SPAZNEV: Death Valley, California

Madman and myself recently returned from a road trip through the American southwest, covering parts of Nevada, California and Arizona. Technically speaking the trip started and ended in Las Vegas but technically speaking we didn’t enter a Casino or gamble any life savings away so Las Vegas was purely an entry/exit point. Our trips are usually described by an acronym because we are very efficient, so SPAZNEV refers to our Standard Procedure in AriZona and NEVada (California was verging on being an afterthought).

After pounding down some late-night Appleby’s food, we had a sleep in the hotel and headed northwest toward California and the entrance of Death Valley National Park. Our first destination was Titus Canyon, having read on Tripadvisor that it was nice. That’s about all we were going on. We stopped in this town called Pahrump to get some supplies, the lady ringing us through was pretty sure we were going to get lost and die in the park, so that seemed adventurous.

Pre-election 2016: Budweiser decides to drive the point home that America is in your hands. Was it just a gimmicky marketing ploy? Yes. Did it work on me? Yes.

Titus Canyon turns out to be a drive along a washboard gravel road through some pretty desolate country, which wasn’t “super beautiful” but it was nice to look around at nothing and listen to silence when we made a pit stop. Madman ripped the ass-seam of his pants by doing jumps for pictures, so that’s worth mentioning. Four-wheel drive was recommended for the road; instead of four-wheel drive we just had fairly good ground clearance and we were able to stay alive by not dropping off one of the many exposed areas dropping off from the side of the road.

We stopped along the route at a ghost town named Leadfield. It presently consists of about three dilapidated buildings, a pile of gravel, a fenced-off mine entrance, a sign explaining how the town came to be and came to not be, and a makeshift parking lot. It was neat to see but it would have been better if there were some gallows or some mini-putt or waterslides or something. We stopped and took a few pictures of drinking our America beer because we figured it was a gravel road that about five cars a day drive down so there probably weren’t any R.I.D.E. checks. Also we were completely fine to drive from an intoxication perspective.

Further down the road we got into the actual canyon part of Titus Canyon: the walls of the canyon close in until there’s just enough room to drive a monster truck through there (we had loads of room) but the walls of the canyon rise near-vertically to a respectable height. It was worth the drive in. Funny enough, I don’t have any photos of it so you’re going to have to wait until the video is put together sometime late in 2018 (knowing me) or you could always CTRL+T and use Bing (ha ha) to search for “Titus Canyon” and you can basically save yourself the entire trip.

Once we got to the end of the canyon we were spat out at the edge of the valley part of Death Valley. It was really interesting to see in that it was so uninteresting to see. Look:

Heh, tripod. I get it.

Good lord, Madman, what is wrong with you? I’m trying to take a nice picture and you have to go and ruin it by pretending you have a grossly disproportioned ding-dong. Let’s see if I can find the picture I meant to post there:

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See? There’s like, nothing except a bunch of bare ground and windstorms and mountains and seriously Madman what’s going on with you? I know you buy the expensive underwear now but there’s a time and a place. I’m thinking about buying up a bunch of property around here and biding my time until there’s a global gravel shortage and I’ll be a semi- or multi-trillionaire.

Alright, so that was Titus Canyon. We then started heading toward our campsite at Mahogany Flat by way of the tourist hub of Stovepipe Wells which consists almost entirely of a gas station/souvenir shop and a crappy campground we refused to stay at. At this point we were excited because the temperature was 101°F (38°C) and if you’re using a really weird temperature scale going over 100 is a fun landmark. See:

So many Fs.

Near Stovepipe Wells are the Mesquite Sand Dunes. They’re a group of dunes of sand that form by wind blowing droplets of sand into ever-growing piles. Current estimates are that the dunes will cover all of North America by 2030. (That’s clearly made up but feel free to share it on Facebook and see who bites) (Hint: they also believe in homeopathy and crystal energy). It was getting into the evening hours but that point but we were like, “we’re gonna walk the crap all over you tomorrow, Dunes” and stomped off in a huff up the 8,000 feet to our campsite in the mountains.

Holy crap was it ever cold at our campsite. Relatively speaking, I guess. So we went from 101°F at Stovepipe Wells, drove for an hour to our campsite where it was 55 F’s and still windy as all get-up so we had to put on long-sleeve everything. A dude came wandering to our campground asking for water and it turns out he was hiking this 100 mile trail and had dropped one of his water containers and watched two litres spill all over the desert ground while his heart sank with it. So we gave him a beer to cheer him up and he ended up having dinner with us and another beer and set up his bivvy sack beside our tent and spent the night. So that was kind of fun.

The ground was too hard to put pegs in so we had to use rocks and rope to keep the tent from hurling off the mountain like a big polyester tumbleweed. Luckily I brought some earplugs, because with the jet lag and the flapping tent I probably wouldn’t have slept too much otherwise. Pro tip: bring earplugs camping. They’re great sometimes.

After breaking camp the next morning we headed down the mountains toward sea level and made our way back to THE DUNES. Being the idiot that I am, I decided the best clothing would be a sleeveless shirt and swim trunks and flip flops. At least I brought some water and put on sunscreen because once we got into the dunes there was next to no shade and it was getting quite hot. The flip flops weren’t actually a horrible idea, a few times I was able to take them off and it was like walking along a really wide and lumpy beach.

Did you know that if you fall off a bridge in Cairo, you’re in de Nile? Ha ha because deserts, you know?

We eventually made it to the top of the biggest dune. I was being a bit whiney because I like being woefully overprepared for everything and I was only regular-prepapred for this sojourn, so I was being a bit dramatic and pessimistics about our odds of exiting with our lives intact. But I always manage to suck it up when there’s a camera around.

Suck it, dune.

There’s pictures of Madman too, but I can’t find them right now and there’s some more of him coming up soon and he already wrecked a couple of other shots soooo….

So by this point it’s been a day and we’re pretty difficult-to-please people so we were starting to get super bored of Death Valley but before going we wanted to make a stop at Badwater Basin in order to go to the lowest part of Death Valley because why would you go to Death Valley and not go to Badwater Basin? You know?

So we did that.

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Once more it was SUPER WINDY. Badwater Basin was cool because all the water flows here if and when it rains and it brings all sorts of dissolved stuff in it and then the water evaporates and leaves behind tons and tons of salts. So the ground is all salts. So since we’re good little tourists we walked out onto the salty path and took more great pictures of ourselves.

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It was even more desolate around Badwater Basin than when we came out of Titus Canyon. I’m sure there were some sort of bacteria and archaea and viruses that lived there, but like no pandas or anything (at least that we saw). So because of that we got bored and peaced out of Death Valley National Park. We headed on some highway through Las Vegas and toward Arizona.

A look at Tattoine from in front of the Mos Eisley Spaceport.

END OF PART 1 /// You can now remove your 3D glasses and return them in the bins provided.


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