Saturday, January 12, 2008

Furnace Creek

We explored the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley today, which encompassed a lot of territory. We did a short hike through the Artist’s Palette area and that was very interesting. So many different colors of dirt/sand/soil—clearly, it was many layers of sedimentary rock. The sun was cooperative or uncooperative, depending on your point of view. It was behind the clouds for most of the day, which meant that I could take pictures without having them be completely blown out; however, even at the end of the day when the sun could be my friend, it stayed behind the clouds and so I wasn’t able to get any really good shots of the colors. You will have to be satisfied with what I have posted.

The most fun part of the day, I think, was visiting Bad Water, which is the lowest point in the Northern hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. I’ve posted some pictures of the salt flats and the red cliffs reflecting in the “bad” water. “It was always the same . . . Hunger and thirst and an awful silence.” Those words were written by one of the pioneers who traveled the 130-mile long valley on the way to California. It was easy to be sympathetic when seeing this landscape. Beautiful when traveled by car, I can only guess the hardships faced by those who crossed by Conestoga wagon. There are places in the park where the ruts from the wagons can still be seen.

We also visited the Devil’s Golf course, which consisted of the strangest landscape of salt crystals. Death Valley is like a different planet due to the extremes of temperature. It is the hottest and driest place on the North American continent. The record high temperature here is 134 degrees Fahrenheit. It was nowhere near that today, and we kept sweatshirts on for most of the day. We took a short hike up to see a natural bridge, but that was scarcely worth the trouble. The best one we’ve seen was in Canyonlands NP.

We’re enjoying our visit despite the fickle sunshine, and if pressed, I’d say I prefer the sun behind the clouds. If I were a real photographer, I’d be out before dawn and past dusk, but apparently I’m not. I like sleeping in and having dinner on time. As it is, I end up shooting at the worst part of the day, and so the light is better if the sun stays behind the clouds. Fortunately, I don’t have to make my living by taking pictures.

Tomorrow, much to my surprise, Mike wants to see Scotty’s Castle. He saw it only once before when he was too young to remember. I was 16 the one time I saw it, and so I’m up for that too. I believe we’ve seen most of the hot spots (and I don’t mean temperature) of the park by exploring past the Furnace Creek ranger station. There are a few things to see beyond Scottie’s Castle, and then a couple of things we missed today.

The New Hampshire Primary is on TV, and so I hope your favorite candidate is doing well. More tomorrow. Take care.

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