Adventuring in Death Valley

This weekend I ventured out to Death Valley National Park with a couple friends to see the Geminids Meteor shower! It was full of wrong wrong turns, missed rest stops, aching toes, but all in all it was a fun adventure!

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It all started on Sunday morning. I was too excited to sleep so I got none. I packed most of my things for the 1 night/2 day trip within an hour before going. My friend Yia was supposed to pick me up at 7AM, but she kinda has her own time zone and ended up about 30 minutes late. (Also partially due to the fact that she decided in the last possible minute to rent a car rather than taking her own). After picking me up, we went to the grocery store and then to pick up Jared, who decided to make us pay for being over an hour late picking him up. We waited like 30 minutes for him to come out. (Of his house!) We finally left town around 8:30-9. Two hours later than intended, but we had all day and no worries.

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From Fresno, we headed to Bakersfield. Jared and I spent a lot of time teasing Yia for one thing or the other… mostly her bad driving. I am impressed that we actually made it home in one piece. The drive to Bakersfield was easy. It was kinda funny because our main reason for choosing Death Valley to see the meteor shower was because that was one of the only places in the state that didn’t have rain or snow in the forecast, which is ironic considering California is meant to be in a drought. The entire drive there was nothing but sunshine. From Bakersfield to Death Valley was a much more interesting drive considering none of us have really been on most of that drive. I kept giving Yia the wrong instructions which is partially to thank for the wrong turns because she actually listened. (Take note, I am a very sarcastic person… NEVER take anything I say seriously. Just don’t.) Eventually Jared finally took the wheel after we stopped for gas and snacks. Thank goodness because it wasn’t that much longer that we were in Death Valley and for about 5 miles we were driving on a narrow mountain. On one side was the side of the mountain, other side was a cliff looking into the valley. It was a beautiful sight.

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The first thing we did was stop at one of the visitor centers and pay a fee and get suggestions from the ranger, along with a map. Our first stop was Badwater Basin because we saw all the white stuff on the ground that looked like snow. From a distance, it actually kind of reminded me of the ocean… if the ocean was in the middle of a desert. We wondered if the stuff on the ground was salt. I bent down and got the tiniest amount and tasted it just to confirm, I told them, “Yep! It’s salt!” Jared and Yia were like, “Melissa! That could be poison! You could die!” Nope, it was salt. Fun fact about Badwater Basin, it is the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level! The highest point in Death Valley is Telescope Peak, which towers at 11,049 feet (3,367 meters). Sadly, we did not have enough time to check that out. Our second stop was at the dunes. We spent more time hiking the dunes the second day though.

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After that, we went to Furnace Creek to go to the store before heading to Zabriskie Point to see the sunset. We got to explore a ghost town before going to park for the night. We parked the car next to another ghost town that was right next to an abandoned mine. We went on a bit of a hike up a mountain. It was really dark at this point so I thought it would be a good idea to wander off. I got lost and just a little stuck when I sat down and couldn’t figure out how to get up without risking a fall. Eventually (like 10 minutes later), by friends found me and we went back toward the car and spent the next hour or so stargazing. I saw more stars that night than I have ever seen in my life. We were right under the Milky Way and the view was just magical. Of course there were some clouds that came and went during the night. About an hour of stargazing later, it started raining so we got into the car. Yia passed out after drinking half a bottle of Mike’s hard lemonade and Jared and I just talked. We got bored and he had service on his phone for some reason so we pranked another friend into thinking I was lost. Of course she believed it. We called her to let her know it was just a joke. It wasn’t that long before the rain stopped and we got out and stargazed for several more hours. Throughout the night, we saw millions of stars and at least 50 meteors! It was a night to be remembered.

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The next morning, we only had a couple hours before we had to go home. We went on a hike on the Golden Canyon. It’s a narrow canyon with a mountainous view. It was extremely windy, too. It practically pushed us along the hour long hike.

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After Golden Canyon, we drove along Artists Drive and stopped at Artists Palette, which is probably my favorite part Death Valley and our last stop before heading home. We got a view of very colorful mountains that look as if they’ve been colored on with sidewalk chalk. It’s a work of nature’s art. The coloration is actually caused by minerals mixing with volcanic deposits. The iron salt causes the reds, pinks, and yellows. Decomposing mica causes the green and Manganese produces the purple. The colors are produced in a larger scale on the mountains surrounding Death Valley.

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