Full disclosure- this was meant to be two/three separate posts on the various wonders and reasons to stop at each of these spots but time has been nipping at my heels rather viciously this past week and so it’s all been condensed into this one probably very lacking post.
Artists Drive, Devils GolfCourse and Devils Cornfield
I have to admit that the last two are my most favorite named spots in the park, though Artist Drive does win the spot of most worth going out of your way to visit. We left Badwater Basin and went to gaze out across the crumpled earth that is Devils Golfcourse, after which we took the bumpy dirt road that is Artists Drive. The colors that live in the hills there are definitely worth the lungfuls of dusty air you’ll inhale while getting to them.
Devils Cornfield is right before you pass by (or stop at) the Sand Dunes and it’s worth pulling over to both appreciate the name and the way dunes start to slope up behind them, the landscape changing from one to the other without any real demarcation. And in between driving from the colorful hills to the cornfield most beloved by the devil himself, there’s a vastness of a diverse and quickly changing landscape to keep your eyes and mind engaged – as well as keep you from wondering what in the world you’re doing out here.
After leaving Dante’s View and venturing down to Badwater Basin, I was inclined to think my whole trip to this park could be easily summed up as “unexpectedly weird”. I’ve already mentioned how Death Valley was oddly whimsical in nature, given the names of some of the locations, but I probably should also have remembered this is still So-Cal, and So-Cal folks are nothing if not a weirdly awesome bunch.
We spotted at least two photographers shooting with their models using the basin as their backdrop, both models wearing flowing colorful scarfs that fluttered gently in the hot breeze. Also spotted were about a dozen interestingly dressed couples or dapperly attired dudes sporting selfie sticks to full take advantage of the epic location.
And what an epic location it was- not only did the temperature get slightly scorching and reflect heat back up off the white landscape but the sapphire colored sky above made everything feel more than a little surreal, in a really fantastic way. I would definitely recommend visiting earlier in the day, by the time we got here around 10am the temps were about 85F/29C and climbing, so definitely bring water and sunscreen, especially if you plan to walk out onto the basin. Sunglasses and hats are also highly recommended. It’s a very super popular location and tour buses arrive almost even 20 minuets so keep that in mind as well if you’ve a mind to visit, especially if you expect a bit more desolation and a bit less Coachella.
Basically, just stay chill in all ways possible and enjoy the experience of being at the lowest point in North America.
In my last post, as is now customary (because I give procrastination a new name) i’ll go over the drive from Canyonlands to the little town we stayed at about an hour outside of Las Vegas and the almost 2 hour long detour we took to grab pizza at this amazing little pizza joint just outside Zion National Park but, for now, lets talk about the frankly unexpected and almost whimsical nature of this park named Death Valley.
From Dante’s View to Artists Drive, Desolation Canyon to Bad Water Basin and my two favorites Devils Golf course and Devils Cornfield, there’s just an over abundance of imagination and even humour that I wouldn’t have expected here. And part of me wonders if this is one of those cases where you laugh because if you didn’t, you would cry.
There is definitely….I don’t want to say a reason to be depressed when you’re here, but it’s very easy to imagine the kind of despair and utter desperation you might feel if you were stuck out here with no real sense of which way was out. And Dante’s View is a perfect example of that. Not only is it a bit of a desolate drive to get up here, it’s not an easy one. And the view when you do make it up there is something entirely unexpected.
This was our first stop in the park, as we entered from the East by Death Valley Junction (passing the rather deserted and slightly creepy Amargosa Opera House) and looking back on it now, it was the perfect way to be introduced to the park. Once we’d made it up the insanely steep final mile, we gazed out at what looked exactly like a valley devoid of all life, the full embodiment of the parks name laid out bare before us. And it was breathtaking but it was also both over- and underwhelming. Overwhelming in the sense that you get a better idea of exactly how immense the area this park covers is, and underwhelming because you look out over the landscape and see what could be described as a desolate wasteland.
But then you go closer to the edge, get your eyes used to the view and the muted tones and you start seeing all the variations and subtle colors in the landscape, the cars whizzing by below like tiny toy cars on a black ribbon, the way the land rises and falls like a tired dry ocean. It becomes breathtaking in an almost literal way the further from the parking lot you get, the harsh wind coming up off the valley buffeting you from all sides and stealing the air from your lungs to take elsewhere.
It’s a fantastic view, basically. And I recommend stopping here either on your way into the park or out, as a magnificent hello or a beautiful goodbye.
The thing about roadtrips is, no matter how fantastic a place might be, eventually you have to move on to the next leg of the journey. And as amazing as the time we spent here was, after three full days spent wandering around this corner of Utah, I was ready to pack up and head West. We finished up our last morning at Canyonlands with a breakfast at the picnic area at Upheaval Dome and then headed out with a playlist heavy on Coldpay and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I think we’ll be back to Utah, eventually. But considering my heart is almost desperately yearning for a different continent altogether, probably not for a good couple of years. Thats ok though, because while it would be a lie to say i’ve gotten my fill of the marvels this state holds, I think I’ve enough good memories to tide me over till we come back again.
The second in my series on Canyonlands NP, the last post will be on Friday (hopefully, if procrastination doesn’t just knock me over and sit me down on the couch to watch Star Trek Beyond ).
I had originally meant to just fit these photos in with the last post but there was something holding me back from that…and whether thats the fact that this overlook had that “WOW” factor I hadn’t been expecting or because I had America’s song Horse With No Name on repeat while I edited these photos in Lightroom, no one will ever know. We managed to get this overlook all to ourselves for a good while that morning, and with the sun filtering in and out of the clouds overhead, casting different lights and shadows as it willed, it was magnificent. It’s certainly a different kind of view than the Grand View Point, but perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t have any expectations coming into it that made it all that much more incredible.
Full disclaimer- despite the title of this post, the first two photos are actually from the Orange Cliffs Overlook, which I highly recommend stopping by as well. While we were there, only one other car stopped by and they didn’t even get out of their car. From the road the overlook doesn’t look like much, but if you walk a little further down the path, the land opens up a bit more and you start seeing buttes and other kinds of formations out there which….sure, might not be much to get excited about for a lot of people but, you’ll always find me running out towards whatever geological formations are around 9/10 times.
“You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name It felt good to be out of the rain In the desert you can remember your name ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain La, la, la…”
p.s This song might have been more appropriate while editing photos of Death Valley but, you’ll soon understand why “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel was much better suited.