I figured it would keep things cleaner if I started a new thread for this.
Here's the scoop. I'm planning on driving down on Friday, March 21st. I'll most likely stay until Thursday or Friday of the next week (27th or 28th), but I'm still working on that part. It kind of depends on how many of my regular group goes & how long they stay. Since I have a backpacking trip the following month & a trip overseas sometime this year, I have to be really conservative with vacation days on this trip.
Since the time around Easter is the busiest time of year in Death Valley (tourists), the only problem I'll have the first night is trying to find a campsite. I've lost track of the number of times I've driven down, only to find everything completely full, which meant I had to sleep in the vehicle-usually in a parking lot. I will be camping out at the Texas Springs campground, which is very close to Furnace Creek. The lower portion of it is tents only, whereas the upper is for everything. I think it was about $18/night, but I never really pay attention to that & all the years sort of run together for me. Here's a little map for reference:
They also have sites available at the Furnace Creek campground, but only if you don't mind generators rumbling throughout the night. You can also stay at the Furnace Creek Ranch (hotel) for about $170/night, or the nicer Furnace Creek Inn for over $300/night. Room availability will probably be close to nil at either place, so if you are a hotel kind of person, Beatty, Nevada, might be the only option. Here's a photo of the pool at the Furnace Creek Inn:
Furnace Creek itself is a nice place to be at as a "home base." They have a post office, general store (way overpriced), a couple of places to eat and a gas station. This particular gas station happens to always have the most expensive gas you will find in the entire country, so fill up before you enter the National Park. What I have been doing for years, when the mood strikes, is to park near the general store and walk about 1 block to a big grassy area that has tennis courts, basketball, volleyball & a pool. I've generally had good luck sneaking into the pool to shower and swim, or I've been able to get one of the carded room keys from people I have met. In any case, you can pay a couple bucks at reception for a pool pass. They also have a nice NPS visitor's center in the area, with a small museum and theater that shows a film on DV.
The pool at Furnace Creek:
Normally, when planning a trip, cell numbers are exchanged. In this case, let me just say that won't happen. I've had maybe 5 different cell providers since I started visiting Death Valley, and not 1 of them will work there. They have a pay phone at the general store, and that is the only means of communication that actually works. A few of my friends have been able to use their cell phones down there in the past, so you may be one of the lucky few. Mine will not work, so I'm not going to bother with it.
I've been there in the winter, when I was the only one in the campground aside from the coyotes, and I've been there in the middle of summer. Pulling in at about 1am and discovering it's still 123F is a bit disconcerting, to say the least. Spring is a bit different because it can be hot, warm or cold. Who knows what it will be like this year, but just prepare for heat during the day & cold at night (both of which are still only maybes). Since they only receive less than 2" of precip annually, I wouldn't worry about getting wet. About the only weather feature that is assured is the wind. If we're lucky, it will only be breezy.
Here are a couple of park maps:
http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/u ... VAmap1.pdf
http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/u ... oads-2.pdf
There are a number of dirt roads within a very short drive from Furnace Creek. A couple of them turn into really nasty roads, so those who want to be hardcore, can. What I normally do is just drive down one of the highways and pull off on one of the many dirt roads & just drive until I see something interesting, then pull off and take a hike. I always have my camera in tow, so I'm always looking for good photo ops. The long shadows and vibrant colors close to sunset really make the place come alive, so if you have even a passing interest in photography, be sure to bring a camera.
Badwater, a fairly short drive from Furnace Creek:
Devils Golf Course, also on the way to Badwater:
The Borax Works site, just around the bend from the visitor's center:
There are many, many more places to visit within the park if you are there more than a day. Most of the places are very surreal and unlike anything you typically find elsewhere. Have a look at the park map & post any questions you have. I've been to every nook and cranny in the park, except for the Charcoal Kilns.
For those of you who are planning on coming out, please post your approx. arrival date & time. I know Carl said he wouldn't be able to make it out until the last weekend. While I won't be there, someone else might be, so let's get some feedback on this.