Re: Families in Death Valley

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Posted by mapswain on January 29, 2003 at 21:40:03:

In Reply to: Families in Death Valley posted by Nosmo on January 28, 2003 at 11:24:41:

My first trip to Death Valley was during Easter week in 1970, at the age of 13. A that time, I could not conceive of how anyone could want to go to Death Valley on purpose. Beyond that was the notion that those who were so foolish as to attempt to go there would be lucky to make it out alive. After all, why would they call it “Death Valley” if this weren’t true? I can still remember speculative conversations with classmates regarding the hellish aspects of this brutal desert.
On my first trip there, we were scheduled to rendezvous with my mom’s parents at Furnace Creek. We made it in OK from the LA area and set up camp. Under a clear blue sky, we walked to the visitor center where we checked out the displays and waited for Grandma and Grandpa to arrive from the north. After about 45 minutes of watching an audio-video presentation and looking through the museum, we began to notice a gathering crowd of the guests looking out of the visitor center windows to the north. Their attention had been drawn by a tremendous dust storm that was rapidly approaching. My dad and I decided to beat it back to our tent trailer to prepare for the storm, narrowly averting disaster there. My grandparents arrived well after dark and brought with them a lug of strawberries that we all sat and feasted on safely inside the tent trailer while the wind howled outside.
The following day, the dust storm had passed, clear blue skies returned, and we began exploring the valley in earnest. Everywhere were spectacular moonscape scenes and strange contrasts. The highlight of the trip for me was exploration of the Keane Wonder Mine with my grandfather. His dad had been the last operator of the Keane Wonder, when all gold mining was suspended at the beginning of WWII. It was a magical experience to explore these relics with him.
Seven years later, when my girlfriend (and later wife) and I made our first trip together, Death Valley would be one of the key stops on our list. Once again we were greeted with a major dust storm. We tied the tent to the car with every inch of string and rope that we could find and had a dinner of PB&J sandwiches n the car. Dust storms not withstanding, we had a wonderful time and look back upon the incident as just part of the adventure, albeit not our favorite part.
We have returned many times since with our own kids, who both look forward to exploring new areas and seeing our favorite spots again. We have enjoyed seeing spectacular springtime wildflower displays, incredible star lit skies, and visiting most of the popular spots. We have particularly enjoyed discovering some of the lesser known and out-of-the-way canyons and mines. Even in this age of short attention spans and video games, the kids look forward to our Death Valley trips. Now that our oldest son is of driving age, he looks forward toward making his own trips there.
My wife and I find that the more we learn about Death Valley, the more we want to come back and explore. I have friends who can’t imagine why anyone would want to go there (they never have) and others who begin planning their next trip before the current one is over.

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