Location: Panamint Springs where gas will run you $5.27/gallon.
Weather: Cloudy and can you believe …. RAINY?! With an average rainfall of .1 inches in the month of May and 2” per year, we were here on this day to witness it. Our tour was probably more comfortable as the temperatures never got above the 80’s. The wind was fierce though at times.
Mileage: Surpassed 4000 miles today
Jr. Ranger Badge #5: Death Valley National Park
With over 3 million acres to explore, the challenge was to pick which sights we should spend our time seeing today. We knew that the first order of business was getting the Jr. Ranger booklets so the kids could start working on their badges. In the Furnace Creek Visitor Center we enjoyed seeing the displays. Especially the ones about the families that we had read about in the book mentioned yesterday. It becomes more amazing to us that they traversed the land for months, the more of Death Valley we see.
Devil’s Golf Course became a play yard for the kids – one which would be rough on the knees and hands if they fell. The Visitor’s Guide explains the area as an “Immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires.” The kids enjoyed climbing around and on the pillars, picking up loose stones shaped in odd ways and even tasting it to see exactly how salty it was (Yuck!).
***Kids coming in off the salt pillars
Natural Bridge Canyon was a different world than Devil’s Golf Course though only a short drive away. We took the ½ mile hike up through the windy gorge. Thankfully the wind was pushing us and we were not fighting it. We entered the canyon through the immense Natural Bridge. What fun the kids had running through the canyon and exploring little side crevices that were formed by wind and rain.
The urgency to get the Jr. Ranger badges by 5 p.m. (when the Rangers punctually leave) made us travel back to the Visitor Center. We have a habit of running in at the last minute, but the Rangers do not appreciate this as they usually take time with each of the kids to review the books and have them take the Jr. Ranger pledge. We made it and they each received another patch for their collection.
We couldn’t leave without going to the lowest spot on the Northern Hemisphere – Badwater Basin at an amazing -282 ft. below sea level. On the mountainside near the basin there is a plaque with Sea Level written on it. That sure made it concrete how low we actually were. The salt flats looked so much like sand it was hard to believe that it was all salt. Here and there on the salt path people had dug holes. The kids enjoyed seeing how the water seeped up in each of the holes. A, L and M sat down and started digging like they were at the beach. They had learned from experience and they didn’t taste here.
***J phooning at Badwater Basin
On the Artist’s drive we drove the 9 miles that weaved by amazing scenery of eroded mountainsides and colorful landscapes. Some of the road squeezed through canyon sides that made us really glad we didn’t have the camper in tow!
Our last stop at nearly 8 p.m. was Salt Creek, home of the Pup Fish. Sadly we were too late in the season to get a sight of the fish, but what a view of the sun set on the desert mountains we had from the boardwalk.
Back at the camper we had waiting for us - a Dinner A’Fare meal that took 20 minutes to whip up. D, my pickiest eater, made the comment that he’d rather have a Condor’s meal. (This meal was graphically described to us by the Grand Canyon Ranger and it is not too pleasant.) He was sent to bed for his negativity, though told if he thought about it and apologized he may be able to rejoin us. He chose to go off to bed…. Until he overheard a conversation about how sad he’d be in the morning when we pulled out his dinner and we went off to the local restaurant (yes, there is one in Panamint Springs across the street from the campground). My lover of pancakes was out in a few minutes (he couldn’t just jump up and look like he overheard.) apologizing, eating his meal and uttering thankfulness.
In the morning the plan is to be off for the coast of California to see C’s sister and enjoy Memorial Day Weekend. I’ll be taking a break from the blog till we get back to school on Tuesday.