Loving life in Death Valley

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Daniel and I recently returned from an awesome Christmas-time trip to Death Valley National Park.

I highly recommend making a winter trek to the desert. It’s amazing! If you go, here are some recommendations:

It’s a six-hour trip from Fresno to Death Valley, so enjoy the journey. Take the time to appreciate Red Rock Canyon State Park and to stop by the quirky jerky shack in Olancha.

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Take a hike! We were wowed by Mosaic Canyon. I’m no geologist, but I’d choose to spend Christmas surrounded by rocks, instead of eating Chinese food and seeing movie, any year!

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Wander a desert ghost town. We visited Rhyolite, and checked out some weird desert art nearby.

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If you visit Scotty’s Castle (and we don’t really recommend you do) then be sure to also check out the Ubehebe Crater nearby. Amazing!

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People say Death Valley has great sunrises and sunsets. I glimpsed my favorite sunrise when I stepped out of our tent at the Texas Springs Campground.

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We visited Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the country, on Christmas morning. We had the salt flats all to ourselves.

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Then visit one of the higher spots in Death Valley – Dante’s View – for a majestic sight. Or, meditate there.

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Play a round in the Devil’s Golf Course. Or, meditate there.

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Death Valley is huge, so you’ll spend a lot of time in the car. Don’t hesitate to pull over (safely, of course) and get a good picture.

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But don’t spend all your time in the car. Sip some mate, and make plans.

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If you have a couple of days in Death Valley, check out the Amargosa Opera House. If you’re lucky, the receptionist at the decrepit hotel nearby will give you the keys to the opera house, so you can check out the theater’s murals on your own.

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Savor the local flavor! We sipped cream soda from Indian Wells Brewing Company while we ate peanut butter and prickly pear jam sandwiches.

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On the drive back, appreciate California’s splendor and diversity. You can drive through the desert, while gazing into the snow-covered Sierras.

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Sisters Make the Best Adventure Partners, and other lessons from J Tree

I was on top rope, so if I had let go of the rock, I would not have dropped an inch.

But as I held onto a slim crack in the rock with one hand, and used my other hand to frantically search among the gear hanging from my harness for the right piece of protection, I began to freak out.

“I don’t think I’m meant to do this,” I called out to Sonya, who was belaying me.

At that moment, the seriousness of what I was doing weighed down on me. It was my first (mock) trad lead, and I finally grasped the importance of placing the most bomber piece of protection in the crack in the rock: If I didn’t place a piece of gear correctly (and if I weren’t on top rope) I could crash down onto the rocks below me.

I gasped for breath. Eventually, I regained my breath and confidence, and finished the climb.

All of that may have taken just a few minutes, but it is one of the most memorable moments of our Epic Sister Adventure in Joshua Tree National Park. That moment stands out to me so strongly, I think, because it took me far beyond my comfort zone.

“Life begins when you step outside your comfort zone,” Sonya said that afternoon.

That could be the best lesson I learned during our week in Joshua Tree. Below are some other lessons I learned during our trip.

Beware the cholla! It will get you!

Natural Sisters Cafe makes the best granola bars. Ever.

Julie looks cute in photos when she climbs things. 

Vests and cacti are having a moment.

Desert weirdness is alive.

Nacho is too big to be a crag dog.

Sisters make the best adventure partners.

Next year in El Portero Chico!