Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Death Valley, part 2

I had more time off, and my week-long pass hadn't expired, so I headed back to Death Valley NP for another day. This time I visited Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Dante's View, and the Salt Creek.
I started the day by stopping at Harmony Borax Works to see the ruins. They also had an old wagon that was used to haul the refined borax to the nearest railroad, hundreds of miles away. Because of the long distance and high cost of transport, the borax had to be refined on site, even though it was a very water intensive process. Work also had to stop in the summer because it was too hot for the borax to crystallize after being refined. 
The visitor center is just down the road, so I stopped by to see if they had anything interesting. There is a nice little museum inside, and a video about the history of the area. Next I went to Zabriskie point.
This is an area of badlands with views of Death Valley. The park service says it is very popular at sunrise and sunset, and I can see why.
20-Mule Team Canyon is a few miles up the road. It was closed to cars, so I parked on the side and went for a walk. This is also badlands, and felt remote without the cars driving through it. I had fun exploring around the canyons. There are no trails, besides the road, so I could go wherever looked interesting.

Next up was Dante's View. This is up at around 5000 feet, and looks over Badwater and the rest of the valley. It was much cooler up here, and definitely worth the trip.
Badwater is just to the left of the picture. The boardwalk was visible from the viewing area.

Finally I went to Salt Creek. This is a creek fed by springs. In the summer, it evaporates faster than the springs replenish the water, so it becomes dry. It is also home to pupfish, a rare species that lives in a few isolated salt creeks in the area. Since the creeks don't connect, each population is independent. It was breeding season, so there were a lot of fish swimming around. As the creek dries in the summer, most of the fish will die, and the species will be carried on by the few that survive in pools near the springs.
The fish are the small black dots in the water.

By this time is was getting late and I was getting tired, so I started the drive back. I stopped a few times to take pictures of the mountains and sunset. As barren as it might seem, the desert is very beautiful and has a lot of interesting things in it.

The road over the Panamint Range into the park.

Next time I go back, I'd like to be more prepared to hike farther into the backcountry and explore some areas off the beaten path. There are also some areas in the Northern part of the park I didn't have time to go to.

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