Winding our way down the road from our campground, we left gravel and hit pavement, increasing speed from 10 to 25 miles per hour. The rental car began flashing a low tire pressure warning. We pulled over, rolled down the window, and heard the hissing of the front left tire. Hhmmm…nails. We were a long way from anywhere. Great.
Stovepipe Wells is another oasis a little closer to our campground, but even smaller than Furnace Creek. It also has a motel, a restaurant, a general store and a gas station…but no way to repair tires. At Furnace Creek, still no luck. Did I mention this was Sunday? The tire guy comes in between 12:00 and 5:00. Well, what do you think we should do? Go hiking.
The hiking guides imply that the boardwalk at Badwater Basin equates to the lowest point of Death Valley, but Jeff’s GPS does not agree. We parked on the side of the road, put on hats and long-sleeved shirts, took a deep breath. Looking straight across the valley, it seems that you can walk to the Panamint Mountain range in about five minutes, but it is six miles across and we were going halfway (and back again). The lowest point of Death Valley is at -282 feet and the only way to tell is by Jeff’s GPS. I couldn’t detect any elevation loss at all, just a flat walk. For all I know we started out at -281 feet.
So, about that tire…back in Furnace Creek the tire guy pronounced ours irreparable and he didn’t have one the size we needed. The rental company in Las Vegas was happy to bring a new car out to us IF we paid to have the “damaged” one towed for a ridiculous amount of money. No, they would NOT bring us a new tire, only a new car. Finally we concluded that we had to drive back to the rental company and swap cars. To make a long story even longer: at 5:00 p.m. we pointed toward Las Vegas, grabbed fast food, got to the rental place, moved all our gear over to a new car, and then at the checkout point the attendant said we had the wrong car. (Well, Carolyn said the third time is the charm.) We moved all our gear over again and drove back through Death Valley and up to our little kingdom at Thorndike Campground. Arrived at camp at 12:30 a.m.
We were crazy tired and very dirty (no water, remember?) but we only wanted to sleep. Because tomorrow we have three hikes to do!
P.S. We were all aware that today was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Although we didn’t have access to media and we didn’t talk about it much, I think we all felt the solemnity of the day. I felt gratitude at being in an American national park today.
If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. ~Lawrence J. Peter