Peter Hajas

February Trip to Death Valley
March 30, 2020 •  🏜️⛺

In February, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Death Valley National Park with some friends. It was an awesome time! Here’s what happened:

Gear

I was lucky enough to go to REI with one of my buddies, a camping veteran, before the trip. He was also the organizer of our trip to Death Valley. At REI, I secured some supplies, including essentials (sleeping bag, freeze-dried food), things I thought were unnecessary but ended up being very useful (utensils, sleeping pad), and things I had no idea you needed or wanted on a camping trip (pillow, chair). It helps to go with people who are experienced!

The Trip Out

We left at an early 5AM towards our destination. The Death Valley area is a good 6-7 hours from the Bay Area. The drive was pretty, complete with an early morning coffee pit stop in Gilroy. Onwards…

Campsite One: The Trona Pinnacles

We arrived in our first campsite: the Trona Pinnacles. This area looks like another planet:

photo I took of Trona Pinnacles

In fact, it’s been used for just that in movie and TV sets (Star Trek V was filmed here). It was also the setting for Lady Gaga’s latest video.

This is also where fighter jets do test flights, which is really cool to see up close:

photo I took of fighter jet

The area is part of California’s BLM lands. This made it a great spot for camping and for a fire.

Along with some Ardbeg, I enjoyed some a delicious freeze dried meal: chili macaroni and cheese with beef.

Campsite Two: In The Park

After a nice oatmeal and some instant coffee, we pushed off to Trona, CA to stock up on some snacks and get gas. Trona is an industrial town in the middle of nowhere. My fiancé and I fell in love with it on our first visit. They mine borax and salt. I love this note from the Trona High School Wikipedia page:

Until several years ago an annual game was played against Boron High School. Referred to as the Borax Bowl by some, the game was a matchup of two mining towns that are world leaders in producing potash and borax, minerals used in a number of products.

While in Trona, we saw a motorcycle group with a dog that rode along. Cool!

photo of dog on motorcycle

We took off to enter Death Valley. Rather than entering through the visitor center from California, we took a side route. We saw some amazing sites on the way in to the park:

photo from Inyokern entering the park

I even saw an abandoned mineshaft - cool!

photo of abandoned mineshaft

We then arrived at our next camp site. We set up our tents, and imbibed and ate.

The night was a bit windy, but the tent I was loaned stood up just fine after some rocks were placed inside.

Campsite Three: Echo Canyon

We awoke, had some breakfast, and pushed off. We stopped off at some abandoned campgrounds and checked out a cool natural spring:

photo of natural spring

We headed off to Beatty, NV for a stop at a diner:

photo of food at diner

We had to make a game-time decision about where to stay on this third night. We had thought of staying that night in a canyon, but the park was experiencing snow (in a desert no less):

photo of snow

I was really hoping we would not have to call off our trip a day early. We decided to stay the night - I was happy we did - and headed off to Echo Canyon.

Inside the canyon, we found a nice campsite against some rocks:

photo of campsite in echo canyon

We pitched our tents, and had dinner for the evening.

As the night wore on, the wind picked up more and more. I awoke at around 4 in the morning to the wall of the tent covering my body, pushed by a strong wind. I figured I wouldn’t suffocate (I was getting barraged by oxygen), so I went back to bed.

The Trip Back

The next morning, after our customary breakfast, we packed up and headed back to civilization. We saw some beautiful views on our way out:

photo of mountains on last day photo of snow on last day

We stopped at a truck stop for some food. I had a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese - it was delicious.

All in all, a great trip! I hope to get back soon.