chasing wildflowers in death valley

Death Valley is in the middle of a “superbloom” right now, due to the El Nino rains we’ve been having.  It’s a rare event that doesn’t happen very often at all, so people are taking advantage of the opportunity to see this “once in a lifetime” sight…myself included.  It’s a little over a 4 hour drive to get there, so last Sunday morning I left at 3am so that I could get there when the sun was coming up.  It was an interesting decision of mine to start driving right as a downpour was hitting.  The freeway that I took had large areas under construction so the lines on the road were almost invisible, and I kept hitting puddles and feeling like my car was going to hydroplane.  Also there were no cities/towns/gas stations/anything to add light…just my headlights and a few other cars in pitch black.  So as soon as I found a big rig, I stuck behind them going granny speed until I got to my exit.  Eventually I had to turn off onto another highway and a section of it was gravel and it was the most bumpy thing I have ever driven on and it felt like it went on forever.  Shortly after I got back onto normal road, I saw the sign for Death Valley.  Thank goodness…I had made it!

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I got into the park at 8am, and there were already a lot of people out.  My first stop was Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

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It actually worked in my favor that a few of the roads are closed due to rain damage.  There is a lot to see & do and I only had one day to do it so I spent my time on the main roads in the heart of the park.  After the dunes, I started my wildflower hunt…which wasn’t a hunt since I already knew where to go.  I had emailed beforehand to find out where the best viewing spots are: Mud Canyon Rd, Beatty Cutoff, & the south end of Badwater Rd.  Mud Canyon Rd/Beatty Cutoff had the most variety on flowers that I saw…and Badwater Rd had the blankets of the Desert Gold flowers.

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Working my way south, I stopped at Badwater Basin, which is where the salt flat is.  Fun fact: Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level.  I walked out far enough that I wasn’t seeing much dirt or footprints so I ate some of the salt.  It was windy everywhere in the park but it was ridiculously windy here…windy enough that as I walked I would end up kicking myself.

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Afterward I continued south to see more of the flowers, before turning around and heading back north.

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Here’s a good photo to show the wind…not easy to try and get close ups!

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On the way back I went on the Artists Drive loop…the minerals in the ground cause the rocks to be all different colors.  This was a really neat area.

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The main stop here is Artists Palette where the colors are most vibrant/condensed into one area.

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One of the most interesting flowers was the Gravel Ghost because of how it’s anchored to the ground.  The leaves form a flat base to secure it into the earth…I’m assuming so it can handle the wind?

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My very last stop before heading home was the Devils Cornfield.  It was a giant field intersected by the road…full of these weird shrub/dirt mound things.

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What a treat it was for me to get to see Death Valley so full of life!

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