Day 32 – February 11 – Stovepipe Wells to Furnace Creek (Death Valley)
We began our last full day in Death Valley marking off the things we want to see that are located south of Furnace Creek.
Furnace Creek Ranch is a large enterprise. They have many hotel rooms, individual cabins, RV spots and a campground. There is a general store, a saloon, a restaurant, a steakhouse, a museum about the Borax mining that took place in Death Valley, horseback riding, bike rentals, jeep rentals, a pool, spa, tennis courts, swimming pool, 18 hole golf course with a 19th hole club house, and an off-lease dog park. About a mile down the road is the fancier Furnace Creek Inn. It was highly recommended that we go to Zabriskie Point and Dantes View; both viewpoints – so after breakfast that is where we headed so we would have the morning sun behind us as we looked down the valley.
Look at all the pathways people have created on the crests. There is a sign at the bottom of the hill on the way up to Dantes View (elevation 5475′) that says no vehicles longer than 25′ may travel to the top and the last 1/4 mile is a 15% grade. There is a parking lot a mile or so from the top where you can unhitch and leave your trailer.
There is a group of women cyclists on tour in the valley. We saw them riding back from the end of the pavement when we were on our way out to the Racetrack. We saw them again today riding up this steep winding road. Brave people! You have to keep in mind that the bottom of the road is about 100 feet above sea level. That is a long, hard ride. And very steep coming down.
The view is pretty amazing. You can see the length of Death Valley in both directions.
Though you can’t see them this long sign has the names of all the mountain peaks on the Panamint Range across the valley. The salt flat is called Badwater and there is a brown smudge where the white meets the mountain brown. This is dirty salt from people walking on it. If you could zoom it in very close you would be able to see people down there. Also, you can see the end of an alluvial fan at the lower left. The road that we will drive on later skirts the outer edge of it.
The wind swept salt flat looks like ocean waves on a beach. Once we returned from Dantes View we drove 45 miles down a valley road to Ashford Mill. This, we were told, was the best place to see the wild flowers. The predominant bloom is the yellow daisy-like Desert Gold, but if you look you can see other flowers as well.
The flowers follow the moisture in the soil from the October rains runoff. The further south we drove the more flowers there were. Desert Gold
A small lake/pool This coyote sauntered across the road in front of our truck and stopped. He never moved while I took about 7 photos of him with my camera, then got John’s camera and took some with that. He was still standing there when we drove away.Ashford Mill is at the end of the pavement on this road. In the spring through fall months you can drive a gravel road out of the park into Arizona. The road is closed in the winter. After we had taken many, many photos of the flowers we turned around to go see all the things we had driven past on our way out. We wanted to be sure to see the flowers in nice light so we ignored everything else until the return.
Look very closely at this photo and find the sign that marks sea level on the cliff.
It’s a long walk on the salt flat. Just a bit further down the road is the turn-off to Devil’s Golf Course. It was only about a 1/2 mile of gravel road away.We backtracked a bit after talking to some ladies at Devil’s Golf Course and returned to the parking lot at the trailhead to the Natural Bridge. We had pulled into it on the way by but the trail was a 2 mile one-way hike. We, unfortunately did not have the time because it was getting late and we wanted to be on Artist’s Drive when the sun was beginning to go down. But the ladies told us that just off the parking lot at the beginning of the trail there were more wildflowers, specifically one I had wanted to see but had, as yet, not found.
This is a Desert Five-spot. Isn’t that the cutest little flower? This flower is called Gravel Ghost.
And this is Lesser MojaveaWe arrived at the beginning of the one-way Artist’s Drive a smidge later than we had hoped but the colours were still wonderful. John instantly saw the head of a bear in this rock. Do you see it?
And, now I am all done for the day. It was a good one. I have concluded that I could take a photograph in Death Valley every day for about 400 years and never repeat a shot. We met a fellow who has been spending a month here every year for 16 years. I totally understand. We will be back.