I think whoever named Death Valley must have thought “Hmm how can I keep all the people from coming to this amazing place and ruining it? I got it! I’ll call it Death Valley.” And it worked. Growing up in Southern California I was vaguely aware of this desert to the east called Death Valley and thought no one in their right mind would willingly go there. I mean, the name made it clear enough: only death awaits you there. In high school my dad decided it would be an awesome family road trip to go to Death Valley, so I put on my headphones in the backseat, rolled my eyes as far back into my head as they could go, and decided to check out until we’re back in LA. To our surprise, we got into a pretty serious car accident right as we were about to enter the park. I felt like this was some divine intervention and it further cemented my belief that Death Valley was a place to be avoided.
Fast forward six years or so, I’m out of college and finally got my drivers license. And so began the happy period of weekend road trips. Death Valley was back on my radar and this time I decided to give it a try just so I can be right about it sucking. Driving there with the lowest expectations, I was blown away by the beauty of the place before we even entered the park. The road looked like a long ribbon descending into these cloud-laced mountains. I think that was the first time I’ve felt the allure of the open road. On that first trip, I fell asleep in my tent to the sound of coyotes calling, woke up to a pink desert sunrise, discovered the moonscape that was the valley as seen from above, and fell in love with the desert.
I was so happy to be able to rediscover this place with my husband and daughter, and even my parents were able to join us. It was the first camping trip of the year and we forgot to pack everything that was important. We also managed to get our car and ourselves stuck in the mud as the valley was quite flooded and soft from all the rain. But the smiles you see in these pictures are real. The desert is truly an artists pallet filled with the richest hues of mustard, teal, purple, red, brown, pink. Wildflowers are getting ready for a super bloom after the rains. As much as I love the mountains, I think I love the desert even more. Here you see the quiet resiliency of life. In a place so inhabitable that it is called Death Valley, beauty and life abound. I think it’s the fact that I can enjoy this hostile-to-us land from the comfort of a tent, and then drive away in my car so I don’t have to live through its terrifying heat. It’s the thrill of being in a inhospitable wilderness without the danger. Anyways, I think Ellie had a fantastic time, because the place is basically one big sand pit and rock museum. We definitely want to come back when she’s older for some more exploring and sand sledding!