Explore Dream Discover
We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us
Explore Dream Discover
We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us
Death Valley National Park is America's largest national park. Yes, this national park is larger than Yellowstone! In my opinion, it is also one of the best. Even though the name Death Valley does not sound that appealing, we were extremely looking forward to scorching temperatures after completing a ski season at Mammoth Mountain.
We had originally planned to stay for only two nights but we enjoyed our time here so much we ended up staying for over a week. Part of this was due to the pleasant stay we had at Stovepipe Wells campground and also because we had no idea that the park was so big and there was so much to explore.
Stovepipe Wells Campground
We chose to camp at Stovepipe Wells due to it's central location in the park and its close proximity to a lot of the park's main attractions. There are also some other added bonuses to staying at this campground that I will mention below.
Stovepipe Wells campground is open from September 15 to May 10 and bookings are taken on a first come, first served basis.
Don't be expecting any nice shady tree's at this campground, it is just bare dirt and dry out here (not fun when it is windy). But the tables are a nice touch and the fire pit comes in handy because it can be quite cool at night.
The BEST Thing About Staying Here...
The best thing about staying at Stovepipe Wells (besides the pretty mountain view) is the General Store at the entrance to the campground and the swimming pool located across the road at the Stovepipe Wells Hotel.
Stovepipe Wells General Store
The General Store definitely comes in handy when you have run out of food supplies. The store is also a gift shop so is a nice way to kill some time in air-conditioning and pick up some national park suoviners. I can't help myself from collecting mugs and keychains from National Parks I visit! But the best thing about the Stovepipe Wells General Store are the rocking chairs out the front. We spent most of our evenings here grabbing beers from inside and unwinding on the rocking chairs.
Stovepipe Wells Hotel
The Stovepipe Wells Hotel located across the road from the campground is quite literally an oasis in the desert. I say this because they have a swimming pool in front of their establishment which campers that are staying at the Stovepipe Wells campground are permitted to use for a small fee. The pool is a lifesaver! Depending on the season of your visit to Death Valley National Park, the middle of the day can most of the time be too hot for hiking or exploring, and spending the day here can be a much better option.
In addition, the hotel has a restaurant and bar with a couple of pool tables to keep you entertained.
Here is a list of some of Death Valley's attractions located close to the Stovepipe Wells campground along with the distance.
This national park is huge and parts of it are very remote, some of the places you may want to visit might require an off road vehicle.
If you are visiting from overseas and require a hire car, we recommend using Avis. You can rent a car from them in Los Angeles and drop it off in Las Vegas without the one way drop off fee (same goes for doing the drive in reverse).
Death Valley National Park is at least a four hour drive from Los Angeles and a two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas. You can see some of the park if you are driving between L.A. and Las Vegas and plan on starting your trip early morning but if you have time, try to spend a few nights here to fully appreciate the vast beauty of this remote national park.
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Discover the Oldest Living Things on Earth! Your Guide to Visiting the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
THE ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINE FOREST
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the world's oldest living tree's. Some of these gnarled and twisted tree's are over 4,700 years old making them the OLDEST LIVING THINGS on the planet! To put that in perspective, these tree's started their life out back when stone axes were still being used in Europe.
The Bristlecone Pine Forest is situated in the White Mountains of the Eastern Sierra's and the tree's grow at an altitude between 9,800 and 11,00 feet. The White Mountains themselves are pretty spectacular as they are over 14,000 feet in elevation but are not as well-known as other mountain ranges of the same height in America. There is a visitor's center at Schulman Grove which is open generally from May through to October depending on snow conditions.
If you can plan your visit in the warmer months and not in late November like us, you will have a much more pleasant experience. It can get freezing up there because of the elevation.
For some people, New Years Eve is about partying and drinking but for us this year it was all about hitting the road and having an outdoor adventure (as it had been awhile). At first we couldn't decide between Joshua Tree and Mammoth Lakes but after seeing the mass of crowds headed for Joshua our decision was made easier.
We made our way out of sprawling L.A. with no plans other then to stop as we please along the way but with hopes to get a decent snow storm before we got to Mammoth (as they had been mentioning for the past week).
Welcome to the Golden State. Whether you are a sun worshipper, an outdoor enthusiast, into exhilerating sports, a foodie or love road tripping to see quirky attractions, California has it all! From towering mountains to idyllic palm tree beaches to deserts that are perfect for finding solitude. Here is the Ultimate California Bucket List.
1. Road trip on Big Sur
The Big Sur coastline is California's biggest drawcard and people from all over the world come to drive this magnificent stretch of road where rugged mountains plunge into the wild Pacific ocean.
2. Hike to the Hollywood sign
Hollywood, where dreams are made. You can't come to the city of angels and not do this hike!
Related: How to spend 2 days in Los Angeles
3. Visit the lowest point in America at Badwater Basin
At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. This is a surreal landscape of vast salt flats which you can walk out on to.
Related: 10 Things to Do in Death Valley
A couple of weeks ago we climbed Mt Whitney. At 14,508ft, Mt Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. I had wanted to climb Whitney ever since I was seventeen when I had stumbled across Galen Rowell's 'The Art of Adventure' at a second hand bookstore all the way back in Australia, where nobody even knows what the Eastern Sierra's are. The trail itself is 21 miles (33km) with 6000ft elevation gain and is not to be taken lightly.
The historic Columbia River Highway was the first scenic highway in the United States and is designated a National Historic Landmark. The highway is about 75 miles long between Troutdale and the Dalles in Oregon and travels through the Columbia Gorge, transitioning between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in only 80 miles. The area is best known for its high concentration of waterfalls but is also a popular destination for hiking, mountain-biking, fishing, watersports and sight-seeing. The Columbia River Gorge is the perfect day trip from Portland on a hot summer's day or worth road tripping out to spend a week or two to fully explore the area.
Road tripping the Oregon coast was a spur of the moment decision. We were in Portland trying to figure out our next move - which was going to be heading straight to the Californian border then hugging the coastline from there. It was the middle of winter and we had been avoiding living out of the van (road tripping in the cold just ain't fun) and wanted to find some warmer weather asap... But we thought to ourselves, why waste the opportunity to see a beautiful coastline?
The Northern California coast is beautiful, breathtaking and rugged. Our first stop after crossing the Oregon border was Crescent City. Even though Lonely Planet says this coastal town is not worth stopping at, we ended up staying for a couple of days because it had a nice mellow vibe and felt like a safe place to stay in the van. It has all the large chain stores so we stocked up on cooking supplies and found some wifi to check emails. There is a large park by the Visitors Center that is great for picnicking or stretching your legs, which is what we did.
I was determined to find some waves but there wasn’t much swell. We found a safe place to park overnight right by the water where we could check the surf right from our bed and cook while watching the waves roll in. It was epic to say the least!
Fort Bragg is a sleepy little ex-logging town located in Mendocino County on the Northern California coast, not too far from the famous gigantic Redwood trees of Avenue of the Giants. Fort Bragg’s coastline is littered with cove after cove and headland after headland making you think that around the next point will be the perfect setup with pumping waves, but this just isn’t the case. Most of the beaches are sand bottom and seem to struggle to hold banks. However, there are a few places that hold big waves in some pretty sketchy spots. Towing-in would be more appropriate if you were wanting to tackle some of these waves.
Almost every beach in the area seemed to be completely deserted and the only ones occupying the line-up were sea lions. I surfed two spots, one was called Pudding Creek and the other Virgin Beach. There are plenty of other spots that would be surf-able with jet ski assistance. There was so much water moving at some of these breaks it was impossible to paddle out. Pudding Creek is a small cove with a little creek running out through the middle of it into the ocean. I spent most of my time paddling against the current here and it was hard going in the solid waves. I caught a few average waves and was pretty over it. The last wave I paddled into was looking good and I thought I was in for a decent barrel. I pulled in and raced as fast as I could to try and make it out but I was clipped at the end and copped a beating. As I popped up gasping for air I realized I had creased my board pretty bad so I headed in with my tail between my legs. There was never a lack of swell in Fort Bragg while I was there but it did lack decent banks and the water was on the cold side of the scale. Putting on a wetsuit and dealing with the cold water for crap waves wasn't very appealing.
Road trips are easily the best American pastime; from jaunts into the Great Smoky Mountains to the classic Route 66 family adventure, to visiting America's Best National Parks. It is with great happiness that it’s picking back up as one of the country’s favorite ways to get out of town and escape into travel mode. But unlike yesteryear, there’s plenty of apps to help get rid of the blues when driving across country, whether you’re going on a solo journey or taking the whole crew. So before you head out, make sure you’re a little download happy, and check out these picks!
Fort Point is a left hand point break which breaks under the Golden Gate bridge. To me, this spot was more of a novelty to surf but as it turns out, this spot actually gets pretty good and I was lucky enough to get some good waves here. The first two days I was there it was pretty much flat but they were predicting a big WNW swell which was what Fort Point needed to break. On the third day I was there the swell arrived but I missed the morning window due to the tide getting to high. This wave is very tide dependent and breaks best on a medium to low tide. I waited it out through the top of the tide which was around 2:30 pm. Slowly but surely as the tide started running out waves began wrapping around the point from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I waited and waited and finally threw on a wetsuit at 5:00 pm. I ran out to the top of the point and jumped off the rocks beneath the bridge. With fading day light, I managed to catch a few fun waves before it was pitch black and I had to navigate my way in and up the extremely slippery rocks.
The next morning I was back in the car park at 7:00 am. The waves were looking really fun with a low tide at 10:00am so I knew it was only going to improve. The fog was so thick I couldn’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge let alone the swells wrapping around the point. I surfed with only two other guys out for the first half hour before other surfers slowly started appearing out of the fog into the line-up.
We were slowly making our way down the PCH just south of Mendocino when we made a last minute decision to hightail it down to San Francisco because we had found out that a band we really liked was playing that night. We left the sleepy coastal towns behind and headed out to US101 making it just outside the city in around four hours. We stopped at McDonalds to use the free wifi and double-check the venue address but to our dismay I had mixed up the location and the gig was actually in Oakland. We don't know a lot about Oakland but had heard from many people it was a place best to avoid. We thought about risking it but we were most worried about the van as it is our home and our whole life in it. Devastated we found ourselves at an In 'N Out ordering ourselves a couple of double doubles. We easily could have spent another week cruising, camping and surfing down the northern California coast!
Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more