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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Death Valley done right; no heat stroke

Although I am more a fan of desserts, than deserts I though as Death Valley National Park is a California park and therefor more or less in the neighborhood, I ought to check it out.

As I approached the park I noted there is a lot of ear popping necessary to getting there. Loads of lovely & scenic long distance shots beckoned, although as you can see below, the majesty of distant grandeur does not easily translate into good photos.  It's almost like you need a great photographer handling the equipment to capture the 3D quality of far off vistas.

Really, Death Valley could just as well been called Depth Valley.
Frankly, as I approached the desert floor, the gloom that hoovers over me when I'm in a hot climate desended on me, and I batted it off with thoughts of roadrunners and wildflowers. I ought to have mentioned wildflowers at the off; blossoms are the only reason I even considered visiting a *gasp* desert and I wasn't disappointed.

I barreled down a long descending highway and just as I was starting to note tufts of color, I spotted a gaggle of fellow wildflower enthusiasts. There were even a few birders sprinkled amidst the group.

Hurrah!  There was no vast plain filled the horizon with blossoms, but there were loads of bright flowers popped up on the rocky ground.

The prominent Golden Evening Primroses
Also called Desert Suncups
Brilliant Desert Globemallow
Mojave Aster - there was only one of these beauties
Tiny, but bright-eyed Desert Gold

Death Valley Phacelia
Desert Chicory
California Gilia that or very nearly that 
Flower with a Lacewing friend
Ought to mention, no, I am not a walking repository of desert wildflower identification. I cheat - photograph now, look up later. I took along my Audubon Deserts nature guide  and Audubon Wildflower book (Thanks Joann!).

Wildflowers weren't the only things around that begged a name placement. This little fellow landed in front of me and posed - yes, that tiny bright spot of the desert, posed for me.

Desert Checkerspot
And not to be overlooked, this little Rock Wren bounced around in my vicinity also.

a true Lord of the Desert
The wildflower volley was a nice quick intro to Death Valley. Just down the hill from wildflower alley was Stovepile Wells, where I had a room booked for two nights.  I was starving, so checked out my room, had lunch at the little Stovepipe wells restaurant, then lit out for some touring.

My first stop was the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center for my obligatory National Park stamp and cloisonne pin.

Then it was off to the Artist's Drive, a one way drive that winds through some hills that seemed to escalated in color as I drove along. Eons ago, the hills were splattered with mineral laden volcanic ash, which then weathered, creating an artist's palette of colors.

The colors start to show early on; here reds, greens and creams get a start
Bright malachite green outcroppings dot the road
Rouge in the Hills
At the Artist's Palette Vista
Next, I headed downhill, to the lowest point in the United States, the notorious Bad Water bottoms. The first thing I noticed was lots of people photographing the mountain behind us on the walkway.
Had to stare a bit before I noticed a little sign, labeled "Sea Level".  

The Sea Level sign is on the left, just below the center.

Bad Water Spreading in the lowest spot in north America
More ambitious visitors hiked miles out on Bad Water's  alkaline plain 
After sinking - below sea level - I drove up & eastward, to drive the 20 mule team scenic drive. It all looked like an Egyptian landscape to me. 

Sort of like a Sphinx, right?
Whew! It was a long, l-o-n-g day when I headed back to my snug little room in Stovepipe wells. Where I had a good night's sleep while visions of roadrunners danced in my head.

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