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Back from the Dead

We're back home from spending a week in Death Valley: camping, hiking, and enjoying the desert. We did a series of great hikes: Little Bridge Canyon, Willow Creek Canyon, Kaleidoscope Canyon, Corkscrew Canyon, and an attempt at Grapevine Springs. That one was inspired by our trip to Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge. And we walked the road out to Salt Creek (the road is closed--it was heavily damaged during the floods) and were impressed with how much had changed since we were last there. Manly Lake was full of water at Badwater...and the reflections were gorgeous.

If you ever needed confirmation that the Earth is alive, Death Valley is a good place to get that. The floods of summer of 2023 have still left major impacts on the park. Scotty's Castle and Wildrose/Telescope Peak roads are all closed, as is West Side Road and the road north to Lone Pine, although you can still get to the racetrack if your vehicle can make it.

We started with a hike to Little Bridge Canyon, near Stovepipe Wells, and had some fun wandering around both the hills above the wash and the wash itself. But the climb up from the road near Mequite Dunes was more work than we needed on the first day. And the flowers here were beautiful.

Day Two found us climbing up into Willow Creek Canyon, where we were charmed to find lots of sheep tracks and running water higher up in the canyon. We stopped at a waterfall that previous hikers had attempted to climb via a tower of jumbled rocks they had stacked up. No thanks.

The next day we drove out past Furnace Creek Lodge to hike up Corkscrew canyon, which has some interesting mining refuse and some of the most astonishing rocks we've seen in Death Valley. We spent far too much time bent over, looking at the ground, and drawing each other's attention to one rock after the other. Truly wild stuff, including sheets of mica.

That afternoon we visited Ash Meadows and checked out the various populations of pupfish there. Quite an amazing place, with running water all over the area, and deep pools gushing crystal clear water. Sadly, the Devil's Hole site is now fiercely protected against vandalism, which means you can't see much at all. But the rest of the refuge is still quite a treat. And since we were in the area, we ducked into Pahrump for a Thai dinner, shower, and a real bed to break up the monotony of van life.

The following day we drove back down into Death Valley via Jubilee Pass, and stopped to hike Kaleidoscope Canyon. We'd done this one once before, but stopped for some reason before the going got good. Not this time. A spectacular canyon of chromatic delights. Highly recommended. We ran into one pair of hikers here, the only people we met on our various adventures in Death Valley.

After another nice night at Texas Springs, we drove north to see about those Grapevine Springs at the top end of the paved road. We hiked out to discover a massive fence around the whole area, which was closed off by order of the superintendent." There may have been other ways to see the springs, or other areas to hike, but instead we chose to go back down and visit the pupfish at Salt Creek. With the road closed, we were the only people there, and the pupfish seemed to be thriving, despite the fact that they marchy habitat had pretty much been washed down the valley. The vault toilet and a few straggly strands of boardwalk are all that remain of the parking area and trail here.

It was a calm time to visit Death Valley. Temperatures ranged from about 40 at night to nearly 70 during the day, and except for an occasional breeze, the winds were quiet. So were the campgrounds. So was the park. Very cool.

And, of course, the sunsets were legendary, as they always are in Death Valley.

The rest of the photos are here:

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