Thursday, February 10, 2011

Road Trip Day 3: Death Valley

Today is dedicated to Death Valley. Driving through darkness last night we could see the moonlit reflection of the distant hills off a body of water, so it's time to go take a look in daylight.

The water, of course, was the Badwater Basin. This is the lowers place in the continental US, at 282 feet below sea level. Even though Death Valley is known for being hot and dry, you can see that the entire thing is shaped by what precipitation it does get. And all that water eventually finds its way down to Badwater, where it evaporates. The landscape is nothing but crusty salt.

Next we drive out to a natural bridge, more sign of how water shapes this landscape. There are a few places where waterfalls pour during the rains.
Next we have the "Artist's Palette," recommended to us by our Grateful Dead listening neighbor in Joshua Tree. Different minerals shade the rocks in a variety of colors.
We make a quick stop in Sunrise Canyon, reminiscent of the the canyon scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with little canyon tributaries shooting out every which way. We follow one for some time before turing back.

Next stop is Stovepipe Wells for some food and gas. Then we stop at the nearby sand dunes to do what? Well, throw boomerangs of course.
Andy had never thrown one and had a bit of trouble due to a mis-shapen boomerang. We made a few adjustments though, and he managed to make a catch!

We drive Northward into more remote areas of Death Valley, making our campsite at the Mesquite Campground, but then wasting no time to get to our final destination, the Ubehebe crater.

We hike the trail all around the crater and the smaller craters attached to it. They were created when upwelling magma hit the water table and caused a steam-powered explosion 2,000 years ago.

By the time we finish, the sun has set. We check out the nearby Scotty's Castle and then head back to our camp site. We are at higher elevation here so it's quite a bit colder. And then the wind decided to kick up. We tried to get all the warmth we could from our fire, but eventually took refuge inside the car.

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