Day 3: Mesquite Springs campground to Furnace Creek Inn
Location: Death Valley National Park
Points of Interest: Mesquite Springs campground, Mesquite Sand Dunes
Campground: Mesquite Springs Campground, $12/night, first come first serve
Hike: Mesquite Sand Dunes to highest dune (about 1 mile, one way)
Lodging: Furnace Creek Inn
When I told our friends we were heading to Death Valley for Christmas break, I got some “What?s”, a couple of “Really?s” and a “Whoa, hope you come back,” even my own husband was a little apprehensive. I think the word “death” is not conducive to holiday travel thinking – understandable. So, waking up on Christmas Eve day on a gorgeous clear morning, I was so glad that we went ahead with this trip – at this exact time of year.
When sunset is at 4:30 pm, your internal clock shifts and you end up going to bed early. That also means you get up early and get to see sunrises (not a common occurence in my family)!
The winds from the night before had died down, but there was a crispness in the air. Mesquite Springs campground is cold in December. We spent some time in the van warming up and eating breakfast as we looked out the window. I think everyone else in the campground had the same idea because there wasn’t much activity until later. Except for the campers who pitched their tent in a more remote area of the campground, and drove their car to the restroom everytime (restrooms were very clean by the way). I know they had to “use the facilities” at least a few times because they passed us each time. Hey, anyone who tent camped that night gets my respect and can drive to the restroom however many times they wanted.
Now, this campground was a place to hang out in. Maybe it’s different in December when no one was around, but we loved this place and definitely agreed to take time to explore and hike around the area. We climbed up one of the valleys across the wash to see what was up there. At the top, the terrain was rock-strewn flatland for miles and miles, framed by beautiful mountains in the distance. We got a great view of the campground also.
We filled our water tank at their fill station (flush toilets and drinking water fill station for only $12/night) and headed south again towards the Mesquite sand dunes. Mesquite sand dunes was a very popular place, we were lucky to have found a parking spot. There is no formal hike, so most people were hanging out in the first quarter of a mile. If you walk out far enough, you will get away from the crowds. We weren’t planning on going too far, but one of us would point out the next cool sand dune in front of us, and we kept absent-mindedly going forward.
My daughter had read that the tallest sand dune was about 1/2 a mile away, but if you count all the up and down distances of the dunes then the distance is more like 1 mile. My hubby pointed to a sand dune up ahead and declared, “that’s as far as I’m going.” We got to that sand dune and as he was videotaping my daughter sliding down the side of the dune, I snuck off to the next dune and proceeded to wave at him and my daughter. They stared at me for awhile, but surely enough they started coming towards me. At that point I walked to the next one, then waved at them again. We continued this exchange… all the way to the tallest sand dune! When they got a look at the amazing 360° view and felt that sense of accomplishment, they couldn’t help but have huge smiles on their faces! …Until it dawned on us that we had to walk back the same way to return to the parking lot. Thankfully, the return trip was much faster because we distracted ourselves arguing about who was going to be first taking a shower when we checked into Furnace Creek Inn (our campervan doesn’t have a shower). Why do the youngest always get to go first? What about respecting the elders? Who carried a certain someone for 9 months and went through the pain of labor for them? Second in line was the best I could do.
Checked into Furnace Creek Inn for Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Then we sprinted to the shower.
The Furnace Creek Inn pool is kept at around 80°F year-round. There’s also a sauna to get warm and dry in before you head back to your room. What kid could resist that? Certainly not mine. Christmas Eve in Death Valley turned out to be one that we’ll never forget.