The Tepui Crew just returned from another epic Adventure to one of the wildest environments in California, Death Valley. Death Valley is known for being the lowest in elevation, hottest, and dryest location in ALL of North America. Sounded like an adventure to us! So we loaded up our 4Runner (well... maybe overloaded) and set out on the highway.
Big Pine Campground, just outside of Bishop, was the rendezvous point where we met up with the rest of our team. We caught up and swapped expedition stories while hydrating and strapping everything down. We had a long, hot and bumpy ride ahead of us... Once everything had been secured and double checked we headed out towards the Eureka Sand Dunes for our first night under the desert sky. Setting up camp was a breeze, and we were even able to get in a few rounds of horseshoes before the sun disappeared behind the looming face of the Last Chance Mountains (as it turns out, Dani and Griffin STILL excel in the horseshoe pit... much to Evan and Todd's disgruntlement). The evening was spent enjoying the cool of the night while sharing a few bottles of wine and satisfying our grumbling stomachs.
The next day was spent climbing to the highest peaks the dunes had to offer. The Eureka Dunes are the tallest in California, and among the tallest in North America... Climbing was surprisingly grueling! With every step we took, we lost 6 inches of ground. It turned into an INTENSE cardio workout! Good thing we remembered to bring lots of water... Some of us practiced Yoga along the way, others just tried to keep their balance along the steep ridges as the heavy winds whipped sand across their faces.
Reaching the top was a truly rewarding experience. We took pictures of each other with the mountains in the distance, and all of the dunes below our feet laughing about how much sand we had in our ears. Soon, we began our descent and it was SO MUCH FUN! We went bounding down the hill and with each loping step we landed softly in the sand below, making us feel like we were weightless.
After getting all the way down, we headed back to camp and got ready for a crazy 4x4 drive through the canyons on our way across the desert to the Upper Palms Hot Springs in the Saline Valley. Narrow passages provided near misses with sideview mirrors and boulders, and navigation of the terrain challenged our offroading skills, but we prevailed. The GoPro helicopter witnessed the entire journey and gave us some killer footage.
We reached our destination, greeted by beautiful Palm Trees and hot springs. The campsite was luxurious for Tepui Camping Club standards, but none of us complained about a hot outdoor shower! We spent the afternoon throwing horseshoes around and taking in the views. Dinner was a much needed Tri-Tip with mashed potatoes and salad....yum!
Sunday was our last full day there, and we made the most of it. We journeyed back into the mountains to visit some mines and "the racetrack" which has confused naturalists and scientists for years due to the unexplained phenomenon of boulders sliding in various directions on a completely flat surface. The name "Racetrack" comes from the illusion that some of the rocks are actually racing side by side.
Driving back down the hill we spotted a pretty heavy sandstorm. As we drove into our impending doom, the conditions worsened and the closer we got to camp the less we could see out our front windshield. The winds were pushing 90 mph and the sand started to get thicker and thicker. It was apparent that we were stuck in a full sandstorm with no choice but to batten down the hatches and ride out the night. Checkout this video of the intensity!!
I know I speak for all of us when I say that this trip to Death Valley was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. We can't wait for the next one!