"What Loneliness Physically Looks Like" Death Valley National Park by mydreamquest

Death Valley National Park Travel Guide: 951 reviews and 2,204 photos

First Impressions

From the San Francisco Bay Area, I drove to Death Valley. It took 9 hours. You begin this kind of a journey in a highly populated region and find yourself alone in the darkness of the company of stars by the time you are in Death Valley.

Because I left at two in the afternoon, I arrived at the junction to Death Valley at dusk at around 8pm. I saw a spectacular plateau of endless dusty rock with occasional hills of rocks that looked like ships in an ocean of dust. I also saw miniscule pockets of dust that looked like mini-sandstorms. I felt as if I were in Egypt and I was still about 120 miles from Furnace Creek where I would be staying.

By the time I entered the Western entrance of Death Valley. It was pitch black. I was driving thru darkness and, if you have the chance to apprehensively drive thru Death Valley at night, you'll feel a haunting vibe quite similar to the movie "Lost Highway." Your lights travel about 35 yards in front of you, maybe 100 meters at most but it sheds no light on the peripheral darkness that surrounds you. Occasionally, on the straight roads, you'll see a car approaching you that could be as far as a mile away. The car lights seem fixed on you but never get closer until minutes later, it finally passes you. The red lights of a car in front of you could also be miles in front of you and because of the darkness, there is no perspective marker to determine how far away it is. As you near the dropping point of Death Valley where you ascend below sea level, you will descend about 2,000 feet on slow winding roads that are dizzy. Once you've gotten to the bottom of this, you will find yourself on straight roads that sink and rise giving you the impression of being on a speed boat or ship.

By the time I arrived at Furnace Creek, I realized I made it to Death Valley on its darkest of nights when there was no moon.

Although darkness lay everywhere, the sky is electric with stars, planets, airplanes, and the occasional shooting stars or slow moving satellites.

At night, Death Valley is a stargazers ultimate daydream. Or nightdream I suppose.

First Night in Death Valley

I arrived in Furnace Creek, a sort of oasis town with lodging and a few shops and places to dine for tourists. The two hotels are managed by a company hired by Death Valley National Park.

I stayed at Furnace Creek Inn. When I arrived, it was a cool, dry 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I was lucky to find a parking spot in front of the entrance. It was intensely dark and quiet. The hotel sparkled in its self made lights. There are lots of chairs to lay on to gaze into the sky.

For your stay in Death Valley, there is an amazing amount of peace and quiet. Usually, in wildernesses, you hear crickets or some kind of nocturnal sound created by living things. In Death Valley, there is a near void of sound save an occasional breeze or car passing by.

If you can, try to arrive at your lodging by 8pm. Restaurants may not be open. The bars might be open in Furnace Creek Ranch which is a short mile away on the two lane Highway 190.

When going to Death Valley have the following things in your planning notes:

1. Be near a dramatic spot 10 minutes prior to Sunset (I recommend Dante's View or Zabriskie Point)

2. Go to the lowest spot in Death Valley at Badwater.

3. Bring gallons of water with you where ever you go.

4. Remember that Dehydration and not heat stroke, is the primary cause of death in the Death Valley Region.

5. Try to visit Death Valley when the moon is full if you want to see the landscape dramatically lit by them; or if you want darker skies for very good stargazing, come to Death Valley during new moon.

6. Drive into Death Valley with a full tank of gas in your car. There is gas available in Death Valley, but it is 25% more expensive outside of the National Park.

7. Do not make Scotty's Castle a top priority. The Castle was founded upon deception and for the 5 hours you'd lose in driving there, spending time there, and returning, there are better things to do with your time in Death Valley.

8. Bring swim trunks. The pool is wonderful.

9. Plan on dinner before 9pm.

10. Be very careful driving at night because the roads are upward and downward wavering.

11. Be extra careful in the summertime when the temperatures are unbearably hot.

12. Dante's View, as pictured here gives you an amazing view of Death Valley, though, the lowest point cannot be seen unless you literally jump off of Dante's View.

Bad Water, the Lowest Point in the US

Bad Water and Dante's view are both around 30 minute drives from Furnace Creek. Because I wasted a day at Scotty's Castle, I was not able to spend more time at the Sand Dunes.

There's an amazing feeling when you walk this open space in the salt fields of Death Valley. The wind is much more active around here and the heat is very intense.

If you want to read about Death Valley, I strongly recommend that you read The Death Valley 300: Near Death and Resurrection on the World's Toughest Endurance Course by Richard Benyo. Although his book is about a 300 mile run/walk from Bad Water to the peak of Mt. Whitney and back, he describes a lot about the history of Death Valley. That book was the primary inspiration for me to plan my trip to Death Valley.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quiet, Adventurous, Dante's View at Sunset
  • Cons:Gas Expensive, Food Overprice, Everything Far Away
  • In a nutshell:What Solitude Physically Looks Look
  • Last visit to Death Valley National Park: Apr 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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