Sunday, March 7, 2021

Death Valley National Park


I had a few things on my California bucket list when we first moved here.. The first was to see the Great Sequoia Redwood trees.  CHECK    Second was to visit Yosemite.  CHECK   Third was to visit the beach and swim in the Pacific.  CHECK  Next was visit Joshua Tree National Park.  We checked that one off right before it was sadly burned during the wildfires last year..   Not a bad start, right?

When we found out we got orders out of here, there were three things left on my list that hadn't been accomplished yet.  Hike to the Hollywood sign... Walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame.. and visit Death Valley National Park.   Two of these, I could leave California and would be okay without seeing.  However, being the National Park junkie that I am, I was NOT leaving this state without getting to Death Valley.  This weekend, I checked that one off my bucket list. 

 We were only able to spend 1 day in the park, getting there early and staying until night fall.. But it was amazing..  Luckily not too hot - the temp when we were at the basin was 86 degrees.

Our first stop was a place known as Star Wars Canyon (I believe a scene from Star Wars was filmed there and that's why it's nicknamed that).. It's actually called Rainbow Canyon.  During the week, military aircraft from our base as well as a few of the other nearby bases fly thru the canyon, but we didn't get to see any while we were there.

After leaving Star Wars Canyon, we headed into the main part of the park.  Next stop was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. One the way there, we saw a few wild burros, so of course we had to stop and take some photos (we were a good distance away).


I don't know what it is with my kids, but if there's a sand dune, they are going to roll down them. LOL  I would say I expect them to grow out of it one day, but their dad is the same way - who do you think they learned it from lol

This is also where we decided to have a picnic lunch. LOL   I had made Naan bread the night before, along with some chicken breasts and so we made chicken wraps with some trail mix and fruit for a quick pick me up.

Next stop, We headed to Furnace Creek.   This was really neat.  It's a little creek running thru the desert. My understanding is after the lake dried up and death valley became a desert, all that remained was this creek that flows thru this area.  The water has a very high saline content.  The main draw here is that there are these fish that live in the creek, called Death Valley Pup fish who were trapped when the lake dried up and have evolved to live in the high saline environment.   So of course, we had to walk out on the wooden boardwalk to see them.

After spending some time checking out the fish and enjoying the views, we made our way to Badwater Basin. This is an endorheic basin that is the lowest point in the Continental United States - the highest point in the US, Mount Whitney is only 85 miles away.

The basin is a huge salt flat that you can walk on.  In some portions of it, there were areas dug out so that people could see that directly underneath the salt flat was water and mud below the surface.  

We didn't dig ourselves (there's actually a sign that says not to dig but it seems people do it anyway) but we did walk on the salt flats.  It was a really weird experience because even under your feet, it felt hard but soft at the same time - it reminded me of Talc in a way.  Of course, everyone had to touch it (and a few members of the family even tasted it - they are crazy).

You don't really think about the fact that you are below sea level until you're walking back and you just happen to notice the sign way up on the rocks in front of you indicating where sea level is.  From far below, the sign looks so tiny, as you can see in the picture below ( the sign is the small white rectangle in the rocks).  I wonder how many people miss seeing this sign but we definitely noticed it and were amazed just how far down we actually were.

Our final stop for the day was Artist's Point. This area really allows you to see the different striation of the rocks and was super pretty.  This led to a great discussion about different minerals and metals found in rocks, such as copper and iron, and what might lead to the different colors we could see.  It also helps you to realize the vastness of the rocks when you see the people who look like ants crawling on them.

With the sun starting to sink below the horizon, it was time for us to make our way home. But not without an amazing sunset to see us off.  I wish we had more time to explore and I hope to one day go back and spend more time to see things such as the Natural Bridge, the Golden Canyon and The Devil's Golfcourse.. But I'll at least be happy to stay we went at least once and saw some pretty amazing things in the time we had. 


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