Death Valley: Intro and Day 1 - A Day of Driving
Winters in the Pacific Northwest, (but perhaps especially this one) are tough to swallow when you like to get outdoors to explore and experience new adventures. The weather gets cool and wet, and it often takes a multi-state trip south to escape the gray.
No different from a weather perspective, this year is different for @mrs.turbodb and I from a availability perspective. And, because of that, when we heard that Ben (@m3bassman) and Zane (@Speedytech7) headed to Death Valley for New Years, we were immediately jealous. We'd been wanting to head that way for a while - especially having read and seen trip reports from @DVexile and @Crom, so we decided pretty quickly that even though it'd be a long drive - we were crazy enough to try it.
We had 128 hours - a little over 5 days - that we could be gone; more than that and we'd have to make significant arrangements for @mini.turbodb - something we didn't want to do.
With a little less than two weeks to plan, we took our time laying out our itinerary. Roughly, we thought we could:
- Drive to Death Valley in a day and a half, entering the park through Beatty, NV.
- Spend two and a half days exploring the park and nearby surroundings.
- Spend our last day and a half driving back home.
With two and a half days, we wanted to hit as much as we could. Ben was nice enough to share their general route, and we used that as a general blueprint, adding a few side trips to points we thought could be interesting. In the end, our route was packed, but doable (we hoped).
Day 1 - A Day of Driving
January 17, 2018.
We'd gotten everything ready to go the day before - meals pre-cooked, truck completely packed - including the fridge (plugged into the 120v in the garage) - so that as soon as we dropped off @mini.turbodb at school, we could head south.
By 7:45am, we were on the road.
We'd chosen the fastest route south according to Google Maps - I-5 to US-26 and US-20 in Oregon, and then US-95 from Burns to Beatty, NV. And we made good time, stopping for lunch in Madras, OR in the early afternoon.
Unfortunately, as we continued south on US-26, we stopped for gas and to confirm directions in Prineville - and were steered eastward on US-26 and OR-380 toward Paulina (as a shortcut to Burns) rather than south on US-26 to US-20.
That "shortcut" ended up adding 2½ hours, with a couple of re-routes in order to avoid the same FS roads that had carried us through the Malheur National Forest on our Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route trip just a few months prior - good roads, but completely snowed in over the passes this time of year.
Lesson learned: just stick with the Google directions.
Despite the re-route, the scenery and company were enjoyable, and as the sun set we pulled over to capture what we hoped would be the first real sunset we'd seen in several weeks (having been socked in with rain at home).
And then we continued on - late into the night - our target Fallon, NV. Gas stops were our only break - neither of us hungry after a big lunch. At 11:45pm - exactly 17 hours after we'd left - we pulled into Fallon, looking for a place to unfold the tent and grab some shut-eye before continuing on.
At the south end of town, the Fairgrounds seemed like as good a place as any. We had the entire place to ourselves, and had the tent setup in no time. It was cold, and as we climbed under the covers to get warm we hoped that the night would be dry - with a plan to leave at 6:00am the next morning; we weren't going to have time to dry off the tent.
We were asleep by midnight.