I consider myself one with the mountains - I've always ventured to the highest points I can wherever I am. Living in Missoula, I've hiked to the top of every peak (6!) that I can see from my front door, and when on a bike, I like to go out of my way to climb, although to be honest, I do it more for the downhill on the other side!
I also love trying new things, and find that attempting opposites - experiences that flip the script on my typical "climb higher" mentality - is often just as exciting and rewarding. So last year I took a trip down to the desert, joining one of Adventure Cycling's Guided Tours in Death Valley. Visiting Death Valley National Park has been on my bucket list for years, to travel in an area known for its vastness and remoteness has always been intriguing - not to mention I'd get to visit the lowest place in the US.
The Death Valley Tour was nothing short of stunning. Every day there was something new to explore, and I was able to find such great solitude from the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life. That, paired with great leaders and a fantastic group, made me wish the trip wouldn't end.
As I sit here, looking at snow falling from the sky, I like to think about my favorite days from the tour. There were so many moments (and hundreds of pictures) that bring back such warm memories.
Visiting the Rhyolite Ghost Town gave a unique historical perspective to the landscape. Seeing what is left of the buildings today, it's incredible to imagine this gold-rush town during its heyday.
A walk around the Ubehebe Crater helped give sense to the geologic activity that takes place in the valley - a crater that could be as young as 800 years old!
Cycling Artists Drive and walking a bit through Artists Palette was fantastic. We hit some varied terrain from the typical grade of the desert, and saw some amazing colors.
Taking a stroll through Golden Canyon was a rest-day highlight. At many points along the way to Zabriskie Point I felt like we were in a different place - and the trip back down to the valley was even more inspiring.
And hitting our lowest point of the trip - Badwater Basin, which sits 282 feet below sea level - and seeing Telescope Peak towering more than 11,000 feet above, helped put into perspective how vast the area we traveled was.
Riding through Death Valley has turned into one of my favorite places to tour. Each day gave me something new to see and explore, and while it may not have been at the top of a mountain, it holds a very special place in my memory.
You, too, could have your own adventure in Death Valley - Join Adventure Cycling on one of our Death Valley Guided Tours this spring.