Monday, November 21, 2011

Death Valley/Mojave National Preserve

Yosemite left me cold, but only literally. I couldn't wait to get over the mountains to the desert. Unfortunately, many of the nearby mountain roads were closed for the season, so I had a long drive north to find an open pass, which spit me out in western Nevada. It did provide a beautiful opportunity to listen to "No Flashlight" under a full moon while I crossed the range. I spent the night roadside camping in a truly empty national forest, sleeping in the car to keep out the cold.

The next morning, I stopped by Mono Lake, a weird alkaline lake with mineral rock formations rising from the depths. It still wasn't low elevation enough to be warm, so I didn't stay long.

This guard rail collects bumper stickers. Mono Lake in the background.

Tufa formations that used to be in the water before civil projects drained it by several feet.

And finally--Death Valley! And it was raining and in the 50s. No matter--the weather warmed and cleared while I was there, and I took a truly staggering number of photos; so many that I'll try to keep the word stuff to a minimum. I've heard a few of you guys don't read the words anyway *cough*Sarah*cough*.

I always imagined Death Valley to be a giant expanse of nothing. Don't get me wrong, there was a whole lot of nothing there. And don't get me double wrong--there's something appealing about giant expanses of nothing. But there was so much else--sand dunes, rock formations, slot canyons. It was easy to go crazy with the photos in the clear desert air.
Dawn over the desert. It rained off and on that first day.
You're a captive audience--only a couple gas stations over many hundreds of miles. Jerks.

First set: Eureka dunes, reached by a tooth-jarring dirt road.

The foot path winds across each of the crests on its way to the tallest dune.

After descending the steep side of a dune.
Free color blindness test with canyon hike!!
Fall Canyon

Weird Seussian plants

An eroding volcanic crater. You could hike to the bottom.

Spot the people about 3/4 of the way up the trail from the rim to the bottom

Pale desert holly, complete with berries.

Sun setting over strangely eroded mountains outside the crater

A smaller side crater.

Second set from the Panamint Dunes, which were about a 2-hour hike across desert scrub. These dunes were deserted and pristine.

I took a lot of photos of dunes.

A common dune resident

Many desert National Parks have a habit of taking the trash people leave in the desert and calling it "Historial Sites."
This guy showed up just after dark as I was making dinner. He's cute, but he left a turd on my picnic table.

The edges of the salt flats, the lowest point in the western hemisphere.

Note the people on the edges of the salt. You can also spot the parking area along the bottom of the mountains.

Sunrise on the salt flats.


Telescope peak, at 11,000 ft.

The borders make these cool toothy-fish cracks.

The wetter spots have a fleecy texture.

Artists' drive, where you can view mineral-rich rocks with unbelievable colors.

Mosaic Canyon
So named.
Cave at the entrance to Willow Canyon. It looked like there were frequently used trails going to the entrance. But there were also a lot of huge bones scattered around. I don't think people are the ones making the trails. I didn't stay there long.

At the entrance to a slot canyon off Sidewinder Canyon

SURPRISE BIG SPIDER! According to the park guide, only male tarantulas are usually spotted walking about, and only during autumn mating season. I saw several. They are fuzzy.
Phew--you made it! I still have more photos to post from the past few adventures, these from the Mojave reserve. I'll wait for a later update.


  1. Such gorgeous photos, Kate! Your Yos-eh-myte post made me remember that I really lucked out on my week-long walkabout there in October 2009. I'd prepared to camp at Mono Lake the first night while I waited for the first snowfall of the season to melt,only to have them open Tioga Pass ahead of schedule. I then lucked out again with moderate temperatures most nights. I'd love to share the pics with you sometime. Really enjoying following the blog!

  2. Yay for death! Valley. Chuckled at "free color blindness test".