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Published: October 5th 2015
The drive from Santa Barbara to Death Valley was long to say the least – just the odd 8 or so hours with stops. Once we arrived at the park entrance it was starting to get proper hot, around the 35 degree mark. However, this was up at the higher elevations, as soon as we descended into the valley it got superhot topping out at 46 degrees. Whilst down in the valley we braved the heat for about 10 minutes to go and see the Mesquite Sand Dunes – quite a site seeing dunes that are not on the coast. We decided after the monster drive that we would go straight to our hotel after this at Beatty (just outside the park). It was an alien themed place taking advantage of UFO believers travelling to nearby Area 51. However this meant exiting the valley going up a massive 15 mile hill. The car really struggled, even had to switch the AC off in case of overheating.
We decided that instead of going to watch the sunset that night it would be a good idea to get up and watch the sunrise in the park (book said make sure you at
least watch one of them). So the next morning we got up to temperatures of 25 degrees at 5am and headed for the hour long drive towards Furnace Creek. We eventually got to Zabriskie Point just before the sun was coming up. There were crazy colours everywhere you looked – totally worth the early start. Also worth the early start were the temperatures. Still ridiculous but nowhere near as hot as the previous afternoon. Our next stop was Dante’s View which gave us views into the valley floor along with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. After this we headed down to Badwater – the lowest place in North America at some 282 feet below sea level. We walked out onto the salt flats and it was stiflingly hot. We spent all of about 5 minutes in the sun and that was enough. On our way back to Furnace Creek we drove the Artist’s Palette route. These were some crazy rocks that had loads of really cool colours all over them from any manner of different deposits. By 11am we had seen the sites and headed back to our air conditioned hotel. Overall, Death Valley had some amazing sites but
I don’t think we will be going back in a hurry!
That evening we ate out in Beatty – bad idea - they had zero clue over GF and it didn’t make for a fun experience. We set off the next morning for Joshua Tree National Park. This involved again a lot of driving, mainly along roads through deserts which had zero cars on. On approaching the park we started seeing quite a few of the crazy Joshua Trees. They are like a cross between a tree and a cactus with crazy branches reaching out in different directions. Once in the park there were thousands of them in fields surrounded by desert boulders. We braved the mid 30 temperatures and ended up doing a few small walks, one around Hidden Valley (a nature trail around some massive boulders) one up to Key’s View (overlooking the San Andreas fault and down to Mexico) and finally a small walk around the Cholla Cactus Garden (lots of cool cacti which kept attacking Vicks’ flip flops).
After a quick check into our motel we headed back into the park to cook and watch the sunset. Once we got to the park entrance
there was a massive queue to get in. It wasn’t until it got dark we realised the reason, people were flooding in to watch the partial lunar eclipse. I cooked up the now classic dog food chilli as the sun was going down. The colours from this sunset beat every one that we had seen so far – simply stunning. Once the sun had disappeared we were confronted by a massive orange moon. Looked dead eerie, especially as it was surrounded by millions of really bright stars. Near zero light pollution and clear skies made this really impressive.
Next morning, after wishing Mother Beable a happy birthday via a very jolty Skype call, we left the desert behind and set off for Santa Monica. I am generally fine driving anywhere, but getting through LA was awful. Bearing in mind it was the middle of the day the 5 -7 lanes in either direction for most of the journey were rammed. Eventually (after much swearing and nervous finger picking) we made it and headed to Venice Beach (also known as Muscle Beach). We thought this was an odd place. Amazing beach but the boardwalk alongside it was packed with a
high number of very odd street performers, people that are far too old to be skateboarding and tramps. There looked to be a fair few body builders working out that had taken too many steroids.
So that brings us to today, which we spent milling around Santa Monica and lying on the beach. It hasn’t changed much in the 5 years since we last visited. This evening we spent a large portion of our time packing an entire car’s worth of stuff into two backpacks as tomorrow we are off to Hawaii. Tough life this at the moment….
PS we are now in Hawaii but it is difficult getting wifi on the beach!
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