Zion to Death Valley
This is the longest stretch of the route, so prepare for your GPS to shout discomforting things like, ‘in 245 miles turn right.’ If you take highway 15 as we did the route actually takes you through four different states! But this is also the best ‘on the road’ part of the road-trip itself. Flanked by looming canyons on each side, the roads are flat and almost totally empty, especially as you near Death Valley. Route 95 turning into 373 at the famous alien center truck stop into Death Valley was our favourite part of the route. Completely flat, infinite and carless roads that get so hot that they transform into dark grey waves of tarmac. This is, after all, the hottest point on Earth.
Things to do –
Zabriskie Point – I’d always wanted to visit after seeing the 1960’s film of the same name. I could see how an artsy cult movie would be set here. It’s strange to think that there was ever water in this desolate place in the middle of the badlands but the strange, cream-coloured crevices of Zabriskie point were formed out of a lake that dried out 5 million years ago. Pink Floyd seemed an apt soundtrack for it
Artist’s Drive and Palette – Artists palette is a scenic loop drive through the volcanic black mountains and ends in a weird, rainbow-coloured rock formation caused by the oxidation of different metals. The colours weren’t very bright when we were there but I was told that the best time to go is at sunset.
Ghost towns – We didn’t have time but on my map of Death Valley I saw a number of ghost towns that I would LOVE to go and see one day. They must be really eerie sights. If you do visit these make sure your car is in good condition and you stock up on plenty of water as these side-roads will be even more desolate!
Lone Pine – It was nightfall as we left Death Valley so we had to find a place to stay in the first town we came across – Lone Pine. We woke up to find ourselves in a lovely little Wild-West town of sheriffs, cowboys and women in bonnets. Thinking we’d stepped into a Death Valley time-warp at first, we discovered that Lone Pine was in the middle of its annual film festival that celebrates movies and TV episodes that have used the town and surrounding Arizona hills and Sierra Nevada mountains as Wild-West backdrops.
Where to Eat –
There was only one place in Death Valley as far as we saw – Furnace Creek Inn. We only had a coffee here as we had to get back on the road before nightfall but I would love to stay sometime in this somewhat eerie resort in the middle of the hottest desert in the world – and whose staff I assume make up the ‘population 20’ of Death Valley.
In Lone Pine we had the best breakfast of our trip at the tiny Alabama Hills Cafe and Bakery.