We spent two days in Death Valley National Park, the fourth on our quest to see all 47 national parks in the 48 continental United States. (Alaska and Hawaii and the other 12 parks will come on later adventures.)
Death Valley is unique in its size, geology, and age. The park is nearly 3.4 million acres (the largest park in the lower 48); it features colorful mountains, badlands, sand flats (and dunes), and the lowest point in North America (in Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level)… and the valley itself is a graben caused by fault lines; and its populated with resorts and towns (ghost and active) because it only became a national park in 1994 (though it had been a national monument since 1933); it has a history of mining, salt mining (borax), and tourism because of natural springs.
We happily (and luckily) encountered our first true spring flowers, the panamint daisies (seen above), a perennial plant that is endemic to Death Valley. (Besides loving all flowers, especially spring flowers, Ran’s mom loved daisies, so we have a special place in our hearts for them.)
We started our first day at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, which includes a store (with snacks and souvenirs), a wonderful movie, and helpful park personnel. We continued on to the Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail (picture above) and the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, finishing up along Daylight Pass Road. We did not bother with Scotty’s Castle (a historic villa turned visitor center) because it is closed until 2020 due to flood damage.)
Our second day (shown in the pictures to the left) included checking out the Ashford Mill ruins ( a former mining settlement), hiking up to Natural Bridge (carved by ancient floods), driving Artists Palette Drive (a 9-mile one-way road that offers views of colorful rock formations caused by the oxidation of different metals, including blues, yellows, greens, pinks, purples), and concluding with a hike up to Zabriskie Point (with amazing views of badlands).
Given its size, we could have spent several more days in the park, but the road was calling us to move on… and after a quick layover in Mojave, CA, to recharge and get work done, we are back on the road to Three Rivers, CA, and our next national park adventures!