Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Death Valley Adventure - Day 1 - Arriving

[Composed 11/21/2023]

Our Death Valley adventure has begun! We started the day in luxury by visiting the American Airlines club lounge at DCA (thanks Mom & Dad for the generous gift of access!). After pastries and tea, we boarded our plane and headed West. The flight was uneventful, minus the spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.

We landed in Vegas, but before we could lose any money at the casino, we were on our way out of town. On our way out, we hit up Tacotarian, a vegan taco place. Oh-my, the food was fantastic.

The two hour drive from Vegas to the Inn at Death Valley was punctuated by stunning views. I've got countless photos of the landscape with blurry trees in the foreground, as I tried to capture the surroundings while we sped along. As we approached the park we stopped so I could take some proper landscape photos. After photographing the scene, I took a closer look at the plants and rocks where I was standing. I flipped over one bland looking rock and found this guy:

Not sure what I was looking at, I I asked the kind people at /r/whatisthisrock. Here's the answer I was given:

Looks like you have a sedimentary rock with some marine fossils. I'm pretty sure that round, white spot at the bottom is a crinoid fossil and many of these look like infilled burrows which would be trace fossils.

Back in the Proterozoic Death Valley was covered by ocean!

It's one thing to read about how the desert I was standing in, millions of years ago, used to be an ocean. It's an altogether different thing to be holding proof of this in my hands. This may be Geology 101 stuff, but in that moment was I was Indiana Jones making an epic discovery.

Arriving at the Inn at Death Valley, we were initially impressed by the grounds. However, as we approached the building that housed our hotel room, we were struck by how shabby the place was. The dim, rundown hallway gave off 2 star hotel vibes (even though we were paying 3+ star prices). Fortunately, the room itself was OK. Small and basic, but better than the hallway outside suggested.

Readers of my blog know that my superpower is finding the bright side of things. No matter the situation, I'm usually able to tease something positive from it. Well, my optimism met its match at dinner tonight. Hoping for the best, we got dinner at the all you can eat buffet. Good lord the food was bad. I mean, how do you mess up french fries? On top of it all, the buffet was $35 per person. About all I can say is that for $70, we did in fact, stave off hunger.

So here's my pro tip for visitors to the Death Valley Inn: don't depend on the restaurants. Once you get to the Death Valley area there are no grocery stores. This is only a problem if you don't plan ahead. So plan ahead. Fortunately, we arrived hauled along plenty of food. I'd also recommend an immersion boiler to make hot water. With hot water, you can "cook" backpacking style meals in your room; something doesn't seem possible at first because there's no microwave.

Oh look, I learned a lesson from this experience. That's handy. I guess I am glad that we had this awful restaurant experience. See, there was a bright side after all!

OK, enough kvetching. We're going to get some rest, we've got Death Valley to explore tomorrow!

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