Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Death Valley is a place of extreme heat and desolation with wide valleys well below sea level and surrounded by tall and eccentrically featured mountains of the Amargosa Range to the East and the sierra like peaks of the Panamint range to the west. Of all the times I have visited this beautiful park, never have I had the opportunity to catch the annual flower bloom, let alone the even more rare “Super Bloom” which was happening this year. The last Super Bloom occurred over a decade ago in 2005, so I was certainly not going to miss this!
My day started off somewhat later than normal and so I stopped for fuel in Lenwood to top off my fuel tank and get my bearings straight. I also took a look at the front end suspension and the damn driver side sway bar link was coming undone again. I knew that I had to get some wrenches at the local Home Depot in Barstow which was annoying as I was losing precious daylight. I temporarily fixed the issue, but kept an eye on it the whole time. The day was nice, about 73ºF and mostly cloudy. As if enough things weren’t going wrong, I tried to engage the AC and it was blowing warm air, so I cracked the windows and then I started to get nauseous. Something did not agree with me for breakfast even though it was rather clean.
It seemed as though fate was trying its hardest to prevent me from making this trip, but I’m a stubborn bastard and I pushed onward without further delay. I made it to Baker, “The Gateway to Death Valley home of the Tallest Thermometer in the World” which was recently restored thanks to the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Harguess!
I stopped for some snacks and started along Highway 127 northbound for about 55 miles until I got to the tiny town of Shohone where I had to tighten my sway bar link again, but I was starting to feel better and the best news of all, I got under my rig and adjusted with some wires and got the AC cranking again! I set off again and a few miles past Shohone, there is a back way (Hwy 178) into Death Valley which I always used in the past, but I wanted to try getting into the park from the place I always exited after dark to see what I was missing. As it would turn out, my luck was starting to turn because I would later find out that Highway 178 was shut down a few miles in after some recent and powerful flash floods that destroyed sections of the highway in October of 2015. There were absolutely no signs at the 127/178 junction that warned of the closure.
I continued driving until I hit the Death Valley Junction, home of the famous Amargosa Opera House. From highway 127, I hopped onto highway 190 into the park. I took a quick look into my side view mirror and had to stop to get a shot of the beautiful scene behind me.
“View of the giant snow capped Mt. Charleston from Highway 190 marks the Nevada border at it’s foot.”
This was the first time that I got to use my National Parks Pass and I totally plan on using it to death this year! I was pleased to finally see all the sights along this section of highway 190 since it was the first time I drove it in broad daylight. I knew I had little time, but I stopped at a place that looked rather appealing.
GPS Coordinates: 36.4200667° N, 116.8122303° W
The badlands of Death Valley are the result of violent water and earthquake activity. Three to five million years ago, before the deepest parts of Death Valley had been formed, lakes filled a long, mountain-rimmed valley here. Fine silt and volcanic ash washed into the lake, settling to the bottom, ultimately creating the thick deposit of clay, sandstone, and siltstone that make up the Furnace Creek Formation.
These once flat layers are being tilted by seismic activity and pressure that is folding the ancient valley’s floor. As the layers uplifted and became exposed, periodic rainstorms caused powerful gullies that eroded the soft rocks into the chaotic yet strangely beautiful landscape that we see today.
“This place is often referred to as the Badlands of Death Valley.”
“This landscape is absolutely bizarre in the most beautiful ways.”
I had to get my shots in quickly here and set off for the visitors center to chat with a ranger about some questions I had. I eventually arrived at the Furnace Creek visitor center and asked the rangers at the desk where I could find the highest concentration of wildflowers currently in the park. They said the biggest blooms are currently happening near Badwater and just south of it along the alluvial fans. I had asked about highway 178 and why it was shut down and that’s when I learned about the flash floods. I also asked why they had not marked the junction with the closure to prevent any travelers from making an unnecessary trip down 178 to the closure and they said that it was marked and I told them well someone took your signs becasue I was just there it it certainly had no signs posted.
Anyhow, with only 90 minutes to sundown, I was off!
Slowly, I began to see hundreds of yellow wildflowers along the side of Badwater Rd. The highest concentration was located between mile marker 24 and 31.
It was unlike anything I had ever see here, This was a very new side of Death Valley and I was absolutely loving it, so I went photo crazy until all the light was gone =)
“Wildflowers by the acre littered the roadsides.”
“I bet these folks were as excited as I was.”
“Even Rudy got in the scene for a bit.”
“The Super Bloom was just getting started.”
“Last moments of sunlight.”
“Mile Marker 27 was as intense as I it gets for now!”
“Time to shove off for home in the old starship.”
After a great day of shooting in Death Valley, I made my way home, but not before making a stop at the Mad Greek for a very delicious dinner of chicken souvlaki and roasted vegetables. The Super Bloom was off to a beautiful start, but there was still more to come in the following weeks. I just may have to take another drive out to capture the bloom near the beautiful Funeral Mountain range.
Until the next trip, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”
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