What do you do when you have a travel itch but you’re not financially ready to go for another big trip? Start driving and see where your gas money takes you! It can’t hurt to do something spontaneous from time to time. It takes away the stress of planning and overthinking everything.
During the Presidents Day long weekend in February, my husband and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Death Valley National Park. We don’t usually go anywhere without planning ahead of time. We talked about going somewhere to spend the long weekend on a Friday afternoon and the next thing we know we were headed to the desert early morning the next day. Who knew that it would be our last trip before going on a COVID19 lockdown?
Death Valley is located near the Nevada stateline, about 500 miles from where we live. It took us roughly eight hours with light traffic to get to the entrance. After checking out the visitor’s center our first stop was at Zabriskie Point to watch the sunset. We had to walk for a few minutes to get to the viewpoint from the parking lot. Zabriskie Point is known for its erosional landscape that formed millions of years ago. It’s one of those places you have to see with your own eyes to appreciate its beauty.
After watching the sunset I was ready for dinner. We had to use the park’s map to look for places to eat because we didn’t have any cellphone reception. We found this place called The Ranch at Death Valley. The food was average quality for an American-style buffet. We didn’t want to drive far in the dark so we settled for whatever was closest to us.
After having dinner we headed down to Harmony Borax Works for a guided stargazing event hosted by the park’s rangers. When we got there it was already pitch-black so after parking on the side of the road we had to use the red light on our headlamps. It took some time for my eyes to adjust to the darkness but when it finally did, I couldn’t stop looking up at the stars. I don’t know much about astronomy so I was grateful for the rangers and their high power laser pointer.
We went back to Zabriskie Point hoping to take a couple of pictures and enjoy the star-filled sky. I enjoyed the view for the first few minutes but after awhile the wind started to pick up and it got so much colder than I expected. Nevertheless, we were able to stay there for half an hour before my fingers became numb.
We didn’t have any hotel reservations since this was a last-minute trip. Everything was completely booked except for the campgrounds. We haven’t tried camping before so we had no idea what we were in for. Sunset campground was the only one we could find that didn’t need any reservations. We arrived at the campground at 10 P.M. but there was still plenty of space. I insisted that we sleep in the car because I’m too paranoid to sleep in a tent, let alone sleep in a tent with strangers right outside. I brought pillows and a heavy blanket thinking I’d have a decent night’s sleep. I kept waking up every two hours because of how uncomfortable I was and I kept looking out the window waiting for the sun to come out. We always joke around about how we’d quit our jobs and be nomads, but now I know I’m definitely not ready to give up my bed at home and a clean bathroom just yet. We got up around 6:30 A.M., packed our stuff and hit the road.
Before heading home we made sure to stop by Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Dante’s View, Artist’s Drive, and Badwater Basin. Mesquite Flat was my favorite out of all the places we went to. I had no idea that a bunch of sand could be mesmerizing. I just have to remember not to wear a black top and sweatpants to the desert next time. The heat drained all my energy no matter how much water I drank. All in all, we had a blast and it was worth the drive.