Like most of our adventures, we had zero plans to go anywhere when we woke up Saturday morning. After sleeping in until around 11 AM, we tossed around the idea of taking the Sprinter out for a quickie advanture. Yes, that is now our term for adventures in the van, advAnture. It just makes sense. Lately, I have been spending most of my weekends working on the van build so I needed a break. It’s nowhere near done, but it has a bed now so that means it’s usable and we were itching to get it out for a maiden voyage and test run. Before we could even finish our cup of coffee, it was decided. Let’s drive to Death Valley! One of the many benefits of not having kids is the luxury of being able to drop everything and leave town. We quickly threw a few things into the van like snacks, cameras, water, Buddy Heater, and some very minimal bedding. We knew we wanted to check out a few places in Death Valley, but that was as much thought and planning that went into this trip. Leaving around 1:00 PM meant that we would be arriving at Stovepipe Wells around sunset, so bedding was a really good idea.
We left Vegas around 1:30 and headed north. The Sprinter felt right at home on the highway.
A quick stop at the Area 51 Alien Center was a good place for a photo op and to switch drivers so Anna could try out the van on the open road for once.
After driving through the lackluster town of Beatty, we headed into Death Valley. Getting the van out on the highway was a great shakedown, literally. Cargo vans don’t have any insulation or interior in the rear, so this allowed us to mark out the areas of the van that needed the most attention for sound deadening.
It was a race against the sun to get anywhere worth seeing before it got dark.
At the top of the hill, just after entering Death Valley National Park, we stopped at Hell’s Gate. There isn’t much going on here other than the great view of the valley, a small parking lot, and a bathroom. There was also a glitchy pay station for the park which was unable to process our transaction. Oh well, we tried.
Before leaving we chatted it up with a fellow adventurer, Sandra. I thought her rig was really cool and we exchanged stories for a few minutes. It’s always great running into and meeting like-minded people out on trips like these. Hopefully she reads this post and we can connect. If so…hi Sandra! Great meeting you.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
With a little daylight left, we managed to walk the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
It’s funny how many footprints were out there in the sand. Since no motorized vehicles are allowed on these dunes, the place gets covered by people walking the dunes in search of an untouched area of sand. We had walked (and ridden) much larger and smooth dunes before (Dumont and Glamis), so a long walk out to the taller dunes was not necessary.
Just as it was getting dark, we arrived at Stovepipe Wells. I was under the impression there was more to see here, but it had just what we wanted at the time and that was a place to eat and a place to camp! Stovepipe Wells Village actually has a campground, general store with gas, and a little hotel complete with a swimming pool and bar/ restaurant.
The food was great and the beer was cold. I had the Stovepipe Ale (a blonde) and Anna ordered the bartender’s own Mojito.
After dinner, we headed over to the Stovepipe Wells Campground. The pay machine at this place was also dumb and would not process our camp transaction so I guess this was a fee-free trip. We actually managed to somehow pay for a bicycle park pass which was $12 so Death Valley NPS got some of our money.
The sky was so clear we could clearly see all the star constellations and the Milky Way. Apparently, the GoPro couldn’t but I tried.
The night was super chill as we sat around the fire sipping on some beers. It was good enough just being out there and away from town, but sitting back and talking about this and that which we want to customize on the van was a lot of fun.
The next morning we woke up and hit the road early.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Passing by the dunes at this hour was a much better view than yesterday!
We got a second chance to see Devil’s Cornfield. It’s quite an interesting field of arrowweed shrubs. Some of these plants actually grow to over 9 feet tall.
Out on the open road again, we headed toward Furnace Creek.
We were at sea level and going down!
Salt Creek Trail
A small dirt road caught our eye and we pulled in to check out what ended up being the Salt Creek Trail. More than 200 feet below sea level, this stream is home to the rare Salt Creek Pupfish. The salinity of this creek makes it impotable for humans, but it is a source of life for many plants and animals.
Old Harmony Borax Works
One of the must-see historical landmarks in Death Valley is the Old Harmony Borax Works. After borax was found near Furnace Creek Ranch in 1881, it was the site which employed over 40 men who produced 3 tons of borax per day.
The wagons seem pretty simple from far away, but when you get up close you get a whole new perspective how large and impressive they are. Check out those brakes, welds, and craftsmanship!
The walls of an old building remain standing nearby. It’s hard to imagine living or working out here in the summertime back then. Talk about a rough life!
Once we got to Furnace Creek, we decided to keep on rolling. The village here has a restaurant, cafe, store, and gas station. Did you know Furnace Creek actually has residents? 24 to be exact according to the 2010 census. I can’t see any reason to live here since it holds the record for the highest recorded temperature on Earth of 134°.
Need a Jeep out in the middle of nowhere? Furnace Creek has em.
Formerly called the Furnace Creek Inn, this lush resort is undergoing renovations and is now called The Oasis at Death Valley.
Sitting at 282 feet BELOW sea level is Badwater Basin. It is the lowest point in North America.
Badwater pool is formed by a spring, but the surrounding salts make the water undrinkable. The history of Badwater name comes from when a man’s mule wouldn’t drink the water.
The dry lake at Badwater is covered in salt. Many tourists take the walk all the way out to the middle for some reason. We didn’t go that far.
I wasn’t sure why we’d keep going any farther.
Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze-thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.
Walking back to the parking area, you can see where the sea Level is way up on the hill above.
In the parking lot was this awesome rig by Sportsmobile. These guys were set up for everything!
Ashford Mill Ruins
We got back on the road and hightailed it to Pahrump for some lunch and then home to Vegas. The van got around 23 mpg and it was a great maiden voyage! It’s amazing how much you can do and see in just 24 hours. You just have to get off the couch! We can’t wait to go on some more trips once it is fully built out. If you are interested in how the build is progressing, be sure to subscribe to email notifications and check out the van build section. I also occasionally post some more pics on my Facebook and Instagram.
Here’s a map of our route.