Death Valley

Our climate took an abrupt turn from the warm days/cold nights snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains to the dry and extremely hot(90’s) Death Valley. DV has only been a National Park since 1994 but a National Monument since 1933. It’s the largest NP in the contiguous states.

It’s super desolate here, but beautiful. The Valley is situated between large mountain ranges and only gets 2″ of rain a year. And it’s hot-did I mention that? (90’s) We pulled into Death Valley in the late afternoon, and after setting everything up, we went swimming in the cool spring fed pool at the motel across the street. Our site doesn’t have electricity so we slept with the windows open(still like 70 degrees at night). The night sky is a designated world night sky, you can see millions of stars at night! We’ve even picked up a couple of constellations in the past couple months so that makes stargazing more exciting.

There’s not a ton of trails here, to be expected when it’s so unbelievably hot out(90’s!). But we stopped at a couple of points of interest including a bunch of random gigantic sand dunes that the first Star Wars was filmed at, a short hike to see a natural bridge(like a rock arch), a centuries old borax mining operation, and the devils golf course which was just a ton of crystallized salt. Like a ton!

Another exciting stop was Badwater Basin, the lowest point in America at -282′ below sea level. Pretty awesome to say we’ve visited this sight!

A beautiful side drive we took was called the Artist’s Palate drive. The drive was along the base of a mountain range, and the rock was so many different colors(think purples, blues and pinks)and shapes, like a giant had used the range for a masterpiece!

We celebrated our dog Gunner’s 10th birthday here too. Not super memorable for him I’m sure, all he really got was extra petting, the birthday song and an extra scoop of dog food. But we’re so happy that he hit another milestone birthday, we know he won’t be in our lives forever but I’m so happy he got to join us for this cross country trip. Death Valley has been an exciting stop full of memorable vistas, celebrations and experiences!(MT)

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

We’ve been at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park for the past 3 days, and we have had so much fun. Right when we arrived at our campsite within the Kings Canyon NP, I saw there was a huge snow pile behind our camper. I haven’t been able too play in any snow yet this winter, and I was so excited to build a snow fort and just play around in the snow, which I did every day in the afternoon when the temp was about 60 degrees. The snow was fun to slide down (slippery!) but I made a snow fort my brother and I could both fit in! My mom even got into it-it was a lot of fun!

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are sister Parks, you only have to pay once to get into both of them and they share the same rangers and volunteers. In Sequoia we visited the General Sherman Tree, which is the biggest tree in the world. It’s not the tallest nor the widest, but it is the biggest in volume. It is about 2,200 years old, 275′ tall and 120′ around! It’s so big that it doesn’t even fit into pictures! Pictures can’t even tell how big it is! It was in a grove with a bunch of other big sequoias, and in that grove there was a tree we walked through-that was cool. It was pretty with the snow all around as well.

Our campsite was really close to the General Grant Grove, which housed the General Grant tree which is the 4th largest tree in the world. Again, it’s hard to imagine just how big it is by just looking at pictures. I’m so happy we have seen these in person. There was another fallen sequoia here, but it was hollowed out so we could walk end to end in it. It was used 100 years ago by the cavalry that protected the Grant Grove. I could totally camp in it if it was an option!

In the afternoon, we went out of the park to the Sequoia National Forest. It was only 7 or so miles away and there dogs can be on the trails unlike in the National Parks. We hiked around Hume lake, which is one of my favorite hikes we have ever done because Gunner got to run free and I got to climb all over boulders. He was climbing logs and the boulders with me. He was such a happy dog – and that makes me and my family happy. Happy dog happy life!

My mom and I went on a moonlit hike in the park led by the Sequoia Conservancy. Our guide told us many stories about the moon, both with Native American roots and scientific roots. The sky was clear so you could see every single star in the sky, and I was able to pick out the constellation Orion. It was one I learned back in Texas at the McDonald Observatory’s star party. The moon was full and bright, but the large trees shadowed it until we were almost done. At the end of the hike, there was hot chocolate and a warm fireplace in the lodge. Our guide asked so what our favorite hikes were, and mine was the Grand Canyon with my family, grandparents and aunt and uncle, but I know I’ll remember this one with my mom for a long time now.

On Easter, my dad made us french toast with lemon curd and Mexican vanilla. We also had bacon and raspberries. It was the best Easter breakfast ever. After that we had a big Easter egg hunt that was awesome. I got a ton of eggs and a soft Kings Canyon T-shirt and a ton of candy. We played the worlds longest game of Phase 10 because we always took breaks!

I hope everyone had a happy Easter too! I’ll never forget the Easter we spent in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. (WT)

You can watch my video here: