Death Valley National Park in January

Discussion in 'Let me tell you about my trip' started by ollodart, Jan 13, 2017.

  1. ollodart

    ollodart Member

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    This was the first longer pop-up camper trip we've taken since I bought the camper. Most of our camping is in the summer in Washington State, which is a camper's paradise. The winters in Washington State are dark, wet and 50 degrees from late October through Feb, so this year I wanted to find a place to camp that is like Seattle in the Summer. Quite a bit of research and I find out that Death Valley National Park is dry and 70 degrees in the middle of Winter. Their high season is Dec. thru April.

    As an FYI, Death Valley National Park is poorly named because this place is simply amazing. It's like Disneyland for Adults. Everywhere you look, you see something new and interesting. From mountains, canyons, salt flats, dunes. It's simply one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen - the pictures don't do it justice. That is saying something coming from Washington State which has tremendous natural beauty - so I highly recommend the place for mid-winter "I'm losing my mind" blues.

    In terms of taking your pop-up camper there, here are things I've learned:

    1. Furnace creek campground is the nicest campground. It has some trees for privacy (it's a real oasis). It's run by the National Park Service. There are some private campgrounds, but they didn't look nice at all. Be sure to get a reservation before travelling. Furnace creek is the only campground with reservations.

    2. The first thing I noticed when I got to the campground is the disconnect between reservations.gov where you make the reservation and how full the campground was. It was empty, other than the few full hookup sites, even though the reservation site said it was nearly full the whole week. I think if it's short notice and you don't get a site, it might be better to call instead of using the website. I think a lot of people make reservations and just don't show up. Apparently, it takes them 2 days to cancel the no-shows and I don't think it gets reflected in their website for at least a couple of days. It's a poor system for people that live far away.

    3. We came when there was a full moon. Next time I want to come when the moon is not visible. The stars are supposed to be great.

    4. In terms of facilities, the campground has water, which you have to lug and facilities. Their is a resort next door where you can swim and take showers. A big issue that you need to be aware of is batteries. They let you use a generator during the day but you have to be present at the site while it's running and it can be quite cold at night, so having the heater fan at 3.5 amps going all night is going to discharge a group 27 deep cycle 40% ... so unless you want to stare at your generator while everyone else is enjoying the park, make a 2-3 parallel battery bank so you can charge it in a couple of hours and it will last 3 days. The typical heater is going to use 15-20% of that on a cold night. We did that and didn't have any problems. The campground host was cool with us leaving our generator on unattended because I made the mistake of leaving the refrigerator on DC all night (10 amps) the first night and both batteries were fully discharged the next morning and it took the whole day to recharge them.

    5. On the trip down, we got into sub-zero temps and the winterization for the pump failed. I had to get a new water pump. We have a Shurflow and the pump housing separates from the motor easily, so next time, I'm just going to remove it completely from the pop-up and keep it with me - as it was a 20 hour trip and we needed to spend the night in -20 degree weather. It was so cold that a bottle of water turned to ice lasted 3 days. If you are travelling from Washington, do not go via Nevada, it's the Artic tundra out there. For the rest of the winterization, I use a wet-vac pump to evacuate all the water. I didn't have any problems with any of the fixtures with this method and I don't like the antifreeze because it's just a lot of extra work to clean it out.

    6. It can be quite windy here. There were 50mph gusts all day and night at one point. I ended up using clothesline with a loop on all four corners of the top. I doubled up a 50ft line for each corner and tied knots every 2 feet or so. The end I made a single loop that fit over the latch catch and in my case used rocks to secure the 4 corners. You can use stakes too. It made it a lot more stable. Being in a pop-up in wind can be pretty spooky.

    It was a great trip and I highly recommend it.
     
  2. sea-piner

    sea-piner Member

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    Thanks for this. I will be taking my family there next winter based on your recommendation and its only 7 hours of driving for me!
     
  3. NJGuy

    NJGuy Active Member

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    Nice adventure! We have done many winter camping trips in the Southwest. The high wind and canvas flapping was the worst issue. Have camped at 3 different CGs at Death Valley and one backcountry one without the PUP. I was always amazed how much visitors were in awe this NP.
     
  4. gardenbliss

    gardenbliss Well-Known Member

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    We were there last April and stayed at Furnace Creek as well. Hiking Mosaic Canyon was spectacular. Well worth the drive. Thanks for sharing your adventure.
     
  5. Kybrowns1

    Kybrowns1 New Member

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    When you have time share some pics. Thanks for sharing.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. 5cvlabrenzs

    5cvlabrenzs Member

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    We're going next month for the flowers. So I read above that Mosaic Canyon is a good hike. We're there for 4 days. Where else can you recommend?
     
  7. crackerJack

    crackerJack Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing. We took the camper out west last summer, for the first time. The wind was definitely a new experience. I love your idea of guy lines on the corners.
     
  8. ollodart

    ollodart Member

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    There are so many places to see in DV, I would start at the Visitors center next to the campground. Talk to the rangers there. There is also an interpretation center where you can see all the places. Don't be disappointed if there is not a big Bloom. It depends on the rain. You'll love it!
     
  9. bob barnes

    bob barnes Well-Known Member

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    We ran into this very same full campground thing at Grand Canyon I paid to get into the park and they had a sign saying campgrounds full I went to the campground anyway it wasn't even 10% filled. I never did understand that!
     

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