Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Death Valley, April 13-15
Death Valley was amazing ... humongous and hot! I drove in from the north end, taking the 75 mile Big Pine Road, 50 miles of dirt road. About 25 miles of it was bone-jarring washboard driving with several small washouts and large rocks to scrape the bottom of my car if I wasn't careful ... driving about 15 MPH on the worst of it. What an experience ... and I would do it again in a heartbeat! I arrived at my campsite at Mesquite Spring just as the sun was setting.
I spent 3 days driving and visiting the park ... barely scratching the surface. My favorite highlights include the pup fish at Salt Creek, the colorful mountain sides on Artists Drive and the spring wildflowers.
Pup fish are a highly specialized species, living in extremely salty water that can vary from almost freezing to almost boiling. They come out in the spring before the creek dries up. At about 1.25" long, they are very active little buggers. The males stake out little spawning beds and protect them with a vengeance. They fight other males, making the shallow water ripple with their on-going duels. When a smaller female enters, he fertilizes her eggs with a very quick side-by-side squiggle. Salt Creek flowed through both barren land (like the the picture with the pup fish) and some marshy vegetation. Me and a couple of pesky horse flies made the hike. (Can you spot one of those flies in the picture?)
My pictures do not capture the subtleties and striations of shades and textures that surround death valley ... from the salt flats to the sand to the vegetation green with spring. The most amazing show of rock colors was on Artists Drive.
Because Death Valley is mostly shades of greys, browns, beiges and whites, other colors really stand out. This spring, according to the local paper, is the 3rd best wildflower bloom in the past 20 years. The predominate flower color is yellow from the Desert Golds. Purples, violets, and white wildflowers were mixed in there too. To round off the show, joshua trees, cacti and yucca were in bloom as well.
Wildflower pictures taken in or near Death Valley (Tecopa and Pahrump).