After Traveling: Death Valley

After Traveling: Death Valley

I went through and selected a first edit of my photos from Death Valley and I ended with too many to pull into a post here. I was never a good editor of my own work. So I’m left keeping much less than I like but also hopefully less than would bore you. I’ll try to put some words in between.

The view from Red Cathedral in Golden Canyon

Death Valley is Timbisha Shoshone Off-Reservation Trust Land, stated right on the sign as you enter the park. I imagine it must have been an interesting place to inhabit hundreds of years ago, as enchanting as it was for me and John to explore.

I kept telling John that we were hiking through four seasons each day. One day we started, entering the park before sunrise, and scrambled up a stony canyon in the brisk morning air. We saw hardly any plants or animals for hours.

Then, we climbed punishingly tall and shifty sand dunes in enough heat to make us sticky with sweat, barely any plants but the ones there were flowering.

Then we drove a ways up a mountain to a dormant volcanic crater and had to layer up against freezing winds. We ate cold pizza from the previous night in the back of the Jeep as winds whistled through a few creosote brush.

And before we left the park, trying to beat the rain clouds, we trekked a mile down a washed out road to find the mouth of a salt-water stream, wriggling with spawned fish.

But the most incredible hike was our last at the park: Darwin Falls. Early enough, we drove the Jeep down a washed-out road to where we found the trail head. You start the hike in pure rock and sand and dust, but a few paces along the trail and you can see the ground start to darken. You realize that it’s moisture darkening the soil, and you simply follow the moisture.

Eventually, you start seeing more plants, hear more birdsong, smelling the leaves and the creek in the air. You continue on this way, following an Alice-in-Wonderland trail through a tight valley, your boots beginning to get wet in the running water. It builds and builds into a crescendo until eventually you come to an actual waterfall in what seemingly was a desert and it’s unbelievable. Then you eat, soak in it for a while, and hike back out into the desert - the impossible water fading slowly back into the rock. It was incredible how stark the contrast grew between the rocks and the greenery.

We stayed in Beatty, a tiny town just outside the park. Highly recommended: it’s much cheaper and you get to see the sunrise as you enter the park each day.

We walked through the surreal salt flats, razor-sharp crystals tearing up our boots. I ate the salt and it was indeed salty. The salt where others had walked was as fine as fake snow, but the unwalked areas would have cut right through my skin.

We hiked too many trails to show you photos from each, so I’ll just say: The views were consistently great, and I left the trail often to explore the beauty. Every sunset  struck a chord.

In Death Valley, we traveled four seasons in a day; from this, to that, to this, to that, to this, to that, to this, … ok, maybe that’s more than four seasons. And every season ended with a beautiful view.