Wednesday, July 1, 2015

road trip day twenty two: death valley national park and las vegas

driving toward death valley
After a quick hotel breakfast we were back on the road through the mountains of California.  We drove through a really nasty storm just outside of Death Valley.

owens lake bed
Owens Lake used to be 25-50 feet deep and was an important feeding and resting stop for waterfowl each year.  However, when the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built in 1913, it effectively devastated the ecosystem of Owens Lake and left a dry lake bed in place of a beautiful blue lake. 

lake bed and sand dunes
Owens Lake and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

coyote and visitors center
We saw a coyote as we were driving into Death Valley National Park (near Panamint Springs).  We were surprised at how docile it seemed as it cautiously approached the car though we left before it crossed the road.  We talked to the Park Ranger about our experience and he said that the coyotes in the park are so used to getting food from visitors that they will often approach cars looking for a handout- unfortunately, all too often they get hit by cars and it has started to impact their numbers within the park.  The kids all drew a picture of the wildlife they saw in the park and hung it on a bulletin board in the Visitors Center- the "ciote" was definitely the highlight.  The five Albaeck kiddos excited to be in Death Valley NP!

death valley beauty
None of us had ever been to Death Valley before and we were all completely in awe of the views.  Manly Beacon, the spire towering over the badlands, is a beautiful contrast to the cliffs of the Red Cathedral and the surrounding mud hills.

kids in the sun
As was typical on our trip, the sun always seemed to be in the kids' eyes but we managed to still get a few pictures!

zabriskie point
We hiked up a short trail for views of Zabriskie Point.  This area, like much of Death Valley, is the result of earthquakes and water from millions of years ago working together to create an almost unreal landscape.  The area was once level but seismic activity folded the valley floor allowing powerful rainstorms to travel through the gullies, eroding the rocks into the beautiful landscapes you see today.

leaving death valley
We didn't get a picture entering the park but made sure to stop for one on our way out.  Death Valley National Park was a surprisingly beautiful stop and one we would all like to spend more time exploring.

We left the desert beauty of Death Valley and made our way to the (fake) beauty of the Las Vegas Strip.  We each (well, the adults) gambled ten dollars and then had a DELICIOUS dinner at Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and Bar and spent some time walking the strip.  We stopped at Liquid Sugr outside of the Paris for a pina colada and a virgin strawberry daiquiri for the kids!

lights on the strip
Lights on the Strip.

bellagio fountains
The kids really enjoyed the Bellagio Fountains.  I kind of expected them to think it was boring after seeing "World of Color" the week before but they were impressed.  After walking around for about an hour in the crowds and chaos, we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep after a long day.

Miles Driven Day Twenty Two: 284
Total Trip Miles: 3825

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