Death Valley Report
A different Death Valley - after all this rain...
Early spring is the best time of the year to visit Death Valley as temperatures are pleasant and you might just see some wildflowers. Due the heavy rains this winter, this trip promised some exceptional wildflower viewing, and we were in for a real treat.
We left LA late on Friday to avoid the worst of traffic and spent the night in Ridgecrest. Early the next morning, we continued on HW 178 to Stovepipe Wells and hiked through the sand dunes for a while. The heavy winter storms had totally reshaped this area and the dunes looked very different than on our past visit. Though we're aware of how wind blows sand over the area and piles and dismantles the dunes, it's fascinating to see how drastically this landscape had changed within a year!
We continued to the Furnace Creek area and stopped several times to admire the incredible display of flowers all around us. What was probably most impressive was to see the huge salty crust in the center of the valley, a remnant of an ancient lake, covered completely with water. A large section of the valley had turned into a shallow lake! Knowing that this is one of the driest, hottest spots on this planet, it was simply amazing to be standing at the shores of a good-size water body!
The Visitor Center and general store in Furnace Creek have displays with photos of the damage the unexpected flash flood caused here last August. Roads were destroyed; cars carried away and filled with debris. Some of the roads are still closed while reconstruction is under way.
We managed to score one of the last 2 available campsites in the Texas Spring Campground and hiked around the area which offers some spectacular vistas over the valley and the surrounding mountains. As we returned to our campsite, we were approached by a friendly pair from LA who had spotted our truck. We ended up spending the entire evening chatting with this friendly brother and sister and another couple who we invited to share our campsite.
Sunday morning greeted us with a gorgeously blue sky and we drove south to Badwater. This is lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level. Usually, this flat lake bed is a white plain covered in salty deposits - currently, it is also mostly covered in water. Further south, Ashford Mill has the most spectacular wildflower display this year. Undulating hills covered in desert gold make it hard to believe you're in the desert. The contrast of the exceptional bloom against the stark, dark mountains and the snowcapped Panamint Range in the background is beyond words. Here, you can even smell the scent of the flowers!
Finally, it's time to turn our Jeep