Rocks, Sand, Salt and Sun

Death Valley National Park Sept 9-10, 2010
We have not yet tired of the beauty of this magnificent landscape. The stark changes as we drove south from Sequioa, over the farms and ranches of the southern edge of the Sierras and into and then across the flat Owens Valley, was breathtaking. The deep green of the pine forest of the Sierras soon gave way to a stark land with little apparent vegetation cover. The flatness of the Owen Valley gave way to another mountain range. Barren rock faces occasionally punctuated by strange shaped small Yucca trees, we had seen previously at Joshua Tree NP. From Owens Valley we turned east to drive into Death Valley. I had expected Death Valley to be a sandy desert. And in a way it is, but the desert is salt encrusted in large part with only low growing salt tolerant vegetation surviving. We were pleased to be finally out of ‘bear country’ but were greeted by a sign warning not walk around without shoes as there are rattle snakes, tarantulas and scorpion about particularly at night. We camped in the open under the stars and realised that we missed the ‘protection, of the canopy of the spruce trees. The air was dry and warm and surrounding mountains were dark shadows against the canopy of stars which covered the inky blue sky. And it was quite.
The next day temperatures reached the high 30’s and we drove through the park visiting Devils Corn stacks, Dantes Peak, Furnace Creek, Devils Golf Course and Badwater. I had previously heard of the Badwater Ultramarathon and was surprised to learn that it is an enormous salt flat located at around 90m below sea level. A shimmering haze hung over the surface of the valley and we pondered what the early emigrants trying to reach the Californian gold fields in 1849, made of this landscape. The prospect of crossing one huge mountain range only to be confronted by the vast open barrenness of the salt flat valleys before another mountain range loomed must have been soul destroying.