It only took about 1/2 day to drive from Lake Mead, through Las Vegas, to Death Valley National Park. We camped at Stovepipe Wells campground, which was at or about 5 feet above sea level! How strange! The mountain pass that we drove out of to get to Stovepipe Wells was at about 4300 feet - so you can imagine how far down we drove in only a matter of minutes!
What a beautiful place! Luckily for us, the weather was cool and it actually rained one of the two days that we spent here - a very rare event!
Our first evening, we found some great sand dunes right by our campground. People were parked on the side of the road and climbing up these great dunes. We did the same, and got an amazing view of Death Valley to the north and south. There is a very stark beauty apparent here.
Our first day, we went to the visitor's center at Furnace Creek (the place names here are cool - or hot, really) We then drove down to Badwater Basin - the lowest point on the continent at 282 feet BELOW sea level. We went for a refreshing hike in the drizzle at Golden Canyon. This was a beautiful canyon that winds its way up the mountain for a bit. Lots of great rocks here - many of them sandstone, which made the walls look 'golden.' We were pretty soaked after our hike, so we drove back to our campsite for dinner and a movie.
The next day was mostly sunny and warmer. It was great to get a full view of the mountains that surround Death Valley. We took a ranger-guided tour of Mosaic Canyon. "Ranger Bob" was a retired geologist and did an excellent job of helping us all understand some of the really interesting geology of this area. Mosaic Canyon has great examples of 'Noonday Dolomite" a special kind of limestone that has gone through a little bit of metamorphosis. The result is a beautiful marble-like rock that has been worn smooth by water. Look at the pictures!
Anyway, we had a great time at Death Valley - but we were getting a little tired of desert scenery and ready to head to California!