There was a time in late Summer, after hiking through the heat in July, that I decided to wait for the weather to cool down. But then it didn’t cool down--not in California. Not until one week when we went from blistering heat to snow on the highest peaks, one of which I’d been planning to hike this Fall. I’d missed my window, it felt like, and somehow a whole season. My only consolation was that it was finally time to return to Death Valley.
Death Valley was one of the first National Parks I visited this year. It did not hold much appeal to me, but there weren’t many other options in February, so it moved to the top of the list. To my surprise, I fell in love with it instantly. It’s weird and beautiful, and I could imagine my myself writing there.
It is a very big National Park, and I didn’t see all of it on my first trip. Though I’d fallen in love with the Furnace Creek area of the park, I decided this time to stay in Panamint Springs. I had an even bigger sense that I was driving into the middle of nowhere this time, but I quickly arrived at an off-the-grid resort with 200 different kinds of beer and a beautiful view.
I was incredibly tired when I arrived, and I can only defend my decision to sit on a beautiful porch with a beautiful view drinking one of those 200 different varieties of beer instead of going for a hike by saying that Death Valley is a park I feel like I can take my time exploring. I don’t know that I would have thought to do this on my own, but my dad told me to check out the stars, so I did, and they look exactly like you expect stars to look, but remind you that you haven’t seen the stars in a while.
The next morning I drove over the mountains to Titus Canyon. I was up for a bigger hike, so I decided from there to take the Fall Canyon Trail. Hiking through the canyon was stunning, even if the gravel of the wash became tiring. Most of the time I felt completely alone, so it was a surprise whenever I ran into another person. The trail ended for me when I reached the point at which it is impossible to go further without climbing on the backs of other people. I guess hiking alone has this one disadvantage.
As always seems to happen to me, I spend almost the entire hike feeling like I could hike forever, and then the last mile feeling like my feet hate me. So I climbed back in my car and headed North to Scotty’s Castle. It’s not really a castle, but it was made to look like one, and there is a draw-bridge like entrance. It has a very interesting history, and though it has not held up perfectly, it’s an cool place to visit.
On the long drive back to Panamint Springs, I stopped at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Last time I climbed almost as far as I could, but this time I found a good place to sit and watched the sun go down. Then I drove back over the mountains to Panamint Springs to try another of the 200 beers.
I am already planning my next trip to Death Valley--probably for early next year when it’s still too cold for the non-desert parks. It feels like a weird home.