Seeking to return to our Idaho roots where we can reconnect with treasured friends and settle into a brief stationary rhythm, we begin a northerly ascent. Leaving the palm tree warmth of Southern California, we are now in search of snowy evergreens. Along our route, Death Valley National Park places an unexpected pull on my curiosity cord and we pause our progress to take a peek.
LOW ELEVATION AND EXPECTATIONS
I know nothing more than the fact that Death Valley is the reigning champion of high heat (134 degrees) and low elevation (282′ below sea level) as we descend into her depths. To be honest, my expectations are also low. I anticipate a dry, desolate, wasteland. Right out of the gate, she shocks us in a way we could never have expected.
Enough margin is built into our afternoon that when Trent asks if we should stop at the Father Crowley Vista overlook, I affirm the idea and look forward to my first view of the valley. Pulling to a stop, we hop out of the truck. The air at this upper elevation of 4,000 feet is chilly but we don’t expect to linger long. Making our way to the edge of the overlook, the wind whips at my hair as I lean over the railing and capture my first glimpse of Death Valley.
Hidden within the folds of her gown, a stark scene before me whispers memories of a world I’ve seen depicted on some outlying Star Wars galaxy. Treeless and barren she hints at harshness, while the backdrop of Rainbow Valley tells a softer side of her story. Together they paint an optimistic outlook and I find myself looking forward to getting to know this valley more intimately.
As we turn to leave, we notice fellow onlookers have taken a curiously long-term observational position with camp chairs and telescopic camera lenses. Our conversation with them uncovers unexpected information and our brief stop of scenic interest suddenly evolves into an event of excited expectation.
Our senses are on high alert as we now strain our ears for the sound of approaching jet engines. The moments pass in anxious anticipation until, in the distance, we hear the coveted roar of two F18 fighter jets approaching through Rainbow Valley. Banking into the Father Crowley Vista, the jets careen past us at eye-level, the sound of their engines and our excited squeals of delight following close behind. In the distance, they turn with grace and descend upon us again.
We watch, breathless, from the heights of the overlook as they soar below us, powerful and confident (click here to watch my short video). We are left standing awestruck by the scene that has just played out before our eyes. Voicing the question hanging in the air, “What if we had chosen not to stop?” The obvious answer suspends in silence, heavy and true: “We would have missed it all!” But instead, we were in exactly the right place at precisely the right time.
Let my walk with Christ mirror that moment. If I am following His lead, I’ll forever be in the right place at the right time.
When I sense His invitation saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” let me be quick to respond and react with obedience.
Standing on the precipice of faith, let me trust His timing when He allows circumstances to hold me in a place longer than I’d choose to wait.
And when He reveals a piece of His perfect plan, let my breathless awe reflect a humble thankfulness that I was able to be a part of it.
DEATH VALLEY TRAVEL NOTES
-We learned that the Father Crowley Vista is the only location in Death Valley where you will see jets fly low for practice. From what we have read and heard, it is not unusual for them to fly through several times a day.
-I suggest bringing a snack and camp chair and plan to just camp out for a bit. We waited about 45 min but it was worth the wait!
-If you are pulling an RV, be aware that the route into Death Valley from Hwy 395 is a steep grade with a lot of elevation changes. You will be traveling about 25 miles an hour for much of the drive. Plan to stay in low gear and take your time.
-We stayed in the Stovepipe Wells campground. The price was $14/night with no hookups and is first come, first serve. Full hookup options are available as well but there were no spots open when we arrived mid-week in February. There is a bathroom but no showers. Our 40′ RV had no problem getting into this campground–it is flat and open.
While there are many, many places to explore (Death Valley National Park is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states), we were only able to touch on a few during our short stay.
-A short drive from Stovepipe Wells Campground is Mosaic Canyon. Although this hike is rated moderate to difficult, it doesn’t have to be. I think this in and out hike is perfect for kids as the terrain is fun and the views are rewarding. Rather than going the full 4 miles we simply went in part of the way, let the kids play and then came back out.
-Also, near Stovepipe Wells are the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. If there was ever a playground that will perpetually appeal to kids of all ages, it has to be sand dunes. Our kids ran with abandon through the dunes until they were lost in a sea of sandy solitude. Click here for a quick view of the dunes.
How about you? Have you visited Death Valley National Park? If not have you ever wanted to and how does our experience align with your expectations?