February 17, 2016
Social media was plastered with the news of a rare Death Valley Super Bloom. I missed the last one in 2005 so I figured to get there this time. I took 1000s of photos between two cameras and the phone (which takes great photos like the one above) but will try not to post them all here.
After Tuesday night camping at Tecopa hot springs Bill and I headed north on Hwy 127 past Shoshone and the closed southeast entrance to Death Valley Junction and into the park on Hwy 190. The 2200 foot drop from Death Valley Junction to Furnace Creek at –190 feet took us past the turn off to Dante’s View and the parking for Zabriskie Point seen above. (Heavy rain in October closed roads and Scotty’s Castle. Check for road conditions here.)
A quick stop at the Visitor Center got us the park map and newspaper plus directions to two possible dry camps nearby, all first come first serve. Sunset campground is a huge gravel parking lot adjacent to the park’s main road. We opted for Texas Spring campground just up the hill with bathrooms, wash sink, water access, great views, and marvelous rocky ridges all for the geezer half price of $7/night. The Scrabble “G” on the picnic table confirmed the right site for us so after paying at the electronic box, credit/debit cards only, and placing the stub on site post #95 we took off to search for wildflowers.
From Furnace Creek we headed south on the Badwater Road where the flowers were suppose to be at peak. The above is not peak. Yet the Desert Gold stole the show, spread across the colluvial fans made up of mosaic rock from mountain canyon runoff.
Made a quick stop at the Devils Golf Course on the northern edge of the salt flats. The jagged crusty salt looked dingier than I remembered from my last visit. People walk on the fragile crystals. I don’t get it that a person would destroy what they came to see. Isn’t that what zoom on the camera is for?
I know you’re here for the flowers but we did see other things as well. Like Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level with the snowy Panamint Range in the distance including Telescope Peak at 11049 feet in elevation.
That tiny white line way above the truck is sea level.
Death Valley National Park gets about two inches of rain annually, so it always sees some wildflowers, though not as many or as varied.
Last’s year’s El Niño led to the conditions for this spring’s show. In October, a storm dumped 2.7 inches of rain on Death Valley, half an inch more than the national park usually gets in a year. The wettest growing season on record so far was 2004-2005. That season’s astounding 6.44 inches of rain led to the last super bloom.
Although I didn’t see cars lining the road many of the frequent gravel pull offs were being used. Once again I saw the evidence of people’s disregard for nature as flowers were trampled. It’s not like they were dense enough to be unavoidable.
A soft rain fell on the drive back to camp and as dusk came early with a cloud covered sun we took a quick loop on Artisits Drive.
Returned to camp, leveled, and was making dinner when we were interrupted by a French family in a rental motor home who demanded the site was theirs. And indeed their receipt, not ours, was on the post. I suggested moving a picnic table over so we could both park there but they called for a Ranger. Instead, a volunteer host showed up and admitted he’d thrown our receipt away because the bottom portion, with the date, had been torn off. True, Bill kept it as a credit card receipt. So in the dark, wind, and rain we moved to the lower Sunset camp. Then reheated dinner. Not a good way to end a beautiful day.
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