Just back from a few days in Death Valley, hiking but not backpacking. This was perfect weather, with lows in the sixties and highs in the eighties. But Death Valley is a different kind of National Park. There are very few serious hiking trails (perhaps the most clearly marked is the Golden Canyon trail, which we loved) but visitors are encouraged to explore the park at their own risk. Adventures up interesting canyons often lead to spectacular beauty—but also to dead ends at dry waterfalls or steep cliffs. And yes, we saw at least one person free climb the cliff like it was a staircase, and just keep on going. But we’re not quite that agile.
And yes, there were tons of wildflowers. Perhaps not like the great displays in some other parts of the state, but you have to make allowances for the fact that this is one of the least hospitable places on earth…and then appreciate how really wonderful the flowers are.
Having said all of that, Death Valley isn’t really about the flowers, it’s about the rocks. This is what Mother Earth looks like when she is stark naked. Unbelieveable. Without plants or even soil to smooth out the rough edges. If you’ve ever wondered what rocks look like underneath it all, Death Valley shows it to you like an x-ray. And it is stunning stuff.
The photos are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/balzaccom/DeathValley#