First Time to Death Valley

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Posted by NoKarma4U on October 18, 2002 at 14:16:49:

No... I'm not announcing that I'm about to go on my first trip to Death Valley! I was wondering (from anyone, but especially the board regulars) when was the first time you visited Death Valley? What are your memories and impressions of your first visit?

For me, I was 5-years old and my grandparents took me out to DV for the 49er encampment. They had just purchased a brand new Air Stream trailer and were life-members of the 49ers. We stayed in Sunset campground.

The things I remember (impressions mostly) were the wide view and the deep, clear blue sky -- I could see forever as far as I was concerned. I was captivated by the basalt formation on the eastern flanks of the Panamints (directly across from Furnace Creek) that is sometimes called the "Sleeping Dinosaur". I was even more captivated by it (maybe even afraid) after I found out that it WAS sometimes called the "Sleeping Dinosaur". The smell of the air in Death Valley was (is?) completely unique too. I remember the fiddler's contest, the burrow races, and the hot water of Furnace Creek as it ran across the alluvial fan on its way from the Inn to the Ranch. I most distinctly remember the diarama of the Manly party in the Visitors Center and the looping tape of the narrator saying "...the boys have come!..." over and over as we'd make our way slowly through the museum.

By the time I was in the middle grades of elementary school, we were visiting DV 2 or 3 times a year -- these were always the best days of the year. Sometimes in the fall, the Santa Ana winds would blow into Orange County from the east, bringing the distinct aroma of Death Valley with it. It would always make my longing to return almost unbearable and I would count the days to our next DV trip with more genuine eagerness than I counted the days to Christmas.

In the thirty-some-odd years since, maybe I don't smell as good ... er, I mean maybe I can't smell that Death Valley air as well as I once used to. And I'm not as frightened of that sleeping dinosaur as I once was. And I've grown to explore and love far more vast expanses of Death Valley's land than I once new existed. But the pull and allure of returning to DV each year is still just as stong as it ever was.

What are your memories or first impressions of Death Valley ... especially those of you who first experienced DV as a child?

Huntington Beach, CA

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