Monday, May 9, 2016

Spring in Death Valley National Park (Photo post)

A few weeks ago I posted a bit of creative non-fiction from our first night in Death Valley National Park this year (at the end of March). Now I'm continuing with the next two days in the park.

In case you want the short version of the Panamint Dunes post.
After extracting ourselves and our car from the Panamint Dunes area with no major damage, we were facing the hottest part of the day, and some time to kill before the light would be good for more photos. So we decided to head to higher ground, and drove to Lee's Flats, at about 4000', where probably the second-best Joshua Tree forest in the universe grows (more on this when I get to the East Mojave).
Joshua tree forest and Telescope Peak.
Joshua Tree blossom. They are pollinated by the yucca moth.
On from Lee Flats to take care of chores (water and info at Furnace Creek; dinner along the road) and drive south to a canyon we'd read of, where we hiked again away from the roads and made our bed in a dry wash (yes, we checked weather forecasts to be 100% sure it would remain a DRY wash!). We had limited expectations of the canyon, but in the morning it began immediately to have a pay-off, starting with a lot of flowers.

Ghost Flower; looking across Death Valley to the Panamint Range on the other side.
 Morning light,  looking north past Badwater (the lowest point in the US, at 285 feet below sea level).

We soon found ourselves exploring a narrow side-canyon, a true slot canyon but not made of sandstone polished by water like the slots of Utah. This canyon was carved out of "fanglomerate," a conglomerate stone formed from ancient alluvial fans (yes, it was stone, not just dirt walls with rocks embedded).
The spouse in one of the narrower spots.
We climbed out of the slot far up the slope, and found still more flowers. This tiny plant had blossoms a half inch across or less.
 Back in the main canyon, we explored until we couldn't go any farther, and it, too, narrowed into a near-slot canyon.

Easy walking on the smooth gravel.
 Back on the road, we found the last remnants of the "superbloom" on the Valley floor.
Desert Gold sunflower with Telescope Peak more than 10,000' above.

Later in the afternoon, we went looking for flowers, and found them at higher elevations. But some had attracted wildlife that puts an end to them in a hurry.

Nope. No idea what kind of caterpillar.

Night found us camping off a dirt road below Dante's View. Death Valley allows "dispersed camping" at least one mile from paved roads, aside from a few restricted areas. We go equipped with our own table and carry plenty of water to camp where we will.

 Morning proved both windy and cold--in the low 40s where we were camped, and when we drove to Dante's View before breakfast, the windspeed was higher than the temperature.
Badwater at lower left. In the distance, you can see a cloud of dust being kicked up by the strong winds around the Mesquite Sand Dunes north of Furnace Creek.
After we found a semi-sheltered spot to cook and eat breakfast, I dropped the spouse at Zabriski Point and drove to Golden Canyon. He hiked down from above, and I explored Golden Canyon thoroughly before hiking up to the top.
Golden Canyon

Golden Canyon
 Even in the constantly-eroding badlands overlooked by Zabriski Point, some plants insist on making a home.

 An overview of the Badlands, in the low light the evening before our hike.

Next: On to the East Mojave National Preserve, and the greatest Joshua Tree forest in the universe!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

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