Just before spring break a year ago, my family were preparing to hit the road in our vanagon. We hoped to end up in Death Valley, one of my favourite places in the world. Twenty years ago when we were first dating, my husband took me there for the first time and we camped beside the Eureka Dunes where I was struck silent by the moonless night sky. We wanted to show the area to our daughter for the first time. But as we were packing the van, we looked at each other and our usual enthusiasm for hitting the road seemed lacking. We were both exhausted from work stresses and the packing and food prep seemed overwhelming. For one of the first times in our lives, we scrapped our plans and found a deal to Mexico for the week. No regrets – we slept, we ate, we swam – it was the perfect getaway.
This year though? We were determined to get to the desert. We knew that there was a superbloom happening (wild flowers covering the desert floor because of an abundance of winter rain).
We took a different route than usual so we could pass through the Carizzo Plain (obviously close to where Staci captured her amazing yellows!). The further we traveled, the more lush and abundant the blooms became.
Normally a dry desert-like environment, we were so blown away by the sheer lavishness of miles upon miles of waist-high blooms that we found a quiet place to camp for the night just to take it in.
Here’s another family taking it in.
After leaving the Carizzo plains, we drove across the Central Valley as quickly as possible to get to Hwy 395 – quite possibly the most beautiful highway I’ve driven with the Sierra Nevada on one side and the foothills leading to Death Valley on the other.
I can’t include every mile of our journey, but we ended up at the Alabama Hills (not in Alabama!) at the foot of the Sierras, location to many a Hollywood western over the decades. The vistas are splendid.
We ultimately made it to the Eureka Dunes. We arrived in high winds in the afternoon so we found a place to camp and hunkered down until just before sunset when the wind calmed down and we could venture onto the dunes. Approximately 700 feet high, they rise from the desert floor between mountain ranges and make a singing noise when you walk over them and when the wind blows over the ridges. It’s one of the most unbelievable places, and the first time I was there we stood on top of the dunes at sunrise, no one else around for miles and miles, and were exhilarated by a navy jet passing by us at eye level, the sonic boom following it moments later. Apparently they do it often, because the following morning one flew right over our van, waggling its wings and giving my daughter the same incredible experience I’d had twenty years before.
She proclaimed the dunes her favourite part of this road trip, climbing them at sunset with us and again on her own at sunrise.
After multiple nights sleeping in the van, we were ready for showers and a big breakfast cooked by someone else. But no regrets – ever – for packing up and hitting the road to soak in the beauty this part of the world has to offer.