Lose Yourself In Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the nation besides Alaska boasting more than 3 million acres of federally protected land areas of wilderness, sand dunes, canyons, salt flats, and mountains. This is a lot of adventurous territory to explore, scramble, and trek through. With so many must see spots and interesting history, how can one pass up the opportunity to see this place! And on top of that, you can even take a tour of the locations where Star Wars was filmed!

Although, it is considered the hottest place on earth, it does have an average temperature of 100 degrees Farenheight in the Summer, Death Valley still is an incredible place to experience. As well, the other seasons especially Fall, can provide perfect weather conditions for an extraordinary adventure. Whether it is hiking through colorful canyons, scrambling over through badlands, or witnessing unobstructed views of ridges and valleys, this place will not disappoint.

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“An adventure in the middle of the desert in Death Valley, California?” you might ask. My response is yes! This national park is spectacular to wander around and soak in the amazing fresh air, enjoy colorful rolling hills and mountains that surround you. We were once again pleasantly surprised of what this national park has to offer and all the adventure opportunities it has.

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We started our day by hitting the road very early in the morning from San Diego and as usual we prepared for our road trip adventure by packing lunch, water, and serviced the car. Here is my vehicle prep blog I wrote earlier this year if you need a guide: Road trip preparation tips.

Since we knew this adventure would only be primarily a day trip, we took the route by going north via State Route 127 from Baker to Shoshone and Death Valley Junction with connections to the park on State Route 178 from Shoshone and connection with California Highway 190 at Death Valley Junction. 

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We finally arrived at the park and began our journey exploring around the area. Depending upon the amount of time you have to visit the park, there are so many interesting and historical places to see. Including the Visitor Center at Furnace Creek where there is an incredible video-movie they offer that portrays several historical and interesting insights into Death Valley.

One of the interesting topics discussed in the movie is that in a particular part of the park, there are several large rocks sitting in the bed of a dry lake and over time, they move and leave a trail in the sand. Scientists are baffled as to how these rocks are moving. The area is called Racetrack Playa, and the mystery continues about these rocks also called ‘Sailing stones’ and their intriguing movement across the desert. Read more about this topic here:  

Badwater Basin:
This area of the park is truly remarkable in that it is the lowest point in North America at 182 feet below sea level! And the salt flats are amazing! The feeling of a cool twist in the air, with the warming sun, and the ‘extra’ oxygen intake can make you feel like a million bucks! 

Artists Drive:
This scenic drive is spectacular and is a one way drive-through loop that takes you 9 miles between multi colored rolling hills that will have you saying wow!

Artists Palette:
This area is just a short distance from along Artists Drive and is the point where there is a look out and you can walk out onto some of the hills and take photos and explore the area.

Zabriskie Point:

Badlands and rolling hills painted with golden and reddish hues everywhere you turn. An area that is a result of once highly active earthquakes and violent waters, this serene setting was submerged under water as it was filled with sparkling lakes.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes:

Rising nearly 100 feet from the Mesquite Flats, these beautiful sand dunes will have you thirsty for curiosity! The dunes are incredible to explore, hike, trek, and climb! We climbed and climbed as the sand was filling our shoes. But we finally made our way up and over the dunes, and saw a few folks with cameras and what appeared to be a photo shoot for a bridal wedding scene. Just in time for a stunning desert sunset over the dunes.

Death Valley carries a lot of history and is still home to the Shoshone Indians. These are a few highlights you may wish to explore as well:

-Scotty’s Castle *A glance into the times during the Roaring 20’s and Great 
            Depression of the 30’s. (Temporarily closed at this time.-Nov 2018)
-Furnace Creek Inn *Opened in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Mining Co.

-Harmony Borax Works *A mine that processed borax ore from 1884 to 1888
-Keane Wonder Mine *Historical gold mine
-Death Valley ghost towns and silent ruins  
-Wild Rose Charcoal Kilns *Beehive shaped structures that helped process
           silver/lead ore built in 1877.
-Barker Ranch *Once the ranch was a sanctuary for recreational ranchers. Also in 1968; it was occupied by the infamous Mansion family for about a year before it was raided and the family members were jailed as a result of their vandalism to the property.

We had an amazing day at Death Valley National Park as it was full of interesting exploration over badlands and salt basin, painted hillsides along Artists Drive, and an exciting drive through narrow roadways of steep and curvy pathways. We plan to return for another visit to this park in 2019. 

We were also on the lookout for wild donkeys. There are invasive burros throughout Death Valley. They are destroying water resources for other animals, stomp around and mess the fragile spring habitat. It is suggested that you do not feed them, do not approach them or exit your vehicle. 
We finished our incredible adventure at the park by taking Panamint Valley Road to Trona Road and went through the mineral mining town of Trona. Finally reaching US-395 to I-15 South returning home to San Diego.

More information on Death Valley National Park:  DIRECTIONS

Death Valley National Park
PO Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328
760-786-3200
www.nps.gove/deva   

Other information:
Off road driving is strictly prohibited!
Camping is available.
Cabins/lodging is available:
         The Oasis at Death Valley, Panamint Springs Resort
The park is a great place to ride bicycle.
Pets, other than service animals, are not allowed in certain areas of the park. Check the website for more specific information before you go.

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Find more adventure and take a journey with me through Capitol Reef National Park.

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Sources:
Death Valley brochure.
Wikipedia.com

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Pinnacles National Park * The People’s Park

Pinnacles National Park is the final national park we’ve visited over a three-day weekend on our quest to visit three national parks in three days. The previous 2 days were filled with impressive historical sequoia trees, beautiful landscapes, and stunning sunsets! Read about it here:  For every new national park we visit, we have a new found appreciation and desire to explore more parks, landmarks, and nature.

Machete Ridge

Background:

Pinnacles is an interesting park in that it is actually part of the San Andreas Fault Zone (running east of the park). Did you know? San Andreas Fault system is part of the Ring of Fire; a zone of earthquake and volcanic activity that partially encircles the Pacific Ocean. The park is a result of a combination of heat, frost, water, and wind wearing away rock. The caves are also a result of fault action and earthquake activity created by boulders falling into deep, narrow gorges and getting stuck between the rock walls.

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The People’s Park:

During the 1700s, the Pinnacles’ Native Americans; the Chalon and Mutsun Indians, were hunter-gatherers and harvested on the local resources. Later, when emigrants arrived, Pinnacles became a popular place for activities, picnics, camping, and exploring.

Hiking Adventure:

Juniper Canyon Trail, Tunnel Trail, High Peaks Trail, Condor Gulch Trail, Old Pinnacles Trail, Balconies Cave Trail.

We hit the road toward Pinnacles around 9:00 a.m. after meeting up with friend and Fitlife360 guest blogger, Sam, at our hotel in Salinas. Sam was also traveling and exploring Santa Cruz and Monterey areas over the weekend and shared with us her interesting trip. She departed San Diego Thursday night drove directly through the areas where the large massive fires were near Los Angeles/Ventura. She was directed towards several detours around those flames until she finally made it to her destination in Santa Cruz.

We continued our way south on highway 101 from our hotel and onward into the Pinnacles National Park, which is about 45 minutes from our hotel in Salinas, California. We arrived at the park entrance and used the restrooms and enjoyed a chat with the park ranger. We had formulated our plan and map drawn out to explore Bear Gulch Cave, Balconies Cave, and see Condors. Things did not go the way we planned exactly, but we still had an amazing and very cool experience.

We began hiking from the Chaparral Parking Area and continued on the Juniper Canyon Trail. As we were approaching the Tunnel Trail, it was becoming a bit challenging with gradual inclines and switchbacks. It was only a short while into the trail, when we looked up and saw two large condors flying near one of the mountain peaks. This part of the trail was very interesting with the beautiful large boulders and rock formations, where some of them had splashes of colors on the boulders and rock formations.

Some of the trails connect with each other and can be difficult choosing which path to take. We had intentions of taking the trail that leads to Bear Gulch Cave Trail, (to explore Bear Gulch Cave) this is where we chose the wrong trail path and ended up at the Overlook on the Condor Gulch Trail. (We only saw Condors earlier on the hiking trail).

We continued on a decline trail of switchbacks and narrow paths towards Old Pinnacles Trailhead Parking lot area. We sat around for awhile and rested in this area for a short while. We decided to continue on this trail where it took us through a tree filled hillside, some areas had a canopy of trees, then we approached an area of an open dried up creek bed. (West Fork Chalone Creek) This is where we encountered a wild bobcat roaming around. My husband grabbed the Nikon and took off toward the bobcat. He captured our bobcat friend and he said it was like the cat was sitting there posing for him.

Shortly after our wild animal encounter with the bobcat, we proceeded to make our way towards Balconies Cave. The journey through the cave is very cool with the darkness, quiet and silent inside the cave, and the thrill of finding your way out to the other side of the cave. Check out the video of the cave adventure:

The journey through Pinnacles National Park was amazing! Despite the past couple days of experiencing smoke filled hazy skies, it was a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine.

By the end of our day exploring, we had hiked about 11 miles, scrambling over rocks in Balconies Cave, and enjoyed a backdrop of massive boulders and stunning landscape views. Here are the many activities you do at Pinnacles.

*Hiking
*Explore Caves
*Rock Climbing
*Enjoy Plants and Trees
*Birds-Condors and Bats

Here is more information to plan your visit:

Pinnacles National Park
5000 Hwy 146
Paicines, CA 95043
8310389-4485
http://www.nps.gov/pinn
DIRECTIONS TO THE PARK

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See more national park adventures here.

The Amazing Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

It is truly a treat to have visited America’s second oldest national park at Sequoia. Every visit we make to the national parks, we become more inspired and motivated to see more! We finally arrived at the park after the long hours of driving north from San Diego and maneuvering the roads through all the fires happening in the Los Angeles area. 

Sequoia National Park

As we proceeded to drive near and around LA, we saw a plume-like cloud as the backdrop of the city on our journey northward. It felt a little eerie witnessing this as all these fires reminded us of our experiences dealing with fires and evacuations back in 2014. We experienced the massive fires in San Diego in 2007, as well as evacuating during the 2014 San Marcos fires which were burning almost literally in our backyards. Here are a few photos.

Sequoia

We arrived at Sequoia National Park early enough in the day to enjoy most of the park. Well, at least the parts that were not closed due to the winter season. We continued our path into the park on The Generals highway. This 80 year old roadway is included as part of the overall park experience.

We encountered construction delays as we went through the entrance. We were told there was up to a 2 hour delay but we made it in time, to where there was only 40 minutes until traffic would be allowed through. Currently, as of November 2018, repairs are being done on the highway to handle a larger number of vehicles. We spent some time at the Foothills Visitors Center and enjoyed a little break as we waited.

Take a look at our journey through the park as we share some of the highlights and points of interest of Sequoia.

Giant Forest Museum

We stopped in at the Giant Forest Museum and used the restrooms at this stop. Sequoia exhibits, information, gift shop, and permits are offered here.

Our next stop was to see the General Sherman Tree as there are two different trails that take you to the tree. The main trail is about 1/2 mile down stairs and paved walkway. There are small signs that say: high elevation, so take your time. This sign is of course intended for those walking back up the hill. These trees are incredibly massive, and very interesting. 

The General Sherman Tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old. It’s largest branch is nearly 7 feet in diameter. Wow! Do you know the difference between Sequoia and Redwood trees? Here are a few details.
Sequoias grow naturally in the west slope of the California Sierra Nevada range and have a massive trunk and is also called the Sierra Redwood.

Sequoia tree

 The Redwood tree is a taller and more slender tree and grows in the northern and coastal part of California.

Redwood trees

Several of the meadows, water fall trails, and other paths were closed for the winter season. We were hoping to see a few bears as well, but there were few if any of them around and they do loiter around different parts of the park during certain times of the year. 

We were informed that the bears are small black bears, about the size of a large dog, but to still remain at a distance, do not feed them, and properly store your own food in appropriate containers. The ranger also indicated there might be a few bears in the meadows areas, but we did not see any.

Kings Canyon overlook

Unfortunately, due to all the fires happening around California, and the national park doing a contained burn, we were presented with smokey hazy skies. 

Kings Canyon

On our second day visiting the national parks in this area. we started quite early in Kings Canyon as we stayed in lodging in Fresno the night before. (Since Sequoia and Kings are located right next to each other). It was a beautiful morning as we made our way in and around Kings Canyon National Park.

Take a look at the above photos and compare the fallen Monarch to the black and white photo taken around 1900. Sequoias can avoid decay even for thousands of years fallen on a forest floor. Take a walk through the center of the fallen Monarch here in the video below. Click here.

Another point of interest is an incredible overlook we stumbled upon on our drive down to Hume Lake that offers stunning views of the canyon below and impressive landscapes. 

Again, we were a little disappointed because of the hazy smokey skies that we had to deal with during this particular weekend.

Hume Lake is a neat and peaceful area of which it is on private land and not part of the national park. There are camping and large group camping events available and hiking around the lake which is approximately 2 miles. We were not really impressed by this area, but it was nice and peaceful. 

Our next stop was during our hike to see the next infamous giant sequoia tree but we came across one of the first early cabins where the first park ranger resided here at Gamlin Cabin during the early 1900s. Take a look.

The impressive massive General Grant, Americas Christmas Tree. The world’s second largest tree!

Our first time experience visiting these two beautiful national parks was full of stunning landscapes, interesting history, and impressive plant life (trees). We recommend visiting these two parks on your next visit to California as they are conveniently located next to each other. 

To top off our amazing visit to these parks, we were able to enjoy a few stunning sunsets!

More information about these parks are below:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271
www.nps.gov/seki

Other info:
*There is no gas available in the park.
*Trails: Day hikes are available in all areas.
*Bears: Black bears are attracted to human food, and they know what the plastic grocery bags are. You can’t even begin to understand how good their sense of smell of food is. You must properly store food at all times.
*Do not feed any wildlife.

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Read about more fitlife360 adventures: 
Capitol Reef National Park a photo essay: 

Exploring Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island!

Channel Islands Painted Cave

A Desert Delight: Hiking Camelback Mountain*Scottsdale AZ

Camelback Mountain:   Elevation: 2707 feet  Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Paradise Valley area  DIRECTIONS
An adventure in the desert mountains is an exciting venture to take on. Then add the heat element of 109 degrees to the equation and you have a challenge.

As we ponder the idea of possibly making Arizona our home, we wanted to visit the desert as often as possible throughout the Summertime, and try to get a grasp of what life would be like living there during this time of the year.
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So we set out to hiking Camelback Mountain on a lovely hot weekend in June.

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Our road trip to Arizona went very smooth and was an enjoyable ride. We had our car prepared and ready to drive through the heat and here is my previous blog article I wrote about prepping for a weekend roadtrip. We awoke around 6:30am and enjoyed the morning as we ate breakfast, showered, and prepared for our morning hike.

We soon found out, however, that our morning hike didn’t start early enough as the thermometer proceeded to rise quickly by 10am. We set out with our water jugs, backpack and cameras for the hiking journey.  Take a look at our recap video as we take on Camelback Mountain. Check out the trail terrain, the boulder rock path climbing, and some awesome views!

This hiking trail is so very cool and interesting as it offers lots of variety and climbing as well as smoother easier parts on the trails. From trees to cactus, and rock stair switchbacks to boulder rocks, its got lots of variety.

Here are some more highlights of this incredible hiking trail.

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There are some advantages to hiking the desert in the Summer as you have significantly less crowds to deal with. And it is a good idea to wear gloves for protection from the hot railings and rocks when you need to use them to assist in climbing and balance.
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However, the Fall and Winter seasons would be perfect weather to hike this trail but be prepared to encounter crowded paths. This hike is also a cardio workout, and can be risky hiking in the hot summer months (heat exhaustion / heat stroke); so plan accordingly. (At least a gallon of water per person.)


Interesting bit of history:  A cave discovered on the north side of Camelback Mountain indicates that it was used as a sacred site by the prehistoric Hohokam Culture before they abandoned the area in the 14th century (Source: Wikipedia)

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Sunset in Chandler, AZ

Go outside and explore! Life Maximized!

Read more desert adventure:
DSC_0071webCOVER    JOSHUA TREE PIN

 

Great Ideas How To Prepare For a Weekend Road Trip

The excitement for an upcoming trip can be exhilarating. But it can also be very stressful as you have a million things to remember to do days or weeks leading up to your trip. I, however, have a few extra things I need to do to prepare for road trips due to my auto-immune disorder. I have to plan for meals and food as I manage my disorder through diet that involves more natural ingredients and nutrient dense foods; hence, I have a restricted diet.

Anyway, when we have a road trip coming up, there are several things I do to plan and prepare for an enjoyable worry free travel experience. When I say ‘Weekend Road Trip’ I am generally referring to a trip consisting of approximately 250-300 miles. We usually travel on road trips to Arizona, Palm Springs, or Nevada from the Southern California area. My road trips usually involve a hiking adventure, so this information is geared towards hiking or exploration. One of the most critical things to do to prepare for your road trip is to make sure your vehicle is safe and in good operating condition. Here is a list of things I do for the preparation of our weekend road trip; I start with a vehicle inspection.

audi automobile automotive car
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Auto Checklist

  1. Open the hood and glance over the engine and check fluids.
    1. Make sure oil is at good levels
    2. Make sure water is enough for windshield wipers
  2. Bring jumper cables in the trunk
  3. Bring a gallon of water
    1. In case your car overheats while driving. You don’t want to be on the road someplace in the middle of nowhere and your car breaks down and overheats, and you do not have water.

      woman in white wedding gown near orange car
      Photo by Slobodan Jošić on Pexels.com
  4. Make sure the oil and oil filter has been changed
  5. Bring a blanket
  6. Bring towels
  7. Bring a roll of toilet paper
  8. Bring a handful of tools
  9. Bring the air compressor. Make sure all tires have the appropriate air in them
    1. Make sure the spare tire has appropriate air in it as well.
  10. Full tank of gas
  11. Hot climate travel – turn off air condition as you incline mountains etc.
  12. Maps if needed (we do not use GPS); good ole fashion paper maps.
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Here is more information about the auto checklist for a road trip.

Food Checklist

  1. Ice chest – ice – zip lock bags of ice to fit in cooler
    1. I found a styrofoam cooler at Walmart for $2.67 and worked great.
  2. Bring lunch meat turkey breast
  3. Mustard
  4. Enough almond milk for the weekend
  5. Bottles of water
  6. Healthy snacks; nuts, cut veggies, tortilla chips
  7. Energy bars- protein bars
  8. breakfast cereal- cheerios, oatmeal
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Hiking Checklist – local hikes or short hiking

  1. Bring enough water bottles to fill take for the hike
  2. Energy bars and nuts
  3. Appropriate clothing for hiking – hot or cold climates
  4. Small compass, small mirror
  5. A hiking partner
  6. Let someone know where you are hiking, if hiking solo
  7. Small tool-Swiss army knife
  8. Backpack
  9. Research local hiking trails, gather info, trail length, difficulty, etc.
  10. Proper shoes and clothing

    woman in brown scarf surrounded with green trees
    Photo by Tobi on Pexels.com

Clothing and Personal Checklist

  1. Check the weather to determine to bring lighter or warmer clothes
  2. Jacket or not
  3. Umbrella in the car
  4. Essentials- Lotion (for dry climates), chapstick,
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Hats or visors

In summary, road trips can be a little stressful because of the preparations involved and other unplanned items that may come up, but they can also be exciting! Road trips allow you to be more flexible on your trip, for example, you can take a different route returning home than the route you took going to your destination. You can take detours and stumble upon some amazing gems! Here is one of our hidden gems we stumbled upon on our detour return from Oregon going South. We came across a detour from I-5 to bypass the large fires happening in Northern California areas. Check out beautiful Diamond Peaks mountain range.

Weekend road trips are like a mini vacation that allows you to getaway for a short while to rejuvenate, refresh, and renew! So maximize your life and fill your weekend road trip with excitement, fun, and exploration! Open your mind and go out and wander!

My recent Coastal road trip on PCH

Detours and hidden gems on my road trips

See my beautiful photography of images that will amaze and inspire you! Instagram:
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Thank you for reading and please follow along with my adventures and subscribe to my blog and social pages! If you have any comments, or see any discrepancies, or if you have anything to add, please feel free to contact me at fitlife360@yahoo.com.