After stopping at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center I continued to drive south. This is when things started to get interesting. The next stop as I proceeded south along the east side of the valley was Artist’s Point. There is a one-way paved road which leads part way up into the mountains and it is said that the colors and hues change constantly as the sun rises, moves across the sky, and sets. It is a popular place for artists and photographers to gather.
One particular overlook is called “Artist’s Palette”:
I’m sure you can find some great pictures by either Googling “Death Valley Artist’s Palette” and looking at “Images” or go on the National Park Service website and go to Death Valley and look at photos there.
Before I left Artist’s Point I saw this little shrub, sitting just off the side of the road. To me it looked deader than dead:
I stopped at the Visitor Center again today and asked a Ranger and he said no, it is very much alive. It is called a Desert Holly and can apparently act like a chameleon and lighten the color of it’s leaves when it gets dry. When it gets moisture from rain it will turn green and has very waxy leaves. You’ll see other pictures of this plant in future posts.
The next stop down the road was the Devil’s Golf Course, which is off the main road going towards the center of the desert floor. It isn’t really a golf course, and unfortunately for me the access road is comprised of dirt and rock so it was a no go. According to a picture at the Visitor Center this is what the white surface out there looks like:
Those are salt crystals, oozing up from cracks in the desert floor. They are comprised mostly of sodium chloride (common, everyday table salt) but if you go out there, wear your heavy golf shoes. In some places the salt is sharp enough to cut through leather.
The next stop down the road is probably the most popular place in the Park:
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet BELOW sea level.
People were actually walking out into the valley. At this point it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, about 2 1/2 weeks shy of the longest day of the year. The temperature….. are you ready for this….. had climbed to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature gauge in my Mazda 6 would exaggerate, but I currently drive a Nissan Altima and I have come to find that the temperature gauge in it is pretty accurate, especially when the car is moving. I can tell you – it was pretty darn hot! I also heard reports from other sources confirming that 120 was the magic number on Sunday.
I decided I had had enough fun for one day and started my journey back to Pahrump. I planned to exit the Park through the 3rd road coming in from the east but before I left I drove up to Dante’s Peak. This overlook is located at the end of a 13-mile access road and sits at 5,475 feet above sea level – more than a mile high. The view of the valley is spectacular, but the pictures I took on Sunday were looking in to the sun so they aren’t very good. I went back up there this morning (Monday) and will post those pictures tomorrow. I will tell you that when I drove up there Sunday afternoon the temperature had dropped from 120 at Badwater Basin to a crisp, refreshing 94 degrees at Dante’s Peak.
I plan to go back down to Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas, tomorrow morning to get some pictures from down there with the sun behind me. I may not go back in to Death Valley until Wednesday, when I will drive across the valley to the west side and visit all the things along the paved road over there before heading south to Barstow, California, my next stop.
After I get back from Red Rock Canyon tomorrow I will probably try to get caught up on posting pictures from today as well as more pictures from Black Canyon, Goblin Valley, Canyonlands and Zion. I have them all identified – I just need to post them!