highs and lows… Mount Whitney to Death Valley

When we left on Wednesday, the goal was to make it to the post office in Furnace Creek, D.V. So I could pick up an important mail drop. The drive from Lone Pine through the desert was surprisingly cool and pleasant. Before long we started descending into the 1st valley and were buzzed by a low flying fighter jet!(a high) I could just imagine him streaking across the desert and seeing our crazy blue Traytray standing out among the drab surroundings, and coming in for a closer look! We stopped a few times for photo ops… and carried on.
Much to my surprise the initial descent was not into the main valley. For that privilege we had to drive over a STEEP 5000ft pass and our good old truck was giving us a tough time of it. With the antifreeze boiling we pulled over a few times on the way up, myself being generally cranky about the whole situation. Additionally, I really wanted to make it to the post office before 5 to end my dread of the “letter”. We made it over the top and rolled on down to sea level passing the town of Stovepipe Wells, and the Mesquite Dunes. The mountains surrounding us were imposing yet beautiful! Stripes, colors, shapes. The road was wide and the blacktop flawless.
Up ahead in the distance I did not see a flickering light 👏🏼, I saw palm trees. A little oasis called Furnace Creek. It was 4:20pm when we pulled into the Post Office….which was closed (another low). After a look around at Furnace creek, a trip to the general store,and a check of the email and interwebs the light was fading.

Cate found an supposedly awesome place to camp called “the pads”. It lays about 17 miles north of Furnace Creek and was the site of an old mining settlement, all that is left now is a network of roads and a couple dozen concrete pads. Weird in that western Roadside America way. With night-time coming we went looking for the pads. It had been a long day with lots of ups and downs, we just wanted to find our campsite and crash. Well…. Crash we did. After a miscalculation about the road we were supposed to take and a lot of bickering we ran the truck, with the Traytray attached into a ditch. It was pitch black by now, and our moods were going lower and lower….particularly mine. After unhooking the camper, we were able to free the truck, only to get it high-sided in a different spot several yards away. Both front tires were dug into the desert gravel up to the rims and one of the back tires was no longer touching the ground. Grudgingly taking my wife’s advice, I gave up the fight til morning. Just as the glow entered the sky we went back to work, alternately jacking up the tires and stuffing rocks and firewood under them. After many failures the truck was once again free. Ever so gingerly we creeped back over the detritus, reunited with Traytray and backed the trailer back down the dirt road to the highway.

(Another high). Ironically, the pads were just across the highway from the scene of last night’s epic wailing and gnashing of teeth. It must have been amusing to sit over there and listen to us the previous night.
We finally got settled in our spot and headed back to the post office…picked up the mail drop. Yay!

Here again I’ll let the pictures and video do most of the talking. Over dinner on our first night at the pads an ambulance, park ranger, and California Highway Patrol stopped on the highway right in front of us to transfer a patient onto a life flight helicopter. It was thrilling to watch it come flying in low over the hills right in front of us. 9video coming soon) We worried for the patient as it took a long time before they loaded him or her onto the helicopter.

We went to the visitor center for direction. The nice ranger helped us figure out what we should see. We hiked Mosaic Canyon, took some pictures of Mesquite Dunes, hiked Golden Canyon, drove 20 mule team canyon, saw Zabriski Point (both at sunrise and sunset). We went to the devils golf course (cause only the devil could hit the links here) where razor sharp salt formations on the ground can cut through leather). We visited Badwater, the poster location for Death Valley. It is a salt flat and the lowest location in North America. 282 feet below sea level. Lastly we drove Artist Palette Drive….3 times!



We wanted to do another driving movie like the one in the Alabama Hills, but by the time we stopped and hiked and took pictures, it was a bit of a mess, so we did it again, only to have the camera looking the wrong way (LOL). But as they say, the third time is a charm. one more time and it was perfect! Watch for it soon, ir will be a fun video!
This morning as a write this, it is raining…. A rare occurrence in death valley. Cate has travelled up to Dante’s view for the sunrise and I am looking at another morning rainbow over the mountains across the highway.


I’d like to think of it as a good Omen for our day. Now we are off to Sin City.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *