By Michael Lanza
On a sunny and calm morning in the middle of May, three companions and I set out from a trailhead at just over 8,100 feet in the Panamint Range of California’s Death Valley National Park, with the temperature at 29° F—which was exactly 80 degrees colder than the temperature we’d seen when we arrived at Furnace Creek, at 190 feet below sea level, four days earlier. Less than three hours later, we stood on the 11,049-foot summit of Telescope Peak (above photo), highest point in the largest national park in the Lower 48, looking down more than 11,000 vertical feet at the bottom of Death Valley—as much relief as there is between the summit of Mount Everest and its primary base camp.
Everywhere you look, Death Valley presents you with extremes.
I spent four days in the largest U.S. national park outside of Alaska, roughly the size of Connecticut. Besides dayhiking Telescope, we backpacked for three days up and down a canyon incongruously lush with greenery, with a vibrant creek carving through it—in the hottest and driest corner of America. So not only is Death Valley a place of extremes, but it’s a place of striking contrasts, including stark beauty in an environment that’s starkly hostile to life.
I went there with three women from the outdoor industry: Rosie Mansfield, head of product development and design for Osprey Packs; Katie Hughes, lead content strategist for Big Agnes; and Elisabeth Brentano, an ambassador for both Big Agnes and Oboz Footwear. We were there to test out some new packs from Osprey, tents and sleeping bags and pads from Big Agnes, and boots from Oboz. And to explore a park that I, like many hikers, had never hit the trail in before.
Some of the gear we tested is brand new, and some will come out next spring; it was fascinating and exciting to see where these three top brands are headed in product development. I’ll post stories about our hikes and the gear we tested there later at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see all of my stories about adventures in California national parks and all of my stories about national park adventures.
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