Death Valley National Park

It was a long and relatively straight road from Hemet to Death Valley National Park yesterday. It took longer than expected since we underestimated the distance. Nevertheless, underestimation meant that we had a leisurely morning before heading out into the Mojave desert.

These roads all look the same, and it's hard to get a sense of direction. When we turned left at this sign, we figured we were heading the right way. And, by the way, who're you calling old?

There isn't a lot to see, but as one gets closer to the national park, the landscape begins to take on the more characteristic colors of Death Valley. Here, we were passing by a dry lake bed.

The recent rains meant that there was an unusual amount of water flowing in many of the washes.

The closer we got to the park, the more interesting and unusual the rock formations.

In the image below, you can see the Dumont Dunes off in the distance. This is a favorite for those who like to ride off-road vehicles.

There was some severe flooding in Death Valley this winter.  

The national park website has some alerts posted.

Among them is the fact that Scottie's Castle is closed indefinitely.

That's okay. We've been to Scottie's Castle twice. Even knowing about the flooding, it was still dismaying when we attempted to enter the park from the south end, just north of Shohone, only to find this:

No problem. We didn't even lose any mileage by heading north to Death Valley Junction, formerly known as Amargosa. It is essentially a ghost town now, but one can see the historic Amargosa Hotel and Opera House there. It's been a few years since we've visited this area. On our last visit, resident artist Marta Becket was still staging dance and mime shows as she was doing from the late 1960s until her final show in February 2012. The Death Valley Junction Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now owned by the nonprofit established by Becket for the preservation of the property.

Finally, we were able to enter the park and choose a space in the Sunset campground, just across from Furnace Creek Ranch.

It was late in the day when we arrived, and the waning sunlight made for some beautifully lit landscapes. Once we had the trailer opened up and level (and, of course, had the catio set up), we settled into our camp chairs to watch the sliver of a setting moon.

After dinner when the skies had darkened considerably, we did some stargazing. You can't even imagine the number of stars one can see in a dark sky park such as Death Valley. Simply amazing.

Many thanks go to my friend Sher for sending me a link to this recent article from the LA Times, informing us about the wildflowers currently in bloom in the park. The recent rains have caused a lot of flooding and damage, but they've also meant a wonderful bloom. It's a rare and lucky event to be here to see it, and indeed, we did see a number of flowers in bloom on the drive in. The article gives us some good information about where to see the most flowers. We've done the Artist's Palette hike from Artist's Drive before, but that seems a good place to start anyway. Before that, however, we'll check in at the ranger station to see what they can tell us about the flowers and any other road closures we should be aware of.

I'll have more pictures of flowers to show you tomorrow. Time to break out the DSLR and my macro lens. And, did you notice? Cell service in the park! That means I can use my phone as an internet hotspot! Yahoo! We had a vague recollection of service from our last visit, but we weren't sure until we arrived here. So, off we go. More later.

8 comments from clever and witty friends:

WoolenSails said...

I noticed the gullies in the areas you were hiking and the mention of flooding causing the formations, that would be scary. I need to find a camp where I can see the stars, the last one the trees were in the way, lol. Nothing like being out in the open and seeing the stars.


barbara woods said...

i travel with you do, love your photo's

Linda M @ Pieceful Kingdom said...

Glad you are having a good time. It is beautiful out there right now. By the way, my parents' place is just off Old Woman Springs Road!

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

The stars are phenomenal when one gets away from light pollution. In college in the Florida keys, I took an Astronomy class and we went up the Keys to a very dark area where Phil set up these wild telescopes and we were able to see So Much Sky: Jupiter and Saturn and their moons, the tail of a comet (Shoemaker-Levy, iirc), amazing detail on the moon... Just incredibly gorgeous sites. The main seven stars of the Pleiades were lost in the glow of the many other satellites in that constellation which became visible once we left the city behind. Of the many classes I have taken in my long career as a student, the Astronomy trip up the Keys remains the most loved and dearest remembered class and professor.

Death Valley remains one of my favorite flower memories; we went down the last time we had these huge rains--maybe ten years ago now. It was stupendous. How cool that you have internet access too; life seems weird without it for most.

Dana Gaffney said...

Destruction and beauty, you're getting all in this trip.

Brown Family said...

It is too bad some of the roads were closed. WE still have a couple here that are closed due to Spring and Fall flooding.

It is amazing how many stars you can see in a dark sky.

quiltzyx said...

Oh my the quilts in your photos! Looking forward to seeing your wild flower shots next.

Kate said...

Beautiful scenery! I'm looking forward to your wildflower photos, those are always my favorites.