Death Valley, CA: a domestic desert escape

cracked salt flats with cloudy skies

sand dues and clouds

The desert is quite simply astonishing. Desolate and silent, this landscape is teeming with mystery and profundity. Both terrifying and enthralling, the desert is one of the few places to which we are inexplicably and unrelentingly drawn and, as a result, Death Valley, California, roughly 150 miles west of Las Vegas, is one of our most frequented travel destinations.

Adding to its impressiveness, Death Valley boasts a number of jaw dropping claims to fame: it's home to the largest national park in the U.S., the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, and it holds the record for the highest ambient air temperature every recorded at the surface of the earth—an inconceivable 134.1ºF. Don't let this scare you; our experiences in the desert have been far more hospitable (in fact, it has rained on every trip we've ever taken to Death Valley which we are pretty sure is a record and, if not, is at least a statistical anomaly!). If you don't trust us that this domestic desert is worth a trip, consider that Native Americans have inhabited the land for over 1,000 years so there must be something alluring about this arid landscape!

night sky over desert

hikers in canyon

Let us talk about the magic we experienced in this under-appreciated holy place. Arguably the most transformative moment for us was an entirely unplanned and unexpected encounter with total silence. After driving deep into the park, we pulled over and walked out onto the salt flats to explore. A few steps away from the car we discovered that there was absolutely no discernible sound. There were no rustling plants, no breeze rushing past our ears, no scurrying wildlife, and certainly no city noise. It was so powerful it was spine-tingling, even a bit eerie. We walked further apart and held our collective breath to deepen the silence. It remains, to this day, one of our most life changing moments. If you've never experienced true silence, especially when you're entirely unprepared to do so, it's difficult to fully comprehend the significance but trust us, it's overwhelming, unquestionably inspiring, and almost spiritual.