Discovering Death Valley

Death Valley

I owe Death Valley National Park an apology. Before heading there for Thanksgiving this year I had no real desire to explore the area. Sure it was a National Park and sure whoever fought to preserve it probably had good reason, but between its sand dunes and salt flats what did it really have to offer me?

As the trip drew nearer I came to terms with the fact that the area may not have as big of a “WOW” factor as the other National Parks I’d been to in the past 12 months. Not wanting to be let down I reassured myself, “At least you’re getting out of town and into nature for the weekend.” But when I woke up and saw the valley in the light of day for the first time I silently told the park how sorry I was.

The weekend ended up being a constant (and pleasant) reminder of just how wrong I was. We hiked into gorgeous canyons, on and around desert formations of which I’d never seen anything like before. The Mesquite Sand Dunes were some of the most fun I’d had in a park in a long time, and then there was Badwater Basin.

When we first parked I mentally rolled my eyes while grabbing my camera and a bottle of water. A runway of stomped on salt flats stretched about a half mile to the middle of no where. On it tourists walked, almost zombie-like, taking in the nothingness surrounding them.

As I joined in the mindless wandering I found myself hugging the edge of the trail. The further out I got the more I found myself crouching down, grazing my hand along small-scale salt formations. They were jagged and rough, varying in color and forming countless fault lines in the valley floor.

In my head I apologized one last time, promising to expect nothing less than amazement when I return again.


  1. I have yet to visit DV but I completely share the outlook you “had” before this trip. It’s the closest park to me yet still a complete stranger. I’ve learned a lot about DV from those before me that have shared here on ParksFolio and now I have a heightened expectation for a spring trip. Thanks for sharing Amanda…and for being part of my inspiration to explore the park.

    • Wilderness Dave says:

      I’m telling you, it’s an amazing park, especially in Winter. So MUCH space to explore and everything is so unique. I could spend SO much time there chasing sunrise and sunset.

      • One of the things about DV is that it is a place of extremes. The diversity is surprising, unexpected and like you said, Dave, unique. Very hard to describe to most people because it is more than just barren desert. In some ways, it touches a person’s psyche like most parks do not. Perhaps the word “surreal” is apt in this instance. Certainly, time for me to return. These recent posts have sparked a renewed interest.

        • Wilderness Dave says:

          Terry, it definitely woke something in me. DV sparked an interest and curiosity in my unlike many other parks I’ve visited.

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