26 September 2011
A Little Road Trip!
It has been a while since I've been able to get away on a little road trip to see a new place! So when I saw a newspaper article on the Eastern Sierra last week, just before a long stretch of days off, I knew I had to go! Heading west from Flagstaff, I traveled through Kingman, Arizona, up to Las Vegas and then west towards Pahrump. These colorful cliffs just west of Las Vegas are in the Wild Horse and Burro conservation area.
From Pahrump, I took the road to Shoshone and into Death Valley. These ruins are left from the Ashford Mill. They made a nice frame for the colorful mountain in the distance! It was hot ~ about 92 degrees at this location. Not much grows here, mostly just some creosote bush.
As the road dropped in elevation, the temperatures kept rising. By the time I got to the Lowest Point in the U.S., it was 101 degrees F!
The salt flats were amazing. Taking the first step out onto them, I felt like I should have ice skates on as the impression was like stepping out onto an ice rink. But the traction was great. On the path where many had walked, the salt was worn smooth. Off to the sides of the path, the salt was rugged. I'd have loved to explore a bit more, but it was just too darn hot!
One of the plants I love in Death Valley is this Desert Holly. It reflects the light in almost a prismatic way.
The colors of the mountains and hills around Death Valley are ever changing. These yellow ochre hills just glowed with light! It was even hotter here at 106 degrees F! It's the end of September ~ I'm sure glad I didn't try this trip in the midst of summer!
When I was in Elementary School, we watched a number of films about Death Valley, which all seemed to focus on the nocturnal wildlife of the dunes ~ particularly the sidewinder rattlesnakes and kangaroo rats. How surprised I was to find that the dunes exist only in fairly small areas, though they do rise to a good height! Since I was there in the middle of the day, I didn't get to see any wildlife! I'd have loved to see a kangaroo rat, but I'll pass on the rattlesnakes! There is so much to see and do here, that I wish I'd had more time.
As the first day of my road trip came to an end, I headed into the town of Lone Pine, which sits at the eastern base of the Sierra. The low hills in front are the Alabama Hills. In back, the Sierra rise vertically nearly 10,000 feet from the valley floor! The peak underneath the butterfly shaped cloud on the right is Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous U.S. at 14, 495 feet high! Beyond the peaks to the west is Sequoia National Park, where unfortunately, you can't see the peaks without backpacking in a good ways. How wonderful to see these glorious peaks at last!