Death Valley III: Golden Canyon, Red Cathredral And A Park Rant


I’ll start with the downside of Death Valley for the plebeian camper such as me. Notice I didn’t mention lodging in DV because if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it. The park is oriented toward the carriage trade traveller, if not the 1% then at least the comfortable upper middle class.

If you’re in that class I understand the pool and the golf links are superb but if you’re reading this I know you’re probably a worker on vacation or a retired oldster seeing the sights on the cheap like me.

Xanterra, the private outfit NPS (National Park Service) contracts to provide services, will rent you the use of the pool for $5 a day, a good deal, and Wi-Fi access for $5 per hour, not so good.

ventifactThe campsites themselves are fairly cheap at $14-$18USD and are half price for us oldsters, and most are liberally supplied with 6-station water points, hundreds of them in the park.

But every one has as push-to-use nozzle, so you must wash dishes, hair, clothes or body parts using only one hand. Worst yet, there is not one single shower in entire baking park for campers. This is no handicap for those in motor homes or trailers but for tent campers prepare to be stinky.

Why this oversight by National Park Service since water is abundant at Furnace Creek and it would have be trivial to add shower nozzles? You have to conclude it’s social engineering. Move along smelly campers, mustn’t obstruct the golfers.

Perhaps one in a hundred of the campsites has even the thin shade provided by desert trees so even in the winter your tent will be hot – by my thermometer the outside shade temperatures were in the high 70s Fahrenheit while in my tent it was 93 degrees. I dragged my camp cot into the sparse shade and dozed during midday. The black asphalt campsites are like camping at Wal-Mart only noisier.

DSC01680There is only one general store at Furnace Creek and prices are high. Tomato-$1.50, string cheese-$1.50, small yoghurt-$2.50, head of lettuce-$2.50. There are practically no other vegetables. So bring in your own food. If you have no motor home with cooler you’ll be eating mostly canned food and beef jerky.

DSC01562NPS allows generators until 9:00 PM so you will experience little quiet in one of the most silent places on earth.

And when they are turned off you will hear giant diesel trucks and FUVs, motorcycles, buses and cars arriving night and morning so bring your earplugs.

To top it off Furnace Creek sometimes runs their own generator all night and some nights the golf course grounds crew mows the lawn all night. There is also light pollution from glaring pressure lamps but I’ve ranted enough, on to the good stuff.

goldcan4Located seven miles from Furnace Creek, Golden Canyon and Red Cathedral at the canyon’s end are incredible landforms. The hike took me about an hour and a half and is not arduous except for some minor spelunking near the end with overhanging rocks. Bring a spare battery and chip and try to go morning or evening.

My neck got sore from looking up, like in Manhattan. I didn’t visit many features in the park because of my car’s low ground clearance so you’ll be better off in with a 4WD or taller vehicle. But don’t miss Golden Canyon and Red Cathedral.






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5 thoughts on “Death Valley III: Golden Canyon, Red Cathredral And A Park Rant

    • Thanks Taunya, that trip was scary for the loneliness of the highways and the wasteland miles between, well, anything. But I got some good shots. I had to baby my small, low car. To see a lot of DV you need a jeep or dune buggy with high clearance, rugged and reliable.

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