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!
I got into the park at 8am, and there were already a lot of people out. My first stop was Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
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.
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.
Afterward I continued south to see more of the flowers, before turning around and heading back north.
Here’s a good photo to show the wind…not easy to try and get close ups!
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.
The main stop here is Artists Palette where the colors are most vibrant/condensed into one area.
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?
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.
What a treat it was for me to get to see Death Valley so full of life!