Friday, September 27, 2013

Death Valley National Park

Today we visited Death Valley, our third National Park in four days and the largest US national park outside of Alaska. Okay, so Death Valley always conjures up the vision of flat, lifeless desert that’s extremely hot and goes on forever. NOT! Well, there are large flat areas that are incredibly hot – the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere on earth was recorded in Death Valley: 134 degrees on July 10, 1913 at Greenland Ranch (now Furnace Creek), elevation 190 feet below sea level. But there is also at least one mountain peak in Death Valley National Park reaching over 11,000 feet.

 We began our visit by stopping at Dante’s View, a mountaintop overlook that offers a view of much of the valley below. At 5,475 feet, it was windy and cool enough that we needed jackets to be comfortable. The viewpoint is located right above Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the park – and in the western hemisphere – at 282 feet below sea level. Across the valley from Badwater Basin is Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet. Dante’s View offers a 360-degree panorama of the park.

A Look at Badwater Basin

Panorama of Badwater Basin

As we drove down from Dante's Peak, I took a few pictures of the scenery.  We never expected the desert to be this colorful.

From there, we drove down to Badwater Basin where three buses of tourists were wandering out the walkway to the actual low point in the basin. We decided not to take the time to make the quarter-mile trek and instead satisfied ourselves with pictures of the area. On the cliff that overlooks the basin, there is a sign marking Sea Level and it’s surprising how far up the cliff the marker is.

They are walking out so they can say they stood on the lowest ground in the Western Hemisphere, but since it was getting toward 90 degrees and the sun was bright, we didn't head out there.

Us at Badwater Basin

Just how hot can it get!

There is a Sea Level sign on the mountainside but they made it so small that it is really hard to find.  It is really up there too - about 2/3rd of the way up the mountain! The above picture was really zoomed in.

That's a bus in the parking lot at the bottom of the above picture.  The Sea Level Sign is above it - way above it.  Look at the upper portion of the picture.  It is two-thirds of the way up and a little above a dark spot on the left side of the picture.  They could have made this a bit easier!

After Badwater Basin we retraced our steps toward the highway but drove the Artist’s Loop on the way. This is a nine-mile one-way loop through some very colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. The side trip to Artist’s Palette was particularly colorful and photogenic. Because of the twists and turns and two deep dips in the narrow road, it took nearly three-quarters of an hour to drive the nine miles.
"Coyote Pete"

Right after we turned onto the Artist Loop Road, we met this guy.  We think he wanted to cross the street but he had too many vehicles starring at him and he was still standing there waiting to cross when we went on up the road.

Next we went to Furnace Creek Visitor Center where we viewed exhibits and videos documenting the park. As usual, we also stamped our National Parks Passport to document our visit. Then it was off to lunch at a cafe at Furnace Creek Resort, just a block or two from the Visitor Center.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center

We picked a great day to visit.  It is a cool day for this area.
 After all it is a dry heat!

Inside the Visitor Center

We watched a video in the Visitor Center about their endangered species which is called a pup-fish.  They go to a lot of trouble to keep these guys alive and I think they have about 100 of them now.

There are a lot of buildings around the Visitor Center.  It is kind of a little oasis in the desert.

The Post Office

Inside the Cafe Where We had some Hamburgers
We both enjoyed a burger (overpriced but that’s to be expected where there is no competition) and shared coleslaw and fries.  They did, however, give us a couple glasses of ice to take with us so we could cool down our iced tea.

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