Three Days in Death Valley
You get a lot of quizzical stares around here when you tell people you're going on vacation to Death Valley. Unless, of course, you are talking to a geologist. Active extensional tectonics, alluvial fan formation and a myriad of other geologic processes are on full display with virtually no vegetation to cover things up. But you don't have to be a geologist to be impressed with what Death Valley has to offer.
Above: Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America and a great place to let the kids stretch their legs after a long drive.
Below: recent rains have left pools of water on the flats which are typically completely dessicated.
Below: from Badwater, one has a fine view up to 11,000-foot-high Telescope Peak. This ascent is the biggest continuous rise in the lower 48 and has been dubbed (by me) the mother-of-all-climbs. I've already planned a bike/hike route to the top, but I had to put it off until next time.
Above: Devil's Golf Course. Eons of flooding, drying, clay expansion, and mineral formation have churned up a huge expanse of the floor of Death Valley. Travel by anything other than foot is impossible.
Below: Ava demonstrates the depth of some of the deeper pits.
Late afternoon sun on the walls of Golden Canyon made things a little extra golden.
The ancient alluvial fan and lake deposits that comprise Golden Canyon are surprisingly colorful. It's hard to beat the color we have in southern Utah, but the mustard, green, and pink hues found near Furnace Creek are a welcome change.
Above: interesting rock contrast at Zabriskie Point.
Below: just in time to see the sunset at Zabriskie.
Below: dendritic (branch-like) erosion pattern on display at Zabriskie Point.
I really wanted to get some good climbing miles in, but the weather was uncooperative. I planned to climb from Furnace Creek up to Dante's View (5000' in 24 miles) but the road was closed due to snow. So both mornings, I slipped in a few good shorter climbs. Above: climbing Furnace Creek Canyon.
Above: oasis in the desert - the gardens at the Furnace Creek Inn.
Above: the narrows of Mosaic Canyon.
Below: PreCambrian Marble in Mosaic Canyon.
The unearthly scenery at Death Valley makes it a common backdrop for movie making. This was a pretty rousing light-saber fight until me and Zoe interrupted the scene.
Below: very old rocks that have been stretched and squeezed like taffy.
One last bike ride through Death Valley and around Artist Drive.
Above and below: morning sunlight illuminates the Panamint Range.
Above: taking a break at Artists Palette.
Below: Mushroom Rock stands watch over the salt flats.
We stopped at the ghost town Rhyolite on the way home. Gold was discovered here just after the turn of the century. The population swelled to several thousand and many substantial buildings were constructed. The hay-day was pretty short lived though.
Like most desert boom towns, alcohol was more commonly used to quench thirst than water. So what do you do with all the beer bottles? Well, make your house of course!
Above: the center of town was this 3-story bank and office building.
Below: the old Rhyolite Train Depot. Too bad it was fenced off, I bet it's pretty nifty inside as well.