We came to Death Valley to volunteer for the National Park Service because seeing Death Valley was on my husband’s bucket list.
You may not know the story about how we scheduled this assignment well in advance back in the summer of 2016 but, perhaps because we were scheduling a year in advance, the volunteer coordinator confirmed us for 2016… well that wasn’t going to work because we were scheduled for Okefenokee at that time! Back to the application process start line we went, but we couldn’t even apply again until April of 2017. We really didn’t know how this was going to turn out for us and we felt anxious about possibly not getting accepted a second time.
We feel so blessed that everything worked out fine and we have been here since early October. As I walked along this morning, I asked myself why we should continue to volunteer and the answer came quickly. It’s not a simple answer, so bear with me here. The first answer is that it keeps our minds and bodies active, and that’s perhaps most important. We also use these experiences as a means to exploring our country’s awesome wonders. Sharing what we learn with others… telling people about things to do and places to go based on our personal experience is so rewarding. Working with the Rangers here has also been a rewarding experience and thanks to them we are learning about this massive place little-by-little, day-by-day. And that takes me to another reason to volunteer, which is that three months in one place is a great way to fully get to know a place, especially one the size of Death Valley!
Death Valley has the distinction of being the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. Summer temperatures here routinely reach 120 degrees, annual rainfall measures less than 2 inches, and Furnace Creek Campground sits at 192 feet below sea level. Thankfully, we are enjoying cooler fall weather and the work in the campground is not exhausting even though it’s twice the size of the North Rim Campground at the Grand Canyon.
We walk at least five miles a day on the three days a week that we work. In the simplest terms, our job includes doing a vacancy report, a compliance check and a generator check in addition to litter pick up and fire pit ash removal. The campground is pretty evenly split between tent and RV sites although there aren’t many sites with utility hookups. We are happy to be camp hosts here in the Furnace Creek Campground compared with Sunset or Texas Springs because, of the three, this one has the most amenities. These campgrounds are in a central location within the park, but oddly enough there is a privately owned resort and campground within park boundaries and the nearby public laundry and post office are operated by resort staff. We have enjoyed a few rounds of golf on the course here, too.
While it’s nice to have these amenities close by, we really like seeing the park. We’ve been to Zabriskie Point, Dante’s Peak, Harmony Borax Works, Ubehebe Crater, Badwater Salt Flat, Echo Canyon/Inyo Mine, Eureka Sand Dunes, Salt Creek Trail, Natural Bridge Trail, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and the 20 Mule Team Drive. We spent a couple of days in Beatty, Nevada where we shopped in a candy store and visited the nearby ghost town of Rhyolite complete with a house made from glass bottles. We briefly visited the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and we stumbled across the Manzanar Historic Site, which requires another visit so that we can fully explore the museum, buildings and gardens. And believe it or not, there is more to see and do! We had a private tour of the park history museum and this week we will have a private tour of Scotty’s Castle, which is currently closed and being renovated due to a devastating flash flood. Can you tell that we stay busy, both in mind and body?
I have to say that no matter how busy we keep ourselves, for me, this Christmas season has brought a feeling of being homesick and missing loved ones. It happens from time-to-time and always strikes quickly. I’m thankful to have loving support and patience from Ken and Cori who keep reminding me that all is good. And Kimberly is sacrificing spending Christmas with Alan this year so that he can come here and spend a week with us. I’m especially happy that Alan will be here and we have saved some very special sightseeing/things to do for his visit! We have the Christmas tree up, a lighted wreath on the door, and Alan’s stocking is hung from the mantle. I’ve also been planning a Christmas menu and a week’s worth of treats! Ah, I’m feeling better already now that I’ve told you all this 😉
In closing, Ken and I want to thank you for following our blog this last year and we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Dorothy and Ken