The next 4 days of my trip were spent in Death Valley, California. What a unique and marvelous place on the planet! Even though it is a desert, it is not all dry and sterile. The lowest point is 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin, and it is surrounded by high mountain peaks, the highest of which is Telescope Peak which rises above the low point by 11,331 feet. There was snow on the mountains when I was there, and on our last day, the temperature got up to 90°.
This is a land of stark contrasts. It has sand dunes, ancient lava flows and volcanic craters, salt flats, canyons to hike through, overlooks that provide big vistas, and a surprising amount of water in the form of creeks, springs, shallow salty lakes, some waterfalls, and a few oases. At Salt Creek, we were able to observe the tiny endangered pup fish during their mating season. The Furnace Creek area, where our lodging was located, is a green oasis in the middle of Death Valley, and features a golf course and visitor’s center. We even went out stargazing one night, although the light from the full moon’s early rising blotted out some of the stars.
I had planned this trip hoping to see the blooming of the desert spring flowers, and was not disappointed. There were fields of yellow asters called Desert Gold, and a very unique globe shaped pink flower called the Desert 5 Spot. Some parts of Death Valley had numerous flowers in bloom, and other places had nothing at all. Most were tiny, so that one had to walk and look carefully to spot them. I would guess that as I am writing this, and with temperatures into the 90’s, most of those flowers have now faded and gone to seed.
Below is a small sampling of the photos I took, which numbered about 1000! Enjoy.