Wonderful Death Valley

You wouldn’t think that the words ‘wonderful’ and ‘death valley’ would go together, but they do. Carla and I passed through the National Park on our way home from Encinitas to Seattle and we are so happy that we did. For most of my life, my travels through southern Californian have led me through the Mohave Desert and I always assumed that Death Valley was just an extension…not so. True, they are both hot, but Death Valley surprised us both with its grandeur, haunting beauty, and uniqueness.

We entered the park from the east on highway 190 after passing through towns with colorful names like Pahrump. Once entering the park we immediately were surrounded by bare hills with dynamic shapes and contours. Death valley is indeed a valley, called a graben in geologial terms. When the mountains (known as horsts) on the east and west were created, the valley between them sank along the fault lines. Death Valley is the lowest place in North America at 282 feet below sea level. It also holds the record for being the hottest place on earth – reaching 134 degrees in July of 1913. The basin contains salt flats that are created as the residue of evaporating rains and in the Spring, based on winter rains, the valley can come alive with wildflowers. It is also one of the best places to view the milky way because the light pollution is at a minimum. Last but not least, it holds the distinction of being the largest national park in the country at 5,270 square miles. Carla and I are planning to return to the valley as soon as we can (in the winter) to view the stars!

This trip was only a drive through since we had to make our way back to Seattle, but we did manage to stop at several of the highlights. Here are some photos of those brief side trips.

Entering the park from the East on highway 190. Perfect day, not a cloud in the sky and temperature around 65 degrees.

Immediately on our left an interesting precursor of what was to come!

Proof that life exists in Death Valley. Remarkably there were a couple of these guys waiting to greet us. They were small compared to coyotes in the Northwest, but seemed in very good condition. They had absolutely no fear, or interest in us. Just a casual glance.

Down the road to our first stop – a place called the ‘Artist’s Palette’.

Stopped on our way to the ‘Artist’s’ Palette to capture this view of the valley basin and the western mountains bordering the park.

This is the ‘Artist’s Palette’. Notice the people exploring the area. Unfortunately the simple phone camera did not capture the true colors. The rocks in the center reflected blues and greens.

Heading down from the Artist’s Palette area. A winding road of moonscape.

Off to our next stop, ‘Badwater Basin’. Certainly one of the more lifeless views on the park. Mountains are to the southeast.

Pass the salt? A view of salt residue from the rains. It can develop into a thick crust.

Guess who enjoying the view.

Time to head home after our brief visit. One last pic of the barren landscape.

Canyon view as we left the park on the western side. Still on 190.

These camera photos do not capture the breath-taking experience of this place. The expanse is hypnotic. I can’t wait until Carla and I can return and look at the stars.

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