Oct. 5-7: Death Valley National Park and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

On day 19 (Oct. 5), Danielle and I drove a few hours from the rest-stop we'd stayed at the night before to Death Valley National Park. We arrived in the park around late morning, and headed towards the main visitor's center in Furnace Creek. Along the way we stopped a few times at various places such as an long-ago-abandoned borax mine. By 12:00, we'd reached Furnace Creek, where we got a map of the park and ate lunch.

From Furnace Creek, we drove an hour or so to the Ubehebe Volcanic Crater. The colors were remarkable and there was a number of volcanic craters of various sizes all within 10minutes walking distance.

After taking pictures and strolling around the craters, we drove to Aguereberry Point, high above the valley floor. There, we ate our dinner, and watched the sunset. We then dodged a plethora of bats (possibly hitting three), as we drove back down to the valley floor, staying at the no-fee Emigrant campground.

On October 6th, (day 21), Danielle and I had a slower morning at the Emigrant Campground. We hit the road around 9:30, and headed back towards Furnace Creek. At Furnace Creek, we reserved a campsite for that night, and then got ice cream at the general store.

After polishing off a pint of Cookies and Cream, we drove to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at an elevation of -85.5m below sea level. At the basin, we ate lunch, and then walked out a ways into the salt pan.

From the basin, we drove back towards Furnace Creek to the Natural Bridge: a bridge made of stone, spanning a canyon. We didn't hike too far into the canyon, as it was approaching the hottest temperature of the day. Thus, we returned to the car, and drove back to the campsite where we hanged out for about an hour from 15:00 to 16:00.

At around 16:15, we left the campsite and drove to Artist's Drive, a 9 mile, one-way road which weaves through mountains that display a myriad of colours. When we first began driving the road the colours weren't all that vibrant. However, when we stopped at Artist's Palette, to have our dinner, the colours began to liven up. By 18:00, the hills showed their true colours. Although similar in concept to the Painted Hills back in Oregon, Artist's Palette displayed turquoise-greens which the Painted Hills lacked.

As the sun began to disappear for the night, we drove back to the campsite and settled into bed.

On day 22, we awoke early at Furnace Creek Campground and headed towards Golden Canyon. We hiked a ways into the canyon, admiring the beauty of the golden walls, but also sweltering under the already rising heat.

After returning to Bilbo, we left the valley and drove over the border into Nevada. Only in Nevada for a few kilometres, we drove straight to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is the largest oasis in the Mojave Desert and has a number of springs and reservoirs, making it a true sanctuary in the desert. Endemic to the oasis is a number of closely-related species of pupfish; an endangered type of small fish which lives only in the springs and reservoirs.

At the Refuge, we ate our lunch and explored a bit, using the visitor's center's wifi, walking one of the boardwalks, and getting stuck in the mud at one of the reservoirs. For anyone visiting Death Valley National Park, Las Vegas, or the area, I would highly recommend visiting Ash Meadows, it's well worth the trip, and admission is free.

After leaving the Refuge, we headed to Pahrump, Nevada, where we got some groceries, and then headed back to California. We drove to Baker, California, which is essentially a truckstop on steroids. We ate dinner at Dennys – I got the Slamburger – and spent the night parked beside a number of truckers.

Follow along with our adventure in real time by clicking here.

Bilbo parked overlooking a gorge in Death Valley National Park. This was our first stop in this otherworldly environment.

The aforementioned gorge.

Sea Level, as seen at Stovepipe Wells.

Ubehebe Volcanic Crater.

One of the other many volcanic craters surrounding Ubehebe.

Mesquite Flat Dunes.

Aguereberry Point, where we ate our dinner. Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, is visible in the valley below.

Badwater Basin, as seen from Aguereberry Point.

A vehicle raising dust as it travels along the road leaving the point.

Views from the point.

I finished the night with some astrophotography at Emigrant Campgound.

Danielle enjoying granola and yogurt for breakfast at Emigrant Campground.

Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America.

Danielle capturing the Natural Bridge.

...said Natural Bridge.

Artist's Palette.

Golden Canyon.

We really knew nothing about this place before coming here, other than they had the endangered pupfish. It was an incredibly nice surprise and I can't recommend this place enough. If you're going to Death Valley, you can't miss this place given its close proximity.

Crystal Pool, within Ash Meadows, is a natural spring pumping 2800 gallons of water a minute into the desert.

The Crystal Reservoir within Ash Meadows.

BONUS PHOTO: Ash Meadows Ranger Station from the Crystal Pool boardwalk. Photo Credit: Danielle Seeliger.