To my shame I knew nothing about Death Valley before we visited, aside from the fact that in the summer the temperatures are some of the highest on the planet. Consequently I expected a barren desert; lifeless and uninteresting. Boy, was I wrong.
What we found was some of the most mind blowing landscapes we’d ever seen, it was like a Hollywood set for another planet, except it is real. A little over two hours from Vegas we reached Death Valley Junction and the road straight to Zabriskie Point. This lunar like landscape is Tatooine, just as we all remember it:
Southwest from here is Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 85.5 metres below sea level. Although storms do flood the area from time to time, it’s so hot that the water is quickly evaporated, leaving a salty floor that looks like frosted sand. We walked out into the plains as far as we could and marvelled at the scale of the place; this is what awe inspiring means.
North again to the Visitor Centre where the boys collected their Junior Ranger booklets before we continued to the sand dunes at Mesquite Flat.
December is the ideal time to visit and I regret that we didn’t have more time. It would have been incredible to have stayed overnight in the park and enjoyed the night sky with no light pollution. We have been asked many times already which places we have enjoyed the most on our travels; an almost impossible question to answer, but I will say this, Death Valley was the biggest surprise and I am determined to get back there and spend the time it deserves.
Heading west out of the park the road rises and dips for more than 20 miles in the delightful way that has your stomach playing catch up seconds later. We laughed so hard we cried as we sailed over the rise and fall on the road, better than any rollercoaster we’ve ever tried and with some of the prettiest skies that California has to offer.
Late that evening we arrived in Mammoth ready for a few days of skiing, our first time on real snow. Little did I know that I’d be crying with laughter again a lot sooner than I thought. We booked lessons at the main lodge and I was paired with the ever patient Mel Seator, a wonderful instructor who worked her magic to get me safely up the slopes and back down again. The older boys were full of confidence and came flying past me on numerous occasions and by lunchtime Alex was doing the same, with his instructor Gregory skiing backwards in front of him calling “Red light, red light!” in an effort to slow him down.
That afternoon a film crew from Keeping up with the Kardashians arrived to record footage of Caitlyn Jenner on the slopes. News spread pretty quickly on the mountain and as I came downhill to rejoin the queue for the ski lift I was distracted by all the cameras, forgot my pizza deceleration and ploughed, head over heels straight into the guide ropes, tumbling with all the grace of a drunk hippo onto my backside. I laughed so hard I was worried for my pelvic floor; it was both hideous and glorious at the same time and I have vowed never to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians just in case my sorry butt made it through the cutting room! Having barely seen any of my family throughout the day, they were of course immediately there to witness my spectacular crash and join in the laughter. Good times!
After 3 wonderful days at Mammoth it was time to go, next stop: San Diego.