“In the desert, the sun and earth always seem larger. Wilder. Brighter. More demanding. More silent. Somehow more certain.”
As we drove out of Yosemite and into the night, I stared out my window thinking about the day’s adventures.
…That’s when I noticed a white cloud against the night sky.
Why is a cloud hovering over the mountains, I wondered out loud. There were no major cities nearby and no other clouds in sight.
We kept driving, finally passing through the last town and gas station before entering the empty desert. My stomach turned. Something about Death Valley creeped me out. Maybe it was just the name.
What if we cannot find a place to sleep? I thought. What if we get lost and run out of gas and water? Oh gawd, I just drank the last bottled water…
I stared at the cloud hovering over the horizon. It had become cloudier. So I made it my friend, and we stared at each other in silence while my boyfriend drove us through the winding roads of Death Valley National Park. Our car’s thermometer read 78°F.
It wasn’t long before I realized we were alone on the road — just my boyfriend, myself, and the cloud. It was almost midnight, and there were no other cars in sight. Why was the cloud still hovering, though?
We continued driving, searching for a campground, and I watched the thermometer go from 78°F to 90°F and back down to 78°F. The numbers changed every time we went up or down a hill. Everything felt so strange.
“We will fill our water bottles, set up camp, and use the toilet when we find a campground” I told myself. “Then we will wake up for sunrise and explore Death Valley before the blazing sun hits us at noon. And maybe we’ll even stay another night just so that we can experience the Milky Way from the lowest point in the USA. It’ll be epic,” I thought.
I wasn’t sure if I was having a conversation with my new cloud friend, or if I was talking to myself so that I could forget how nervous I felt driving into Death Valley —THEE Death Valley — in the middle of the night.
We drove for what seemed like hours until we finally found a campground. It was now midnight and 99°F. Was our thermometer broken?
…And then I noticed the SKY! We jumped out the car and gasped in disbelief. It was my cloud friend, and her name was Milky Way. She was no ordinary hovering cloud.
Standing there was like standing under a dome, Milky Way stretching from one end to the other. Suddenly, all the stars were at our feet. We spent the next several minutes in silence admiring her beauty. Nothing else mattered.
That night, we slept under the stars, with no tent cover and under 99-degree weather. But we were awakened several times throughout the night by strong gusts of wind. Even our neighbors woke up, packed their tent, and slept inside their SUV instead.
We roughed it out, wrapped in the embrace of our friend, Milky Way.
The rest is herstory…
Below are photos and blurbs from our time in Death Valley in the middle of summer. Remember to always look up! Maybe a new friend will be smiling right back :)
Love & Adventure,
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA
The Milky Way is so clear and visible in Death Valley. So visible, that I noticed the ‘cloud’ even before the sky was fully dark and starry.
Instead, we drove off around 1AM to find any available facilities. We only came across an overpriced motel. Though we chose not to spend the money, we were happy they let us use their restroom and fill our water bottles.
Morning’s tangerine sunrise revealed that the restrooms were right next to our camp all along. LOL! Their drinking fountains, however, were completely dry.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Every molecule in my body screamed to go back to the comfort of the car’s air conditioner.
Sometime during our drive, we pulled into the ranger station/visitor center. Always make an effort to stop by for information! There, they advised we should not hike anything longer than 10 minutes due to summer heat.
They also made suggestions for areas we should/should not access with our type of vehicle (I’m glad we asked, because remember our rental fiasco back in Seattle? We were stuck with a small sedan.)
We didn’t do the entire hike. It was too hot.
Stay hydrated, and join me on the next blog post :)
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Stay curious, wild hearts!