It’s astounding that a landscape so forbidding and dangerous in the summer can, in early February, be so dramatically transformed and show its softer side. As a visitor, I greatly appreciated that the high temperatures for the two days I visited last week were about 40º cooler than my previous visit last August. Back then, I’d just finished my John Muir Trail hike and my primary goal was to get across Death Valley to reach Las Vegas for some R&R and a stupendous number of calories before my tires melted. Well, that and to not have my truck break down and subsequently die of heat stroke. Admirable goals, all of them.
I was lured to the desert after hearing about incredible blooms of wildflowers that had been occurring over recent weeks. I’d been wanting to visit Death Valley National Park for quite a while to camp and explore, long before the wildflowers closed the deal. Being in between jobs lately, gave me a perfect opportunity to plan it out and take a road trip from the Bay Area. I posted a blog yesterday consisting solely of wildflowers. Today’s post takes a more balanced approach. It’s so easy for most to think of deserts like Mojave and Death Valley as sterile, colorless places, but even aside from the wildflowers, the canyons are a riot of earthy hues and amazing textures and patterns. The skies, unpolluted by ambient light, especially during a new moon, reveal a breathtaking array of stars we don’t often get to witness. And even the sounds – of the wind blowing across the landscape, the crackle of a campfire, or the lonesome howl of a coyote in the distance – makes for indelible memories.