Death Valley National Park

My wife was reading an article about Death Valley in the Travel section of the local newspaper.   She said, “Let’s go see Death Valley!”     I was not interested.   “Why?”, I asked, “There’s nothing there but heat and desolation”.

Death Valley Floor, 282' below sea level


This is how I pictured Death Valley, but without the snow capped Panamint Mountains in the background.   My perception of Death Valley was formed by two things from my childhood:  1) I learned that Death Valley was the hottest place on earth, and 2) the old TV show “Death Valley Days”, hosted by Ronald Reagan and sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax.  The image in my mind was just like Badwater Basin, above, nothing but salt flats, poor soil, desert, and no water but bad water.   But I was wrong, dead wrong (no pun intended).

Death Valley National Park is 3.4 million acres of extreme diversity of landscape, elevation, plant and animal life, geologic formations and weather.  The park is located in southeast California, just north and west of Las Vegas.  Within 100 miles there is the lowest point in North America (Badwater Basin @ 282′ below sea level) and the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney at 14,491′.

Hanging On

There are over 1,000 plant species in Death Valley National Park, some of which are found no where else in the world.  We went there in March, hoping to see the spring flowers emerge, but the previous winter had lower-than-normal snowfall, therefore limiting the number of blooming plants.   “Hanging On” reminds me of Charleston Heston’s speech at an NRA meeting where he talked about having to have his guns removed from his “cold dead hands”. 

Sand Dunes, 150' high

There are two major areas of sand dunes in the park.  The one shown above is the smaller of the two, measuring about 150′ high and an easy quarter mile hike from the road to its base.   These are in the center of the park near Stove Pipe Wells.  This photo was taken from the road with a 300 mm telephoto lens.   If you look closely, you can see footprints on the top of the dune.  During the night the wind shifts the sand and covers up the tracks, so early in the morning you find fresh “critter tracks” from the animal’s nocturnal activity all over the sand and the dunes are free of footprints.  

The other area of sand dunes is in the northern part of the park.  More remote, but I understand they are much larger than the ones shown above and breathtaking to behold.

Artist's Palette at dusk

Artist’s Palette is a wonderful place to watch the rocks change color as the sun goes down.  Its located about 6 miles south of Furnace Creek, which is the where the Visitor Center is located.

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is a well known place to watch the sunrise, or I should say the effect of the sunrise because the sun comes up behind you.  This scene is looking west.  As the sun rises behind you the color of the rocks change; e.g. the rocks in the right foreground change from light sandy color to rich tans and browns. 

Other photos from Death Valley are shown below:

Thought for the dayIf your nose runs and your feet smell, you’re build upside down.

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