Ramble On

Monday, October 17, 2011

Death Valley Intro

As a person who was born and raised on the east coast, and who has lived there pretty much all of my life, with the exception of a couple of years of school in Monterey and Los Angeles – and my enlistment, which was spent in Berlin, I’ve always been fascinated by North America’s western land and seascapes. So with found time on my hands in Las Vegas last week, I sought out a suitable daytrip.

Mind you, this time I wasn’t looking for anything as dramatic as the helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon, which I did in 2009 – there are posts under the “Las Vegas” label below. But I did hope to check the box on yet another national park. Preliminary research told me that Death Valley was a two hour drive away, so I rented a car (on Priceline) and took the daytrip up.

I’d seen all the pictures of the desert emptiness. Most of the photos I had seen were focused on the Badwater salt flats, definitely a highlight as the lowest point in North America. But I wasn’t prepared for so much else that you can see in this park.

The NPS brochure that you receive after paying your visitor fees summarizes the contrasts that you can experience here:

“Great extremes haunt this hottest, driest, lowest national park. Extremes in temperature and elevation create scenic vistas and ecological niches that host startling biological diversity. This desert supports nearly 1,000 native plant species and harbors fish, snails, and other aquatic animals found nowhere else….The colorful and rugged terrain shouts tales of cataclysmic forces that thrust rock layers upward and of opposing erosional forces battling to tear them down….”

With that in mind, I have a series of five posts that I’ll put up about this visit this week, accompanied by some photos from my drive along Badwater Road in the park. I picked up a copy of Best Easy Day Hikes: Death Valley National Park at the visitor center to use as a guide (Amazon link below, for convenience), and picked out some accessible spots that I could easily reach (and survive!).

The photos above were taken from a view point called Zabriskie Point, which I drove right past on the way into the park via Furnace Creek Wash – there were three tour busses there and I wasn’t having any part of that. Once I got into the park and paid my entry fee at the visitor center, I decided to go back for a look (the tour busses had followed me to the visitor center, it turned out). It was a great intro to the landscape…and it turns out that one of the day hikes I took later on runs through a canyon in the field of view there.

Since the three photos form something of a panorama, I decided to string them together in that format, given that a BlogSpot blog isn’t the best format for that kind of photography.

More from Death Valley to follow – here’s the Amazon link to the Best Easy Day Hikes book.

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