Normally, a $35 entrance fee and three hour detour isn’t your idea of enjoyment when you already have a six-hour drive to get to your evening lodgings, but that’s exactly what I was treated to at Yosemite National Park, and in this case, it was more than worth it.
If you’re going to embark on a several thousand mile journey across one of the largest nations on this planet, then stunning rock formations, incredibly tall waterfalls, and beautiful landscapes aren’t a bad way to kick things off. Yosemite has all of these things in abundance, and if you enjoy long walks, jam-packed car parks, and children shouting “Bumble Bee!” at your car*, then you’re in for a treat.
*you’ll probably need a car similar to mine to receive the full benefit of the last thing. Yes, I’m showing off, yes I’m a child, no I don’t care.
Now I’m not one for having regrets, but not staying here for more than a few short hours is definitely going to be one of them. There are dozens of options for rambling amongst the diverse wildlife, including walks so long you’ll need a tent, at least two packets of wotsits, and a serious pair of shoes. Whilst lying in a very warm tent hoping to not be eaten by bears isn’t my idea of a jolly good time, I would have parked up and had a meander for a few hours if I had more time (and could find a damn parking space).
What’s that I hear you say? You’re not interested in lush green scenery? You’d rather traverse large, open spaces of nothing but sand, rocks, and heat that will melt your private areas? Well have no fear, because just to the East of Yosemite is the rather aptly named Death Valley.
Aptly named because nothing lives here, and it’s a valley, Death Valley has been one of those curiosities I’ve always wanted to say “I’ve been there”. There’s not much to say about it, other than the scenery can get surprisingly spectacular despite the complete absence of anything living other than like-minded tourists.
Also, if you go in the summer time, it’s rather hot. According to my car’s computer screen, the temperature peaked at 115F, which for those of us living in the 21st century is a mind-melting 46C. That’s quite uncomfortably the hottest temperature I’ve ever been exposed to (not counting sitting in a sauna or telling Mrs Brown I hadn’t finished my English summer project on time), and required a careful balancing act whenever I foolishly chose to get out of my air-conditioned car to take a snap or three. Walk too slow and you’re exposed to the heat long enough that your sunglasses hurt, walk too fast, and by the time you get back to the car, you’re producing enough sweat to drown a cactus.
As you know, travelling for me (and most people) is all about new experiences, and saying “I’ve been there/done that”, and now I can say I’ve been to Furnace Creek, the appropriately-named section of Death Valley that boasts the hottest temperature ever recorded. But half a day is enough, and on the other side of the valley lies a fairly well known town that has sat completely uncontested at the top of my to-do list since my travel plans began.