Death Valley

17th and 18th June, 2017

After a brief (and very different) interlude in Las Vegas with Anna, I headed to Death Valley National Park. Having stopped off for a night at a lovely B and B in Pahrump (K7) to recover from the night in Vegas, I arrived in Death Valley late morning. Temperatures were already at 113F (45C) and set to rise up to 120F (49C) over the next couple of days.

After a brief discussion with a Ranger about the longer hikes that were possible in the Park, he suggested Telescope Peak as, due to its higher elevation, temperatures are always slightly lower. He advised me of areas where you are allowed to pitch your tent for free in the Park, one of which was Mahogony Flat, at the starting point of the trail for Telescope Peak.

I headed up there, a little cautiously as the last few miles were off road and I was worried about my rental car’s ability to make it! The effort was worth it though as I arrived at what, in terms of views, has been one of the best camping spots of my trip. Perched up high I was afforded fabulous views of both sunset and sunrise.

There was a downside though, I have never been anywhere (and I do mean that literally) with so many flys. It was impossible to sit out for any length of time without being completely covered in them, and the collective noise was phenomenal. Luckily I had pitched my tent where even from inside I had quite a good view out, and retreated there when it became too much.. Wildlife was definitely in full swing though, and I was woken up in the early hours of the  morning by what I originally thought was the sound of someone hammering in tent pegs. I had thought it was extremely inconsiderate of someone to arrive at 4am and put up their tent so noisily but, on getting up for coffee and sunrise, I realised it was in fact a pair of crows going around pecking underneath rocks with their beaks and overturning them. The pair carried on all morning, shouting to each other as they did so. So, in some respects, it was not the most relaxing of spots.

I headed out early to climb up Telescope peak, the highest point in Death Valley and the Panamint Mountain Range, at 3,366m (11,043ft).  It gets its name from the fact that it offers panoramic views for hundreds of miles in each direction.  The walk up was spectacular with views down over the valleys on the west and east.

Finally, at the top…I had a nice panoramic video to show you but nowhere I have been since has the wifi capacity to upload it, so some photos will have to do for now…

As has been the case in a lot of the hikes I have chosen, I was again lucky enough to have the spot to myself for much of the time, just passing three people on the way down.  I decided to take the opportunity to get in some running and ran the last 3 miles, which was no mean feat in the heat!

Just when I thought the adventure had finished, I discovered that getting my car back down from Mahogany Flat was a lot more difficult than getting it up, and there were quite a few moments where I wondered if I would make it without getting a flat tyre.  Once back on the road though the drive out of Death Valley proved very rewarding as a beautiful bird of prey soared in front of my car, a huge hare hopped across the road (I had no idea how high they can jump), and I saw quite a few of these fellas on the roadside…