Team wagons used to transport the borax.
We then went to Scotty’s Castle, another point of entry into the park (it’s further up north). We drove 38 miles from the Furnace Creek visitor center and were able to see dust clouds! We were actually quite worried that there wasn’t actually anything there and that the “castle” was just a huge exaggeration.
Death Valley National Park actually has the lowest point in the United States. As we drove, we managed to go from 2000 ft above sea level, to 1000 ft above…to sea level…and finally 5 BELOW. Kind of cool. I think this is the loneliest national park in the USA. We would drive 30 minutes without seeing others.
The sun was slowly coming down. The harsh rays of light were hitting the ground for the last time that evening. In a way, the valley’s ruggedness was even clearer through the mist. Oh, and it was actually really chilly and windy at this point! I thought the wind was going to blow us away. Amazing how the desert weather can change so quickly.