Valley National Park, California: I’m telling you, peeps, the weather in the desert is down-right dangerous. After a windy evening (read that, everything covered in a thin coating of dust), we settled under our duvet for a good night of sleep – even though we were getting a bit sea sick from the wind rocking our bus. At two o’clock in the morning we heard rain on our roof. Huge rain drops, then thousands of rain drops and then suddenly we were in the middle of what is referred to as a “gully washer”. Certainly all the gullys in Death Valley National Park were washing away. It rained for two hours. By daylight we could see some damage and snow down to 2500 feet on the Panamint Mountains. By two o’clock this afternoon, the snow had melted. On our drive today we came across several crews repairing the roads from the mud flows of last night and several park roads are closed today.

Dave and I went for a run this morning (not together, mind you… but in the same general direction). I felt great and thought it must be all the oxygen at -200 feet in elevation. I felt like a Kenyan coming down out of the mountains for a marathon race. I felt I could run a marathon, but I only wanted to run 4 miles today. Then, the little voice in my head voice on my nano/NIKE+ thingy told me I had reached the half-way point on my run, so I turned around to face a strong head wind and an uphill return to the RV. Dang, I’m stoopid. No matter. Just Do It, as someone once said.

After using as little water as possible yet still be able to go out in public showering, we walked over to the Death Valley Visitor Center to pick-up maps and tourist information for our visit to the park.

Death Valley National Park Museum & Visitor Center

Rangers waiting to answer your questions at the Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is offering free wifi from 9-3 daily! Yeah – our tax dollars at work! (I wish they would offer cell service too.)

Then we found the Death Valley post office and shipped the daily Camping Journal orders before heading out (in the Honda) to Badwater, the lowest point in North America.

The Baddest Couple

And, just for fun…

The Baddest Couple in 2004

Oh, I have more photos of us taken at this spot… but won’t bore you with them today. Today I will bore you with too many photos of pretty stuff.

Badwater

The white circle on the cliff wall is around a sign showing sea level

We walked nearly a mile out to the edge of the lake. The ground is covered in salty crystals – covered with dusty sand – that appear as the lake recedes.

It looks like dirty, slushy snow… but it is salt and minerals

Here’s my Bad Boy at Badwater

Next, we drove along the base of the Amargosa Mountains back towards Furnace Creek. The sky was clear and it was 65 degrees! Perfect! With all the rain last night, the mountains were a bit wet and the colors were absolutely spectacular. My Driver, who actually holds a degree in Geology from the University of Oregon, explains the sandstone is filled with all sorts of minerals which create the different colors in the mountains. (Girls, if you can’t marry a jeweler, marry a geologist.)

Colorful Amargosa Mountains in Death Valley National Park

Colorful Amargosa Mountains in Death Valley National Park

I think this one is covered in chocolate

We took an 8-mile detour to follow the “Artist’s Drive” – a one-way circuit that takes the visitor up close and personal to the colorful splotches in the mountains.

Looking back to Badwater from Artist’s Drive

We are too early for the wildflowers – but a few things are trying to bloom

A big wash along Artist’s Drive

Your correspondent at Artist’s Palette

On our way back to camp, we stopped to tour the Furnace Creek Inn and make a dinner reservation for tomorrow night… so check back for that exciting update.

Tonight, we are dining “in”. DT is grilling chicken and I am making a salad. Until my next update, I remain, your colorful correspondent.

RV Park:  Furnace Creek Campground. Large back-in site. No hook-ups. Fresh water and a dump station available. Flush toilets and hot showers. Store, visitor center and restaurants within walking distance. Golf course. $18 per night, plus reservation fee and park entrance fee.

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