(Day 15: Death Valley)
After getting the door to our balcony fixed last night, it seemed only appropriate to sit on it and drink coffee this morning. The coffee was actually much needed. It should have been a nice long lie in. Not only did I set the alarm for 7.45am, it the clocks went back, so that was like 8.45, plus we had gone back another hour by being in California. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get it right. First of all, I set the alarm for Saturday. But today was Sunday, so it defaulted to last Sunday’s time, which was 7am. Plus my alarm didn’t sync overnight as I had tuned Bluetooth off, so it failed to pick up the clock going back. So it happily work me up at 6am and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Ah well… I stayed in bed until 7.30 so as not to disturb Andrew and then came out to admire the view.
Once we were ready, we packed our kit into the car and drove to the ranch diner for breakfast. This is how we survive on just two meals a day…it is definitely substantial.
Our plan (well, my plan) was to drive to and hike Desolation Canyon East. This has been used as a filming location for Star Wars…think the Sand people attacking C3PO… We drove to it ok; parking at the end of the track we were the only car there. We set off. There wasn’t much in the way of trail markings, so we followed a wash. This turned out to look like a dead end.
We saw another canyon over the other side of the wide wash area, which we thought might be it. It was about a third of a mile away. We hiked, in the 84F temperature with the sun shining down. This side canyon terminated at a very high dry fall. Definitely not that way. Turn around again.
We returned to our original track, spotting some other people now going up it, perhaps we had given up too early. I have no idea where they went to, but it definitely wasn’t the right way. We tried going further than our first attempt, but it was now starting to require major scrambling, which wasn’t in the book.
I’m usually good at route finding, but this one isn’t even marked on a map. I thought it ironic that whilst we weren’t at all lost, we had mislaid the trail… We eventually saw other people going up another wash. We went that way…looked promising…finally! We were in the right wash and following the right slot canyon. It was worth it, lots of colours and twisty walls. It terminated (for us) at a major scramble. Probably doable without the backpacks, which were heavy with essential drinking water, but not for us today. Another girl arrived and came to the same conclusion and headed back down canyon.
We stayed a while, drinking and eating a snack in the shade, before returning in more of a straight line than we had arrived.
In total, our two mile hike had become a 3.5 miler, so we decided to drive for a bit. Windows down, sun roof open, we drove the Artist’s Drive, stopping for our lunch snack at Artist’s Palette, before taking a 20 minute wander around the colourful rocks there.
By then I was actually feeling a bit tired, so we came back for an hour’s rest (plus chilled coffee, crisps and chocolate!), and followed the latest twists in the US election saga, before heading back out in the car up to Zabriskie Point for sunset. I thought we had left it too late, me misjudging the time again, but we just managed to catch the sun on the surrounding rocks.
We stayed while the light changed to a mellow post-sunset mood. The scenery was still great.
The sky, which was anything but clear, started to go a beautiful pink. As we drove back, it turned orange and I caught the last of the light in the clouds as we got back to our lodge.
After that, we sat on the balcony in the dark with a beer, blogging and catching up on emails. It was probably still 80F or so, just dark. Much easier to take without the direct sun though. Then, dinner and showers…yes, in that order. Too tired to do it the other way around and in need of food (again). Despite going to dinner a little later today, there was a short wait for a table, so we sat outside in the evening air.
Star photography had been on the agenda, but the moon was up, its brightness blocking the Milky Way, and clearly covered in streaky cloud, so not much prospect of anything worthwhile. It seems so long ago since we took photos of the Milky Way at Grand Canyon. Glad we did, as we have had quite a bit of cloud since then. But as tomorrow will be the bright lights of Vegas I couldn’t resist a little play with the camera on our balcony while Andrew showered…