The month of February tends to conjure up images of love (or heartache depending on who you ask). The moment we enter the second month of the year, we are immediately smothered with loud hints that love CAN be measured by material things and that loud displays of adoration are THE way to one’s heart. Expectations include but are not limited to flowers, chocolates, and a reservation at the fanciest restaurant your paycheck can afford for you and your sweetheart. Ah, such is the successful commercialization of yet another holiday whose roots have almost no relation to the traditions of today. Good job, capitalism.
While the 14th of February tends to look more red, pink, and white, mine this year was colored with azure blue, moonlight yellow, and tawny brown. I spent that weekend camping in Death Valley with not just one person I love but multiple (lucky me!) While some may expect a ring of many carats on a day like this, I was pleasantly surprised with pony-beaded necklaces adorned with my niece’s favorite princesses instead.
Below are some of the destinations we hit up over the course of two days.
- Badwater Basin has the lowest elevation point in all of North America, coming in at 282 feet below sea level. Strangely enough, just 84 miles away lies the highest point in the contiguous USA: Mt. Whitney at 14,505 ft above sea level.
- There is a small, natural pool of spring water that is located next to the road. The water is undrinkable, which is how Badwater Basin got its name.
- From far away, Badwater Basin looks a trick on your eyes. Is that a blanket of snow you’re seeing… in the desert of all places? But actually, it is a thick layer of salt lying on the valley floor.
- I recommend walking out as far as you can. The salt is cleaner and not as tainted from human footsteps. The crowds are thinner, which make for good photo ops.
- The naturally formed polygonal shapes and ridges on the ground which go on for as far as the eyes can see is really something to marvel at. While we may have been conditioned into expecting nothing less than perfectly cut diamonds (which is quite a feat of it’s own!), nothing can beat what mother nature produces.
- Perhaps the most famous and dramatic view point in Death Valley is Zabriskie Point, a sculpted series of badlands in all shades of beige, creamy yellows, and browns that you can imagine
- Zabriskie Point has graced songs, movies, album covers, and has also made a few appearances in film as the setting for planet Mars.
- While many may say that falling in love is life’s greatest gift, one philosopher dubbed this very landmark as his greatest life experience: this was the place he took hallucinogens and let this very scene roll through him.
- While much of the rock formations were eroded away over the course of centuries, on the rare occasion that a downpour charges through Death Valley, the rain can still reshape this landscape.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
- Mesquite Sand Dunes are the only dunes in the Valley where sand boarding is allowed. It is prohibited elsewhere in order to preserve sensitive plants and animal species. If you don’t have a board, fear not! I saw several kids using flat cardboards and bags to slide down with no problem.
- If you go as the sun is setting, dramatic shadows are casted over the waves of the sand, creating a stark contrast between the hazy sand and dark shadows. The contrast reminds me a bit of the Sierra games logo that occupied much of my time as a child.
- Tell me what act of love is grander than being pulled along the desert in a sled, so you don’t have to make a concerted effort of walking (or sinking rather) into the sand?
Golden Canyon Trail
- A relatively short and easy hike in and out. Just remember to watch where you’re going, as a lot of the trail isn’t paved flat. Similar to advice about love, remember to not charge straight ahead without watching where you’re going, as you may fall headfirst into… a bunch of rocks. My niece learned this the hard way about ten minutes into the hike.
- Some of the rocks were bathed in color, which is the cause of metals that have oxidized the clay into unbelievable hues, similar to what is over at the nearby Artist’s Palette.
- While we didn’t have a candlelit three course dinner on Valentine’s day, we did have a gourmet confection of melted marshmallow over slabs of chocolate, grandiosely placed over a sheet of graham cracker for both nights. To top it off, we ate it over a crackling open fire with a starlit sky serving as a romantic backdrop. I dare you to tell me a Valentine’s evening more romantic than this.