We drove through Death Valley - yes, it was very hot but not as hot as it could have been! Parts of it are below sea level (we registered less than -100 ft on our GPS), and there is a steep descent into and out of the area. It is very stark scenery, with some interesting striated rocky mountains. We ate lunch at Stovepipe Wells. We emerged at Lone Pine and drove up behind the east side of the Sierras, stopped in Bishop at a great bread bakery, and ended up at a Forest Service campground on June Lake called "Oh Ridge!" It was stunningly beautiful!
The night was windy and there was a high wind warning for after 10:00AM with ridge gusts up to 100 mph - so we got up very early and headed north out of the area to avoid that, as well as to get to Yosemite at a reasonable hour - a good idea since it was a very long drive on some mountainous roads. The campground we reserved at Hogsdon Meadow in Yosemite was OK, but not great, not level, and 25 miles from the valley - good for the night at least.