This post was most recently updated on July 25th, 2019
Our Death Valley anniversary — yep, that’s where we chose to go to celebrate our 34-year wedding anniversary. Several of my friends thought we were kidding.
“Death Valley? Uh, okay. Interesting choice.”
“Not really getting the romantic vibe here…”
Admit it, you’re probably wondering, too. What is it about Death Valley National Park that drew us in? Why would we celebrate an anniversary milestone in a desert in June?
1. Death Valley – a new place to explore
Part of what has made our marriage fun is exploring new things together. Variety is the spice of life, right? Whether it has been the adventure of parenting or going on our first cruise, every new experience we’ve shared has created memories and bonds.
Death Valley was a place we’d never been, and we didn’t have to buy a plane ticket or venture very far to enjoy it. A comfortable 5-hour drive from San Diego delivered us to a whole new world unlike anything we’d ever seen before. Plus, it’s a huge national park. Did you know that at over 5,000 square miles, it’s the largest national park in the contiguous 48 states?
2. Sharing a hobby on our Death Valley Anniversary
Photography is a hobby my husband and I both appreciate. We love to shoot beautiful and unique sights, especially landscapes or details that tell a story. We’d seen a few photos of Death Valley that really intrigued us. So many amazing rock formations, colors, and extremes. We wanted to see them for ourselves and photograph them, too!
We especially enjoy the challenge of finding beauty wherever we are. Even in the extremes of Death Valley, and maybe even because of the extremes, there was no shortage of photography subjects.
3. A land of contrasts
In 34 years of marriage, we’ve certainly had our share of up and downs (mostly ups, I will add!). But of course, there are going to be times of challenge and opposition as well as triumphs and joy. So why not choose a place to celebrate our marriage that reflects that?
Death Valley is a place of many contrasts. We were fascinated with all the opposites we discovered. Here are just a few:
Hot & Cool
So HOT!! Like 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Did you know your cells begin to break down at 106 degrees? We’d get out of our air-conditioned car to walk through the sand dunes and then feel the hot breeze suck the moisture out of our bodies. Very interesting sensation. We also noticed that as we drove over the Panamint mountains, temperatures would plummet over 20 degrees, just to soar back into triple digits as we descended to the valley floor.
Dry & Wet
With all the heat, you would expect everything to be bone-dry. So you can imagine my shock when we arrived at Badwater Basin and saw a standing pool of water. How had that not evaporated into nothingness?! As it turns out, there’s actually a lot of underground water at Death Valley, including Panamint Springs and other springs that feed into the oasis at Furnace Creek.
There was also the lovely pool we enjoyed at The Inn at Death Valley after being out in the desert all morning. And the stream flowing through the gardens, too. Water is life-sustaining and you can appreciate that so much more in a place like Death Valley! (Read my review of The Inn at Death Valley here!)
Change & Consistency
A walk through the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes will reveal a landscape that changes right before your eyes. The hot winds shift and re-shape the sand dunes constantly. In other areas of the park, you will see rock columns eroded into fascinating shapes. The layered soils erode at differing rates, creating beautiful variations in shape and color.
But then there are mountains that have towered over Death Valley for eons, like Sentinel Peak. Even during seismic activity, there are prehistoric features that have not changed.
Dark & Light
At Death Valley, the night skies are amazing! Because you don’t have the interference of city lights, you can actually see the Milky Way galaxy with your bare eyes. You also see contrast of dark and light in the varied landscapes — white salt flats, beige sand and yellow hued canyons as well as chocolate brown badlands and piles of black lava rock.
You also see this contrast between midday sun and deep shadows. And believe me, if you are out hiking, you’ll be seeking out those deep shadows wherever you can find them!
Barren & Lush
Can you imagine the contrast between the dry desert badlands, where no life at all can exist — and a lush green oasis that springs from the desert floor? Because of the barren areas, you will really notice and appreciate any green you see! But up on the mountaintops and in some canyons, you will also find more plants and wildlife.
High & Low
You’ve probably heard that Death Valley has the lowest elevation in North America. You’ll find that low point at Badwater Basin (282 feet below sea level). Pretty interesting that the highest point in the 48 contiguous United States is Mt Whitney (14,505 ft), and it’s only 86 miles from Badwater Basin!
Death & Life
I’m sure the name, Death Valley, seems very fitting at first glance. And there are certainly signs of failed industry and abandoned homes. Surviving in the valley might mean brushing close to death on a regular basis.
And while the desert floor might look dead…in the spring you could find it blooming with desert wildflowers. There are also animals that thrive and survive in Death Valley. We saw mostly birds and lizards, but also a coyote. Plus a lot of baby frogs at the oasis!
The desert has also provided a wealth of minerals and salt that fueled industry and businesses. When Stovepipe Wells was first established with a tent city in the 1920’s, that was the beginning of the transition from industry to tourism.
4. Adversity for the win
I love that the beautiful formations we see at Death Valley are created out of adversity. As in, earthquakes and volcanoes! Seismic activity actually folded the earth’s crust here into mountains and lowered the valley floor. Even today, the mountains are constantly changing. Rainfall and flash floods send torrents of water that cut paths through the rocks, eroding and revealing different colors.
I don’t want to get too philosophical here, but sometimes the best things in life have come about after some trials. “Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life.” (Anon). I suppose there are lot of applications of this lesson to marriage. Our Death Valley anniversary was a special way to remember the beauty that has grown despite challenges, or because of them.
5. Lack of distractions
There’s something else about Death Valley that makes it very unique — dark nights. In fact, it’s the largest Dark Sky National Park in the country. Because of its isolation from large cities with bright lights, Death Valley is one of very few places on the earth where you can see the Milky Way galaxy with your bare eyes. It’s a great place to do some stargazing, and my husband and I spent some time at The Inn’s Stargazing terrace doing just that.
Have you ever found yourself longing for a place you could go to “get away” from the rat-race of everyday life? Death Valley was that place for us. No shopping malls or billboard signs, no crowds of tourists either. There was hardly any traffic at all. Heck, I could get out of the car and stand in the middle of the road to take a great photo!
It was just so refreshing to remove all the clutter and chaos of everyday life. We could look for and enjoy all that Death Valley has to offer, especially because there were no distractions.
Tips for visiting Death Valley
If you’ve never been to Death Valley National Park, I’m urging you to add it to your short list of places to go.
- Lodging options within the park include campgrounds and 3 hotels. My recommendation? The historic Inn at Death Valley. It’s hands-down the perfect compliment to the harshness of Death Valley. Their beautiful air-conditioned rooms, gorgeous pool and gardens created the best oasis for our desert getaway. If you’re exploring with your family, The Ranch at Death Valley (sister hotel to The Inn) is perfect for kids with a central plaza, saloon-style historic restaurant, ice cream parlor, gift shop, and general store. There’s even a museum and an 18-hole golf course.
- There is a fee to enter Death Valley National Park, currently $30.00 per vehicle and is good for 7 days. We paid this fee at a self-serice kiosk at the Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station. You’ll receive a receipt that you keep on the dash of your vehicle.
- For information about weather, road conditions, hours, and more, be sure to check out the Death Valley National Park website.
- Another great resource for Death Valley information is the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce.
- Our Death Valley anniversary visit lasted less than 24 hours, yet we were able to see a lot. Our itinerary included Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive, Badwater Basin, Golden Canyon, Salt Creek, the Harmony Borax Works, Mustard Canyon, the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, and Dante’s View.
Please enjoy this short video of the view of Death Valley and the Badwater Basin salt flats from Dante’s View. I hope it inspires you to make a visit of your own!
I wanted to share these inspired impressionism paintings of Death Valley with you as well:
Erin Hanson has a gallery near me in Miramar, CA, and you can see more of her work there or at her website.
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