Tall sand dunes with their graceful curves loom up near Stove Pipe Wells in Death Valley National Park. It is quite an experience to walk out and climb to the top of the dunes.
I rode through Death Valley on my bicycle once. It was part of the six-month 10,000-mile solo trip I made around the US and Canada in 1989.
I had started my adventure in the small town of Diamond Springs near Sacramento, California, bicycled down the Central Valley, climbed up and over the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Bakersfield and, dropped down into Panamint Valley. The climb from Panamint Valley to Death Valley was the toughest of my whole trip. I was out of the saddle, standing on the pedals, and travelling at 2-3 miles per hour under a relentless sun.
Halfway up there was a large water tank for cars that overheated and couldn’t make it. There was nothing for bicyclists. I was on my own. The climb was burned into my memory banks. But I made it, crossed the valley, and biked on to Maine, where I turned around and started back.
I had been to Death Valley several times before I made the bike trip and have been back several times since. The National Park’s solitude, stark beauty, history and geology have brought me back, time and time again.
I like this photo because of the contrast between the golden dunes and purple mountains in evening sunlight.
They call this section of Death Valley the Devil’s Golf Course. It’s easy to see why. Salt deposits left behind by an evaporated lake go down several thousand feet. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
It is difficult to imagine the variety of landscapes in Death Valley unless you have been there. This photo was taken looking down from Zabriskie Point.
Another photo taken from Zabriskie Point. This one looks out across Death Valley.
You can hike up to Zabriskie Point following an old road that goes up through Golden Canyon. Part of the original Star Wars movie was filmed in this canyon. I kept a sharp lookout for Luke.
Here, Peggy caught a shot of me following the trail toward Zabriskie Point. The hiking was ever so much easier than my bicycling experience. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Our view on the way down Golden Canyon.
The colors here are created by different minerals in the rocks. Because of the color, this site is known as Artist’s Palette.
Traveling north, we come to Ubehebe Volcanic Crater, another of Death Valley’s geological wonders. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
You are welcome to walk into the crater. Falling is not recommended, as demonstrated by Peggy.
A smaller crater next to Ubehebe.
I think the erosion patterns near Ubehebe are fascinating.
Scotty’s Castle. The history of Death Valley is filled with characters and none was greater than Scotty. Born Walter Scott, Scotty was a first class con-man who persuaded Albert Johnson to build the castle and then claimed it was built with money from his own gold mine. Albert, who loved Death Valley and liked Scotty, went along with the tale.
The clock tower at Scotty’s Castle.
NEXT BLOG: We will journey east to the Everglades and I will introduce you to my all-time favorite buzzard.