Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death Valley National Park

With a plan to drive from Las Vegas to the Bay Area of California, I of course got out the map to see what we could see along the way.  How about Death Valley?  This seems like a good time of year to visit the hottest place in the US!

We started at Badwater Basin to check out the lowest place in the US.  It's a large salt flat in a wide valley, surrounded by mountain ranges:

Required selfie at 282 feet below sea level:

Lots of evidence of evaporation:

Curious bumpiness in the ground:

Tough to see in this picture, but WAY up high (over 200 feet high) there is a sign in the hill over Howie that marks "SEA LEVEL":

We stayed in a quiet campground for a couple nights so we could explore the area a little.  There is a lot to see, spread out over a lot of area, and quite a bit of variety.  We had to pick and choose to decide on a couple shorter hikes.  Looks like we found another "running destination" for future reference.  Also for future reference - winter is a great time to be here.

There are many off-trail options for hikes, especially since you can make up your own and go almost anywhere you want.  We opted for a ranger-suggested hike for the first day, up Fall Canyon for several miles.

Much of this and other Death Valley canyons reminded us very much of the Desert Winds race we did around Lake Mohave.  Good memories.

Fun wash to walk up (and run down), a nice intro to the area.

We later drove through the "Artist's Palette" area, admiring the colors in the rocks:

So much to see that we didn't expect:

The next day we set our sights on a large alluvial fan that climbs 3 miles from the valley up to the entrance of Little Bridge Canyon.  It's not often we have a chance to climb an alluvial fan, especially one bare of trees and extending such a distance.

We started some distance away at a paved pull-off so we could leave the truck and the trailer.  Taking aim at our target, we set off across the desert.  First, some curious sand dunes:

Dune Runner:

Soon we were on the rocky part.  It's a gradual climb on a rocky expanse, and the character and features changed as we went up.  Different kinds of rocks, little and large washes, sandy and hard-packed.  Very cool.

Tiny cactus - we didn't see many signs of life, so every little bit was memorable:

Looking back the way we had come:

Finally the entrance to the canyon:

More pretty colors and curious formations:

John had a great time running back down the fan:

Our vehicles, with John perched on top of the trailer, patiently waiting for me in the desert:

What an interesting and varied place - looking forward to going back sometime!

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