I walked through the Valley of Death

Death Valley National Park.  At 3 million acres, the largest national park outside of Alaska.  Big.  Empty.  Dry.  With topography ranging from Badwater at 282 feet below sea level to Telescope Peak at 11,043 feet above sea level, the landscape is incredibly diverse.

A great way to start the trip - this is the scene I woke up to on our first morning in the park. Step out of the tent, stumble 100 feet to a small hill in the campground, aim and shoot.

Death Valley had been on my list for quite a while, so I was excited to finally go in January 2012.  It was double the adventure because I went with someone I didn’t know.  A mutual friend connected Tammy & I because of our interest in photography.

She flew from Oregon, I picked her up in Las Vegas, and a few hours later we were enjoying a relaxing evening in the nearly empty campground.  We explored the park for a week, hiking, photographing, and enjoying 70 degree January weather.

One of the highlights for me was the Mesquite Sand Dunes.  I could have happily spent days photographing the dunes.

We spent a day at the Ubehebe Crater in the northern part of the park.

I never get tired of petroglyphs and pictographs, so I was delighted when a ranger suggested we hike Greenwater Canyon.  The canyon and the hike are nothing spectacular, but we thoroughly enjoyed the rock art.  Most of the rock art I’m used to on the Colorado Plateau is about 800 years old, but these are estimated at 2,000 years old!

Who knew Calvin was around 2,000 years ago? But where is Hobbes?

Many of the representations were completely different from what is found in Arizona and Utah.

Badwater was tops on my list to visit, despite being one of the more obvious tourist destinations in the park.  This surreal landscape is phenomenal, although I can’t imagine standing at Badwater in the middle of July!

A giant salt flat, it’s the remains of a huge inland sea.  Water still exists just below the surface, and shows itself in occasional ponds.  The remarkable desert pupfish exists in isolated holes that are 7 times more salty than the ocean.

I of course tasted the ground to confirm that it is, indeed, salt.

Another highlight was a dayhike up Golden Canyon.  Given another opportunity, I would spend a very long day in this canyon, and I could happily return multiple times.  While my photos failed to capture it’s beauty, it is easily one of the most beautiful canyons I have ever explored – and I’ve seen many in my life.

Other selected images for your viewing pleasure.