Road Trip! Part 2

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My intent from the beginning of this day away from Vegas was to visit Death Valley.  Rhyolite was a bonus that worked well for a circular trip.  As we considered this might be our last trip to Vegas for a while, another opportunity to explore what is basically an alien landscape may be a long time coming.  Also, if we were to visit California, I'm pretty certain Death Valley would not figure into our plans.  It's now or never... It might also have to do with there not being many travel options when looking at a map of Nevada.  Death Valley made sense.

It continued to make sense when, in the middle of desolation, my daughter called my cell phone, wanting me to reschedule a doctor's appointment for her back in the real world.  There remains a certain measure of irony to be facing this sign when talking on the cell phone. Technology is amazing.

Death Valley Entrance Sign

Yes, I happened to be approaching this sign when she called, and, yes, I could have stopped in the middle of the highway to talk.  I wouldn't have blocked traffic.

Cresting the next mountain, my amazement moved from the state of modern communications to the spectacle of nature.  It doesn't appear like much, but when it fills your complete field of vision, Death Valley is quite something.

Death Valley

It's also interesting to note that when you're barely inside Death Valley, surprise, surprise...cell phones no longer work.  You begin to wonder about the wisdom of taking a little day trip, alone, in a rental car, in a place that is so unforgiving.  During the course of the day, I may have passed a total of five cars on the road, one of which, of course, I had to wait for to make a left hand turn. 

Without this becoming even more of a travel diary, I'll focus on one stop, that being Marble Canyon.  It is accessed by driving up a 2.4 mile gravel road from Stovepipe Well, a small spot (it's not even an intersection) with a motel, a restaurant, and a gas station, the motel being of very modest variety.  This is the view looking back from the parking area:

Death Valley-View from Marble Canyon Parking Area

The little sliver of white at the right are the buildings in Stovepipe Well.  It may appear hot, and it was, but it was tolerable.  From here, it was a short 1/4 mile hike (okay, walk...) to Marble Canyon, which gets high marks for being 1) an easily accessible canyon 2) interesting for the view/geology, and 3) a very quick adventure suitable for 110 degrees.  One of many photos:

Death Valley - Marble Canyon

I've mentioned the temperature.  Yes, it was a dry heat, quite different from the humidity of the Southeast.  Here, at least, it was never uncomfortable as a very warm flow of air continued to breeze through the canyon.  As I was taking pictures both high and low, I happened to catch sight of this:

Death Valley - Life!!

I realized that this bird was the only live animal I had seen (or would see) during my time in Death Valley.  And I also realized how eerily quiet it was.  The path through the canyon is gravel, but when I stopped walking, it was completely silent.  No voices. No cars.  No lawnmowers.  No insects.  No wind rustling through leaves. Nothing.

Prior to visiting here, I had been disappointed with the desert.  There are no Saharan type sands - it's all rocky soil with fairly ugly bushes.  Here, there is one relatively small area that does include sand dunes, which are both beautiful and significantly hotter than other desert floor areas. 

Death Valley Sand Dunes

But otherwise, the desert is a very rocky place, in some places looking like rubble.  Even without the heat, crossing Death Valley would still be a challenge without twisting or breaking an ankle.  Death Valley - Rocky Terrain

Here it should be said that I went to Clemson University, where the football team plays in what is nicknamed "Death Valley," and where they rub "Howard's Rock" entering the stadium before each game (but only if they're willing to give 110% effort before touching the Coach's rock).  Both are related.  CoachHoward's Rock Howard brought this chunk of rock home from a trip he made to Death Valley, and, to a degree, it's disappointing to find that Death Valley rocks are not exactly a rarity.

But I guess that's what good coaches do.  They take what they're given, and they make the most out of them.  I certainly did from this trip.  Death Valley is a beautiful place if you look for it.  And have a car.  With air-conditioning. And water...

Many more pictures and comments from my trip can be viewed by clicking HERE.

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