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When you think of this national park, what comes to mind? For instance, this view:

Because there's lots of these features. . .

And a huge place with a seeming endless road leading into nowhere. . .

And my God, what if you run out of gas, chips, soda or beer?

And what if the car breaks down and you find yourself having to go for help with this sort of thing to wonder and worry about?

Well, to all that I say this: If there is any place on this planet that possibly could be a classic misnomer (by way of its designate), it is this huge valley and national park sharing its border with Nevada and California. This two-part diary series will explain what I mean. . .

(Continues after the fold.)

Location/Geography: Partly in California and Nevada. This Great Basin Desert terrain lies east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Area: 5,262 square miles encompassing Saline Valley, a large part of Panamint Valley, almost all of Death Valley, and parts of several mountain ranges.

Prologue: I know, what the heck are we doing in this hellish hot place? I mean, it's not even the Colorado Plateau where all the tours and supplement information thus far have set the trend of these weekly diary-missives. Well, I didn't want some of you thinking my bias for the Plateau province is such I don't hold any other province, much less scenic place, in similar high esteem. Fact is, I do. I taught geology and natural history in Death Valley (more of those feisty Elderhostel folks (now called Roads Scholars), but of course I am only teasing about their being feisty. (Actually, anyone who can last with me for about a week's worth of edge-u-kat-n deserves a medal and should be feisty.) Anyway, I love Death Valley and find its overall setting, its geology, and singular atmosphere (both the ambience and how climate works here) utterly spellbinding. Once I even lived in Blue Diamond, Nevada (outside Lost Wages) and I had plenty of time to come here on my own and hike and see the sights and try and figure if there really

On this tour there is going to be lot of stuff to share with you folks, mainly because Death Valley National Park really does have it all: geology, natural and human history, even fables, one of which involved a rather elaborate switch of an extraordinarily wealth man with a stand-in (meaning, a prospector, performer and an all-around con man) to act as the owner of the 'castle,' while the real owner pretended he was a mere guest. More about that intriguing story also follows in this two-part diary.)

By the way, and for the sake of creating an ideal ambience for this tour, I highly recommend wearing a hat, sunglasses, sunblock, and light clothing (which will really put you in the mood for being on the tour). Our destination is one of the lowest settings in the world, certainly one of the hottest (beyond the winter months), and you'd be surprise why this terrain came to be called the name that it is. Actually, relatively few people have died here, at least from the historical perspective. But these days some tourists have an urge to go meet God or something and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. . .all of which could have been avoided had these tragic victims practiced common sense. So, yes, that part of the story also follows.

So, let's take a long drive down a long road and see what this utterly unique national park has to offer. . .other than the scary stuff that keeps some folks away. . .

Even the rocks are smiling. . .

Location/Geography: In California and Nevada, this Great Basin Desert terrain lies east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Area: 5,262 square miles (13,630 sq. km), encompassing Saline Valley, a large part of Panamint Valley, almost all of Death Valley, and parts of several mountain ranges.

Spotlight: There really is no single description that captures this vast territory, nor can there be. Essentially, it's hotter than the proverbial Hades most of the year. It's also one of the most rugged, scenic and diverse landscapes in North America. In a manner of speaking, the geologic panorama is to die for. The park claims the second lowest elevation below sea level in North America. Focus: geology, human and natural history, and desert ecology.

Snapshot: Death Valley stretches out within the broad boundaries of the Mojave Desert and laid down far below towering ramparts. Its reputation is fierce, though the epithet death is a misnomer. Still, it's a great big valley, a basin really, featuring the driest and hottest climate on the continent; also the lowest elevation (286 feet below sea level in North America. Some 550 square miles (885 sq. km) of Death Valley is below sea level. This low sector, called Badwater, is 76 miles east of Mount Whitney (14,505 feet above sea level) ― the highest point in the contiguous United States. These two geographic and topographic extremes creates an amazing contrast of elevations. Death Valley also holds the record for the highest reported temperature in the Western Hemisphere: 134ºF. This reliable reading was taken at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913, and falls just short of the world record, 136ºF claimed by Al 'Aziziyah in Libya on September 13, 1922. Another incidental record is the valley’s golf course that's part of the tourist ranch at Furnace Creek: It has the lowest elevation of any golf course in the world––214 feet below sea level. Does this mean golf balls, when struck, go farther? Death Valley encompasses an immense territory of extreme topographical features. The expanded national park was dedicated in 1994. Earlier, Death Valley became a national monument in 1933.

Guided Tour Essentials: Death Valley’s main feature presentation includes the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve, sharing borders with California and Nevada, where it lies in the Great Basin east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Chiefly, the valley's parched landscape is located in Inyo County, California, stretching from north to south between the U-shaped Amargosa (Spanish word for bitter tasting water) Range (110 mikes long) that rises on the eastern side of the park's perimeter. The highest point of this somewhat elevated range is 8,738 feet. The higher Panamint Range, also running north-south, stretches 100 miles, forming the western wall of the valley. This mountain range is also part of the Basin and Range Province, rising at the western end of the Great Basin. Its highest point, Telescope Peak, boasts an elevation of 11,049 feet above sea level. There are even more mountains to behold in this vicinity. Namely, the Sylvania Mountains trending east and west (7,864 feet) and the smaller Owlshead Mountains (1,683 feet) at the southern end of the park. Approximately ninety-five percent of the park is designated a wilderness, which covers 4,774 square miles. Overall, Death Valley is the largest protected landscape in the Lower 48 states; also the sixth largest park in the United States. At one time, mining was the primary activity in the valley before the area became protected. This facet of the valley's rich history was the highlight of a popular television series, Death Valley Days, televised weekly from 1952 to 1975. And before the television series, the program was broadcast on radio from 1930 to 1945. It’s easily the longest combined media program series ever produced. Seeing or hearing these broadcasts first introduced American audiences to the rugged beauty, and sometimes a lethal environment of this Out West setting. However, the acquired fierce reputation was mainly based on dramatic exaggeration and typical Hollywood sensationalism.

From this salt pan viewing area, Telescope Peak cresting the Panamint Range goes from the lowest to highest points in the lower forty-eight states. Quite a stunning fact when you think about it.

And how many of you folks remember this popular television series:

And this actor-turned-president (literally) associated with the series?

And sponsored by this product. . .

More Essentials (Because DV Is Such A Big Place): The natural environment of this wide and long landscape has been shaped largely by geology. The valley-basin itself is actually a graben (ordinarily, a block of rock that lies between two faults, which has moved downward to form a depression between two adjacent fault blocks). Death Valley represents a huge block of land bordered by parallel faults. The oldest rocks are extensively metamorphosed and are at least 1.7 billion years old. The age nearly rivals that of the Grand Canyon's basement Precambrian rock foundation. Ancient warm, shallow seas deposited marine sediments until rifting opened the Pacific Ocean (the Gulf of California caused by the San Andreas Fault). Additional sedimentation occurred until a subduction zone formed off the coast and, uplifted the region. This primal event therefore emerged from below the sea and partly created a line of volcanoes. Later, the planet’s crust started to pull apart, creating the current Basin and Range Province. Afterward, valleys created by the mountains filled with sediment, and during the wet times between glacial periods, formed huge inland bodies of water such as Lake Manly. Much, much later in time humans walked the earth and Death Valley was what it was: a dry, hot estate laid out below tall mountains. The first documented Anglos to enter this region arrived during the winter of 1849. The group came out West searching for gold and thought they would save time by taking a shortcut to the promising gold fields of California. However, the party ended up getting stuck for weeks in a forlorn place hundreds of miles from their planned destination. Realizing the trouble they were in, someone in the party dubbed the setting Death Valley, mainly because the misguided adventure had cost one man his life. Thereafter, the hugely large and wan valley retained its equivocal designate (tomorrow's conclusion will reveal more about this and other human history accounts). Several short-lived boom towns later sprang up during the late-19th and early-20th centuries, mostly settlements that exploited miners their local bonanzas of gold. However, the only long-term and profitable ore mined was borax, which is a mineral used to make soap, also an important industrial compound. Today, borax is an essential component of high-temperature resistant boro-silicate glass products, for example Pyrex cookware. Twenty-mule teams were also exploited to transport ore out of the valley. The lengthy mule teams also helped to make this ranging territory famous and the subject of books, radio programs, television series and movies (many of them Westerns).

FYI-Trivia: The lowest point on land not covered by water is the floor of the Bentley Subglacial Trench in Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica: 8,383 feet below sea level. While the foundation is covered by a thick layer of ice, technically its region counts as the lowest land mass. Regarding the Western Hemisphere, although Death Valley's Badwater is considered the lowest point, it turns out there's also misinformation about this claim. Recently, it's been decided that the Laguna del Carbón, Spanish for Coal Lagoon (344 feet), is lowest in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres, and the seventh lowest locale on the planet. But if one considers only the lowest point on dry land, the prize goes to the shore of the Dead Sea with an elevation of 1,371 feet below sea level. Nevertheless, Badwater Basin is certainly the lowest point for thousands of miles. Death Valley's elevation is even more accentuated by its proximity to Mount Whitney, which is 85 miles to the west. The 14,505 feet topographic relief (from Badwater Basin to Mount Whitney's peak) represents the greatest elevation gradient in the contiguous United States, and is the terminus point of the Great Basin's southwestern drainage.

How Big is Big? Most of the big news and scenery in this part of the West comes down to a sprawling, spellbinding and rugged backdrop even if one knows very little about what forces created this desolate landscape. Another factor is the sheer size of this place. Death Valley in the continental United States takes the prize for the largest national park, measuring 3.4 million acres (1,376 sq. km), followed by Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres (8,904 sq. km), the Everglades' 1.5 million acres (6,070 sq. km), Grand Canyon's 1.2 million acres (4,856 sq. km) and Glacier's 1 million acres (4,046 sq. km). These big five national parks claim their respective boasting rights, yet way up north in Alaska, the parks are even bigger. By comparison, Death Valley ranks sixth, Yellowstone eighth, and the Everglades tenth. What’s larger? Wrangell-St. Elias NP is first on the far north list and covets the largest turf, at 13.176 million acres (53,321 sq. km). Denali NP is about half that size and comes in at number three, measuring 6.075 million acres/24,584 sq. km. Obviously, Death Valley's protected land grab is still quite impressive, because its usually cooked turf is huge by any comparison. Besides, it breaks the record for the hottest of all national parks, so that’s saying something worth the bragging.

Geology: There are two major sectors in the park––Death Valley and Panamint Valley. Both were formed within the last few million years. Both are also bounded by soaring north to south-trending ranges. Thus the defining aspect of this landscape comes down to orogensis (mountain-building events). These mountains and adjacent valleys follow the general trend of the Basin and Range topography, with one modification: parallel strike-slip faults have noticeably altered the terrain. This geologic event means the fault surface is usually near vertical and the footwall––meaning the underlying block of a fault having an inclined fault plane––moves either left or right, or even laterally, with very little vertical motion. Strike-slip faults perpendicularly bound the central extent of Death Valley. The result of this shearing action is some additional extension––stretching of the planetary crust––in the central part of the valley, which likewise causes a slight widening and more subsidence at the point. Uplift of surrounding mountain ranges and subsidence of the valley floor are therefore occurring simultaneously. A case in point is the uplift on the regional volcanic Black Mountains. This smaller range is essentially a continuation of the Amargosa Range, stretching from California into Arizona. The uplift is so fast (relatively speaking) that the alluvial fans (fan-shaped deposits at the mouths of canyons) are small and steep compared to the much larger alluvial fans coming off the Panamint Range. Still, an accelerated uplift of a mountain range in an arid environment often doesn't allow canyons enough time to cut a classic V-shape all the way down to the stream bed. Instead, a V-shape profile ends at a slot canyon about halfway down, forming what geologists refer to as a classic wine glass canyon feature. Sediment is then deposited on a small and steep alluvial fan.

Edge of the Black Mountains with alluvial fan deposits:

Throughout the western United States, a series of generally north-south running mountain ranges loom over intervening valleys. This landscape feature describes part of Death Valley's geologic events. When a valley has no outlet for water runoff, it's termed a basin, which is the case in many interior valleys of the western United States. Hence, the geographical term Basin and Range Province topography is given for the entire province. When sufficient precipitation over extended periods of time wash small earthen particles into the lowest points in the valley, a flat surface of fine sediment can form. Due to the overwhelmingly arid conditions, the water covering this surface evaporates quickly. A playa is then left behind, which is a formed and hardened pavement that’s absolutely flat and usually salt-laden. Within the park there are two very prominent playas. The most accessible is at Badwater in the southern sector. Almost at the other end of the park is the much more remote Racetrack.

How dry is dry? This desiccated playa scene provides the answer. . .

Although the extreme lack of water in this Great Basin relief topography makes this distinction of minimal and current practical use, it nonetheless indicates that in wetter times a gigantic lake once filled Death Valley (the aforementioned Lake Manly). Its basin was also the last stop for water flowing in the region, meaning the water was saturated in dissolved materials. Thus, the resulting and expansive salt pans in Death Valley are among the largest in the world. They are also rich in minerals (borax and various salts and hydrates). Indeed, the largest salt pan in the park extends 40 miles from the Ashford Mill Site to the Salt Creek Hills, covering some 200 square miles of the valley floor. The best known playa in the park is the above mentioned Racetrack, which is famous for its mysterious moving rock. It's also entirely devoid of vegetation. Incidentally, those so-called sailing stones on the Racetrack playa are a geological phenomenon found only in this location, and possibly the only place on the planet where such strangeness occurs. Without human or animal intervention, the stones slowly and intermittently move across the surface of the playa, leaving a track as they go. Remarkably, the movement has never been seen or filmed in motion. In fact, racetrack stones move only once every two or three years. Most tracks also last for only three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms tend to wander. The stones sometimes turn over, exposing another edge to the ground while leaving a different sized track in the wake. Mysterious and fun at the same time. Then again, the mystery may have been solved by the claim sailing stones are most likely moved by strong winter winds that can sometimes reach 90 miles-per-hour (148 k.p.h.). Once it has rained enough to fill the playa with just enough water to make the clay pliable, then the stones can be moved by the wind. Because prevailing southwest winds across Racetrack playa blow to northeast, most of the rock trails are parallel to this direction, lending support to the hypothesis that wind is the cause.

I wonder what the Vegas odds are on these moving rocks!

Maybe the cosmos is somehow behind the mystery. Do you think?

The other oddity about these sailing stones is they're not pebbles and such. Still, if the wind really is the catalyst, then there's a lot of mass to move across the playa. . .

The other notable aspect about Death Valley is its singular geology and the tincture in some of the rocks. Sometimes it seems Mother Nature's artistry used all of Her palette colors. . .

And she can certainly orchestrate a stunning sunset of mesmerizing colors. . .

Why Is It So Hellish Hot Here? As a rule, where the sun heats the ground and heat radiates upward, lower altitudes tend to have higher temperatures. It’s as simple as that. Or is it? Here there are other variables to consider. For instance, elementary climatology teaches the principle: as air begins to rise it's soon trapped by (1) the surrounding elevation and (2) the weight of the air (essentially the atmospheric pressure) above it. Atmospheric pressure is also higher at very low altitudes than under the same conditions higher up at sea level, simply because there's more air (meaning, more distance) between the ground and the top of the atmosphere. When the atmospheric pressure traps the heat near the ground, wind currents naturally arise, thereby circulating very hot air and dispersing heat to all areas despite shade and other factors. This horizontal movement and retention of heat is especially important here in Death Valley, because it provides the terrain's specific climate and geography. The valley is also nearly surrounded by lofty mountain ranges, while the surface landscape far below is mostly flat and devoid of plants. Thus a high percentage of the sun's heat reaches the ground and is absorbed by soil and rock.

Can you even imagine what the miners endured throughout most of the year?

Not to mention what these hard-working guys and gals put up with on any given day:

The physics of the matter comes down to this salient point: When air at ground level is heated, it begins to rise. Moving up and past the steep bulwark of mountain ranges, the air cools slightly, but then begins to sink back down toward the valley. As it sinks, the air becomes more compressed and then reheated by the sun to a higher temperature. Now the air moves up and down the flank of the mountains in cycles and in a circular motion. This Science 101 class description is essentially how a convection oven works, albeit here in the valley it’s a leviathan-sized natural oven. The superheated air also plays another important role: It increases ground temperature markedly. This effect instigates hot wind currents trapped by atmospheric pressure and mountains, and mostly stay within the valley.

Notice this monitor station is in the shade:

It’s precisely these hot winds that contribute to and perpetuate drought-like conditions in the valley. IN short, preventing cloud formations from migrating through its ranging confines. Precipitation is also often realized as virga (an observable streak or shaft of precipitation that falls from a cloud, though eventually evaporating before reaching the ground).

A lovely example of virga:

Now the answer to the opening question has a much simpler answer: Death Valley holds temperature records mainly because it has an unusually high number of factors that lead to high atmospheric temperatures, which brings this discussion to the next topic––the weather.

Climate: Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in North America, and for what reason, exactly? Simply this: a lack of surface water abetted by the low relief of the valley’s ranging topography. The valley is so often the hottest spot on the North American continent that many tabulations of highest daily temperature in the country omit Death Valley as a matter of policy. For instance, on July 10, 1913, a record 134ºF (56.7ºC) was measured at the Weather Bureau's observation station at Greenland Ranch (now the site for the Furnace Creek Inn), which was also the highest temperature ever recorded on the continent as of 2007. Daily summer temperatures of 120ºF (49ºC) or greater are common, as well as below freezing nightly temperatures in the winter. July is the hottest month, with an average high of 115ºF (46ºC) and an average low of 88ºF (31ºC). December is the coldest month, with an average high of 65ºF (18ºC) and an average low of 39ºF (4ºC). The record low is 15ºF (-9.4ºC).

A view of the Furnace Creek Inn:

Now the question can be asked: Why is it predominantly dry here and with such exaggerated temperatures? Apart from the typical air current patterns mentioned earlier, the mountain ranges have something to do with this phenomena (the highest within the park is the Panamint Range, with Telescope Peak the highest summit at 11,049 feet). Death Valley is in a transitional zone in the northernmost part of the Mojave Desert, consisting of five mountain ranges removed (isolated) from the Pacific Ocean. Three of these are significant walled barriers: the Sierra Nevada, the Panamint Range, and the Argus Range located in Inyo County between the Coso Range and Panamint Valley; also, the Panamint Range to the east.

Air masses tend to lose moisture when forced up and over mountains, in what climatologists call a rainshadow effect. Hence, what rainfall really ever exists in the valley? The exaggerated rainshadow for Death Valley region therefore makes it North America's driest spot, receiving just 1.5 inches of rainfall annually at Badwater (some years fail to register any measurable rainfall). Annual average precipitation varies from 1.92 inches overall below sea level, to over 15 inches in the higher mountains surrounding the valley. When rain does arrive, intense and ephemeral storms rake the region. These heavier downpours also cause flash flood episodes, which in turn remodel the landscape and sometimes create shallow temporary lakes. While the drama of flash floods may be awesome to watch, most of the water is wasted, because it’s running too fast to saturate the ground and replenish soil.

These warning signs are common throughout the valley. . .

And in the distance a storm approaches, starting with the lovely and awesome rain bearer clouds, seemingly benign. . .

And despite the warnings, despite the typically parched and cracked terrain, despite what seems too far away to matter in the long or short run (those lovely and awesome clouds), people still miss the mark of common sense and end up paying for the mistake with their lives:

P. S. Notice the Furnace Creek Inn in the background and how close these victims were to safety! I mean, had the driver not attempted to cross the raging water caused by the flash flood.

The hot, dry climate has another downside to it, making it difficult for soil to form. The dominant erosive force in arid mountainous areas is the down-slope movement of loose rock, resulting in skeletonized ranges (mountains with very little soil on them). Sand dunes in the park, while a marvel to look at, are not nearly as numerous as one would expect, that is given the dryness. One of the main dune fields, near Stovepipe Wells in the north central part of the valley, is primarily quartz sand. Another dune field is just 10 miles (16 km) to the north and composed of travertine sand. Yet another dune field is near the seldom-visited Ibex Hill in the southernmost part of the park, just south of the Saratoga Springs marshland. These dune fields remain fixed (more or less) since prevailing winter winds come from the north, then shift from the south during summer.

Ibex Hill sand dune sector:

Apart from these norms, there are rare exceptions to the dry nature of Death Valley. In 2005, for instance, an unusually wet winter created a temporary lake of sorts in Badwater Basin. This startling contingency of standing water then led to the greatest wildflower season in the park's history. Indeed, there were so many photographers vying for favored photography spots that park rangers were summoned to break up skirmishes among them––all for the sake of having that special photo of a special flower!

Incidentally, there are rare gully washer years (such as 2005) when Nature's spigot pours it on and huge lakes form:

Sometimes deep enough to do this sort of mirage-like activity:

And when Nature's bounty of water does flow there is an explosion of flower and color in Death Valley!

Meanwhile, here's some parting shots to add to your memory banks. We'll conclude the tour starting tomorrow. . .this time covering more of Death Valley's interesting human history.

End of the trail for these folks, maybe?

The aptly named "Devil's Cornfield," which is actually tightly clumped arrowweed (Pluchea sericea) member of the sunflower family:

And a big hee-haw y'all from these long-ered haulers (here posing for a modern day photo shoot):

As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.


Originally posted to SciTech on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 08:15 AM PST.

Also republished by National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, Pink Clubhouse, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I was there in early 1990 something (10+ / 0-)

    Just after a somewhat wet season and the wildflowers were out in force. Something else.

    Help me to be the best Wavy Gravy I can muster

    by BOHICA on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 08:35:41 AM PST

    •  thanks for your comment. . . (6+ / 0-)

      BOHICA, and I believe the park service lists on its site past eventual wet seasons. Ergo, when the explosion of color lit up the valley in an amazing variety of flowers. At least this used to be the case. I am sure if you Google something along such lines the wet years will come up. I was there in 2005 and witnessed some of the show, also in the early 1990s, though I forget what year. But the display was pretty darn good. Flowers, as John Denver once sang, are our friends.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:42:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, I love Death Valley (7+ / 0-)

    Though sadly I have never made it down there for the spring bloom.

    •  there's always the next time. . . (5+ / 0-)

      and I understand there is a website that is especially dedicated to blooming flowers during the more explosive and rare events. Then it's Katy bar the door because there is also a zillion photographers headed that way, most from California, and believe it or not sometimes the park rangers have to settle squabbles that nearly get to fisticuffs. I mean, people willing to fight for a particular scene. Can you imagine? Anyway, thanks for posting your comment, T100R.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:40:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A friend flew us into Furnace Creek recently (8+ / 0-)

    This is a great time of year to go. Awesome desolation from the air. It was like flying over Mars. It has its own particular beauty.

    •  Mars is about the way to look at it. . . (4+ / 0-)

      only not red. But a whole mess of other wonderful colors that's for sure. And you're right. . .the best time to make an appearance in the valley is November thru March. Then again, if you don't mind the heat, and I certainly don't, or the cold, I'm good to go with the valley 12 months any one of them. Then again, I'm strange that way. Thanks for posting your comment.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:38:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Mars exploration (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA ridebalanced, Noodles

      Comes to Death Valley National Park with the second annual Mars in the Mojave Festival sponsored by NASA, the SETI Institute and the National Park Service.

      Death Valley landscapes are examined as comparable landscapes to those encountered by the three Mars rovers.

      It should be another fascinating get-together of planetary scientists and Death Valley desert rats on March 1-3, 2013.

      "I come close to despair because so many of the pieces of the country are broken, and when you see that, you have two choices: You can give up, or you can do something about it." Elizabeth Warren

      by Ed in Montana on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 05:36:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I see you figured out how to publish to SciTech (6+ / 0-)

    and thanks, great diary!

  •  Excellent! (6+ / 0-)

    I have been to Death Valley twice and stayed overnight at Furnace Creek Inn. Even witnessed a thunderstorm and rain while there. I wonder if the Inn still requires dressing up (jackets for men) for the evening meal?

    Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

    by Ian S on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 10:44:39 AM PST

    •  thanks for the comment. . . (6+ / 0-)

      and I'm not about the dress code these days. How long ago was it that you spent some time there during a rare and lucky thunderstorm, Ian S? Fact is, I never heard of such a policy, though it's Xanterra, and those folks can sometimes make up their own rules as they go along. Love your tag signature, by the way. Very funny, that!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:36:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My visits there were both... (4+ / 0-)

        in the early 1990's with my mother; the first time we did not stay overnight but ate lunch at the Inn and learned about the evening dress code. The second time we stayed at the Inn and enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails on the terrace as well as a lightning show and some rain sprinkles. My mother had been fascinated with Death Valley for years after reading about a family that barely survived a car breakdown there once. So when I moved to Phoenix and she came to visit, the first thing she wanted to do was go to Death Valley even though that meant a flight to Vegas and a rental car. In Death Valley, she was paranoid any time I drove off the main road even though I kept to the appropriate sideroads.

        Speaking of the Inn's dress code, I see it is now referred to as "casual elegance" meaning no shorts or tees but apparently  a jacket is not required.

        My tagline is a compendium of insults that Markos has endured over the years from the haters that write to him.

        Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

        by Ian S on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 06:09:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  they still did (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian S

      the last time I was there, but that's some 30-40 years ago.

      I actually had an acceptable jacket with me, but they had to "loan" me a tie . . .

      Love the place . . .

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 01:57:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this diary (8+ / 0-)

    Great photos & history.

    It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision. ~ Helen Keller

    by Pam from Calif on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 11:14:23 AM PST

  •  wow (7+ / 0-)

    what's left for part 2? Thanks for the really great diary.

    I spent a few days in Death Valley a few winters ago and enjoyed it very much. Might have enjoyed it more if I had not purchased at the gift shop a book called Desert Shadows. I shouldn't have started reading it until I got home. Apparently Charles Manson and his crew spent a lot of time in DV in '69. Frightening and not conducive to sleep.

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 11:21:46 AM PST

  •  great diary, thank you for the time and effort (9+ / 0-)

    put into it.

    I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not.…We're better than this. We must do better. Cmdr Scott Kelley

    by wretchedhive on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:12:48 PM PST

  •  I love this series. Stuff like (5+ / 0-)

    this (and the bird diaries) are pretty much the only reason I still come here.

    Grew a mustache and a mullet / Got a job at Chick-Fil-A

    by cardinal on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:25:38 PM PST

    •  thanks, cardinal. . . (4+ / 0-)

      and that compliment really goes far given what you said. Very much appreciated. I love all avians, even have a story about Emperor Penguins and global warming combined that I might share some of its narrative with the DKos audience. These penguins are my favorite "wingless" avians. I am also a huge fan of corvus corax. . .nothing like a Grand Canyon raven's sense of play over its magnificent arena. Contact me via my email profile for some of your recommended avian sites presented by this community, or yourself. . .I would love to read and know what's going on in the birding community.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:33:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you read the (5+ / 0-)

        Dawn Chorus series every Sunday morning? You'll find every dKos birder there.

        Regarding DV, though I've never been there, I've always marveled at the proximity of Mt. Whitney to the lowest point in the USA, and it's one of my long-term goals to be able to stand where I can see the extreme elevation contrast. My next trip to CA is next June, though, and I'm not brave enough to try it then.

        Grew a mustache and a mullet / Got a job at Chick-Fil-A

        by cardinal on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:43:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks. . . (4+ / 0-)

          and I take it I can look up the series under the name "Dawn Chorus???" I'll try. As far as your ambitions go, well, June is hotter than the proverbial hades, especially Bad Water, which is the lowest sector of the valley. Mt. Whitney is a tough climb by any standards and I believe now one must obtain a permit from the NPS to hike the trail (therefore eliminating the massive foot traffic I've seen and experienced on the trail in times past). But June is a decent month to at least to score that part of your dream, standing on the highest point. Return in the late fall and then experience the other. As for birding, I've never thought of the valley as a specially great place for such, but I can highly recommend places in Arizona if you want to contact me for some excellent birding sites. Maybe someone in the community will read this and let me know what I missed in the avian community's presence in the valley at any time of the year.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:58:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Does your mountain also go to Mohammed? (0+ / 0-)
            This low sector, called Badwater, is 76 miles east of Mount Whitney [...] Badwater Basin is certainly the lowest point for thousands of miles. Death Valley's elevation is even more accentuated by its proximity to Mount Whitney, which is 85 miles to the west.
            I guess it's not 100% clear whether you're measuring from two different points here.

            -7.75 -4.67

            "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

            There are no Christians in foxholes.

            by Odysseus on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:53:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Google: " dawn chorus" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            and I take it I can look up the series under the name "Dawn Chorus???"
            Or you can click on the tag.

            -7.75 -4.67

            "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

            There are no Christians in foxholes.

            by Odysseus on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:56:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Gorgeous photos. Desolate place. (5+ / 0-)

    Hard to imagine the flowering in the desert and canoeing.

    I watched Death Valley Days with mom as a kid. Loved the mule team.

    Predicting is hard...especially the future. ~ Y. Berra

    by jim in IA on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 01:33:10 PM PST

    •  first comment. . . (4+ / 0-)

      on Death Valley Days, jim in IA. As a boy growing up in central Pea-A Westerns were the big "IT" for me, and that show was among my favorites. And look who grew older and became the President! (P. S. I always felt sorry for the mule team and horses. I mean, that heavy lode, that long distance to where they had to go, the constant whip lashing sounds over their ears, and so on. I think back then I had urgings to turn to Buddhism's gentler ways. HA.) Thanks for posting your thoughts and comments.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 02:50:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Death Valley NP is the one (5+ / 0-)

    most familiar to me. Mr Balanced has been going there at least once a year since '72, and he introduced me to it when we met ten years ago. So, I have hiked many a trail there, and been on just about every 4WD road that is open in the park.

    I think that my two favorite things in DV are to find and visit the springs that are scattered throughout the park; and wandering through the old cabins that still exist. We have friends who are very involved with the "Adopt a Cabin" program, in which people are trying to keep the old structures from falling apart.

    Thank you for this series you do, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrows installment. Ah, and maybe we crossed paths in that spring of 2005 for the flower spectacle, as the Mr, our dog, and I wandered through for three days at the end of March.......... alongside a seeming million other people.

    A spot that isn't visited much with a view to equal that of Dante's View is up on the outskirts of Chloride City. If you haven't been there, do go. You'll need a 4WD, or your own two feet to hike there. That's one area where you can almost always spot some Desert Bighorns as well.

    All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown

    by CA ridebalanced on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:20:11 PM PST

    •  your comments. . . (3+ / 0-)

      CA ridebalanced (CG, as in aircraft stuff...the handle?). . .and you and me and a zillion others were in the park in that year. What a zoo! But I was told there were only a few altercations among the photographers vying for the best shots of the lovely flowers. Anyway, no, I have never been to Chloride City, and I am not a 4WD type, because it scares the bejesus out me. There, a fear I am proud to own up to! I don't even think I knew of a trail that leads to such a place. You obviously have a lot more hiking experience than I and I am wondering if you might be interested in posting a diary about same; I mean, just to give a different take on the park in view my more objective overview and its information. Do you think? I am also more familiar with the Colorado Plateau's turf. With DV, however, I don't think I have more than a hundred miles of bona fide backpack trails under my feet. Anyway, I thank you for posting your interesting comments. Hope to see you on the conclusion of the tour (tomorrow). (P.S. I am used to seeing bighorn in parts of the Plateau, yet I have never had the pleasure of seeing such critters in the valley. They are indeed elusive when they want to be.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:44:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  As far as Chloride City goes, (4+ / 0-)

        it could be a nice backpack in and out. On the highway between Stovepipe Wells and Beatty, Nevada, just before Daylight Pass is a dirt road that runs off to the right. It's possible to park a car off the road and hike up to the old mining town of Chloride City (an 8-10 mile distance I believe). There are a few structures that remain up there. Some rusty old car parts and mining equipment also. If you have Google Earth you can follow the dirt road past the Monarch Spring turnoff (another nice hike) and click on some photos of the Cliff overview. One gets a great view of Mt Whitney from up there, as well as the panorama of the playas, dunes, and fans down valley.
        If you were to take a vehicle and keep following the dirt road out of the park and into Nevada you might very well run into a herd or two of wild burros. They seem to hang out in that area for some reason.

        I will admit that 4-wheeling is not in my comfort zone either. My other half does the driving, and I get out and walk in the tough spots. I know he thinks I'm a Nervous Nellie, but he won't ride a horse......and THAT is MY comfort zone. So we even each other out.  :-)

        For those that Facebook, Death Valley Flowers gives  reports in the spring about the quality of and locations to what is blooming where. The Death Valley Historical Association is a pretty good resource to view before going to DV.  Also, the Death Valley 49er's (think 1849) have a five day long "Encampment" every November that we try to attend. If you want to get out on 4WD roads as a passenger that is the time to go. Make new friends with people with 4WD vehicles, and hitch rides to the relatively unseen portions of the park. The 49er group are really generous folk concerning their knowledge of all things Death Valley; just don't talk politics. For the most part they are Conservative with a capital C.

        I'm happy to answer any questions sent my way about Death Valley. If enough people showed an interest in a group get together, my other half and I would be happy to share some of our more favorite spots to see.

        All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown

        by CA ridebalanced on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 04:43:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another wonderful diary. (5+ / 0-)

    Never been there, but those sunsets are enough to make me want to go someday.

    Thanks again Rich.

    I am a work in progress. Still.

    by broths on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:22:13 PM PST

    •  you're welcomed. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, foresterbob

      now pack your bags and get out to see the big valley. . .it's the best time go, broths. If you're short on gas money I'll even send you five bucks (it's about all I can afford). HA! Thanks for posting your comment and for your support, as always.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:38:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  DV (3+ / 0-)

    I didn't think I was going to read this diary, but am I glad I did! Very interesting and informative. I know people who go there every year and stay at the hotel and they love it. I confess I have never been interested in DV, but after reading this diary and some of the experiences of others, I believe I might want to check it out. Thanks again for the effort you put into these diaries, it is truly impressive - you must spend all week writing these diaries. I read every word and I have learned so much! I look forward to tomorrow's (after I go skiing.)

    •  and here's my thoughts on your comment. . . (0+ / 0-)

      wynative. . .what you expressed so well is why I posted this out of the blue diary about a very unique setting. It is more than meets the eye and the name doesn't do the setting any favors. Still, I want you to trust me when I say Death Valley is worth the time visiting, especially during the lesser cooler months, like now. I"ll look forward to seeing you on tomorrow's tour and then we can chat about the follow up, meaning yours, and whether you will one day make the time to come and see for yourself one of the Earth's most unusual settings that will please the eye. . .just remember the heat can be a bit much for some people. Ergo: rent a nice place to stay for a night or two or three during your visit. Wait until you see the night sky hanging overhead. As always, thank you for posting a comment and for your support of these national park postings.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 08:08:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The geology is far more complicated & interesting (3+ / 0-)

    than you have indicated. I don't have the time to get into it, but it's an incredible history. Off the top of my head, I think that the extensional processes go back at least 15 million years, but I could be wrong.

    I've done geophysical field work in Death Valley with a very interesting team of scientists.

    Stunning photos.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:07:34 PM PST

    •  you're right. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FishOutofWater, flowerfarmer

      a geology setting that is far more complicated than what my diary posted. . .and of course, for good reason. I try and make the tour series interesting, but not too heavy for most readers, because the geologic significance of DV can be deep in more ways than one. The Extensional process, for instance, may go back even farther, but the 15 my mark is a decent average. How's about you and I chatting on the profile email and you telling me about your geophysical field work in DV, because I cannot claim such experience. I'm thinking it's therefore incumbent upon you, if you have time and interest, to let the rest of us in on what your experience in this field work turned up (because, again, I can't match same). Ooops...was that just a gauntlet thrown down? Not really. Still, I am very interested in hearing more about this field work. My main work is on the Colorado Plateau; I just visit other sectors and make general geologic assessments on stuff. Hey, I'm a Ph.D in Eastern and Western Philosophy by academia's scale. . .so that's a rationalization of legitimacy. Wouldn't you agree? HA! Your turn.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 08:04:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  GPS with Brian Wernecke (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ed in Montana, CA ridebalanced

        We were trying to determine the tectonics of the region around Yucca Mt. Death Valley was on the active side.

        Wernecke has gone on for years in the Basin and Range since I was in the field with him & co.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 08:08:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think I can get. . . (0+ / 0-)

          some of the tectonic research, such as what you describe. I'll see if I can and send it to you via your profile's email. I was once a GPS surveyor (and topographer mapper) with the USFS but I never got to have the fun doing what you and the others were doing. About the closest I've ever come to plate tectonics is that of an educator. Can you imagine the world at one time laughed at Wegener's hypothesis??? By the way, how long were you associated with Wernecke? I think a fellow field institute instructor also worked with him. I am going to check on that, too.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 01:07:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ah, the magic words: Death Valley. (5+ / 0-)

    I have a tape of Huell Howser kayaking in "Lake Manley" in that rainy year of 2005. It's my favorite all-time tape of his over his many adventures, and the lore of the place even in much drier years is brought back to me again and again. I live for those moister, "hundred-year" wildflower bonanza years.

    I camped there right by the side of the road when I was 18 in the middle of January once, and mama, was it cold! But my first glimpse of the night sky there was so awesome as to border on frightening. The Milky Way and millions of stars were right there and so bright. Good, good memories.

    And the varying subtle, desert colors of the terrain, the hills and the mountains. Great. Thanks for this diary!

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:07:52 PM PST

  •  Wow, check this link. Fabulous photos (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flowerfarmer, CA ridebalanced

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:11:32 PM PST

    •  mucho gratias, but. . . (0+ / 0-)

      the site doesn't open for some reason. . .just a blank, dark space, so I wonder if you have another source (site) to send me. Now you have my curiosity up and running, FishOutofWater...and I won't be able to rest until satisfied. Thanks, in the meantime, for sending whatever you sent me to look at! (P.S. I will look for your eeSci diary series on Thursday, as far as your tag line goes, but where do I find such. . .on this Daily Kos sit, methinks?)

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:54:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We stayed at Furnace Creek Inn one night (5+ / 0-)

    two or three years ago in early spring. I was surprised by the guests who seemed to be there just to enjoy the sun and luxury and to lounge around the pool. It was a good year for wildflowers, though not spectacular. We drove home on the narrow paved road that goes west to 395, and I'll never forget the view of the massive snow-covered Sierra, rising straight up and stretching from south to north. It would have been the picture of a lifetime - I've seen none to match it - but my camera was packed away and we couldn't stop.
         btw, Libya no longer holds the world's record for a hot day - the instruments and methods used in Libya have been questioned and Death Valley is now the champ with 134 on July 10, 1913. Check this link dated 9/14/2012. The USA Today story begins:  

    It's official: California's famed Death Valley now holds the world record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:32:48 PM PST

    •  records come and go. . . (4+ / 0-)

      and the info you sent is spot on, ybruti. I have heard rumors about this but I going to go along with this site and say DV is back on top of the highest temps on the planet. And I thank you, as always, for posting your comments and setting the record straight in this case. Good on you for doing so. (P.S. the reason why the mountains appear so high in this region is because the floor of DV is so low. Hence, a stunning sight of the highlands, especially when snow capped. Lucky you for even catching the scene even without capturing same on a video or photo.)

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:46:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We saw that view of the Sierra from a high (0+ / 0-)

        point in the road, not from the floor of Death Valley. It was a narrow, twisting road with few places to stop for a scenic view. There had been a heavy snowfall recently so the Sierra were covered almost to their base right next to 395.

        The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

        by ybruti on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 08:14:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wonder. . . (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          do you happen to a photo, ybruti, taken from that narrow, twisting road? Love to see it. I think so would the DKos community. When the Sierra's are blanketed with snow from bottom to crest. . .that range somehow seems more like its part of the famed Hindu Kush than North America.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 01:04:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Unfortunately, no picture, just a memory. (0+ / 0-)

            I felt too it was like looking at the Himalayas from a vantage point in Nepal, which I was fortunate enough to see thirty years ago.

            The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

            by ybruti on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 05:13:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Do they plan a centennial celebration? (4+ / 0-)

    This picture was taken October 17, 2011. Temperatures were in the mid 90s that time of year.

    This was my only trip to Death Valley. My biggest regret was that I was there during the middle of the day, and could not spend much time there. I missed the spectacular light of sunrise and sunset.

    •  where in the world. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      did you get this photo? Wow. Mind if I copy and keep it for later? It really tells the story of just how hot DV can get, and someone in the community recently wrote and said Libya's prior claim of being the hottest place in the world is now debunked and the honor goes back to DV. How about them apples, as my mom always said?

      By the way, there's always the next time. . .a return to the valley to see the wonder of a glory of a spectacular sunrise or sunset. They're both quite frequent in the valley.

      As always, thanks for posting your comments, foresterbob.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 01:02:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love that place (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA ridebalanced

    and I've played golf at Furnace Creek. It smells like a sauna but you are outside with all the Eucalyptus trees. Its like a different planet the way the air feels and smells. Plus the ball goes a lot shorter because the air is heavier. I can hit it a mile in Denver.

    What do you mean someones at the door?~Bin Laden

    by Max Runk on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 08:33:45 PM PST

  •  flowers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA ridebalanced

    amazing they can burst forth in such profusion when the ground looks so sterile most of the time.

    Looking forward to Titus canyon and Scotty's castle.

    •  ah, the elixir of the desert. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice

      water, and how the landscape can suddenly feel renewed and burst forth with an array of color and a large variety of flowers. Thanks for posting the comment, wilderness voice, because from sterility sometimes such things blossom. Ah, but not if it's bentonite and the like; you know, badlands. Then again, there are badland sectors in parts of the valley. Hence, that rugged, geologic and naked rock look that also has its appeal. At least to me it does.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:59:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't remember how I got them, but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ed in Montana, CA ridebalanced

    when I was a kid, I had a toy plastic version of the borax twenty mule team, complete with tiny water barrels to put on the sides of the wagons. I painted the mules to make each one unique. I think most of them are still in a drawer somewhere.

    •  I'm laughing. . . (0+ / 0-)

      because I, too, had a model of the mule team and it was one of my most cherished possessions. Even with diminutive water barrels! But all that stuff is lost to time and you are lucky to still have that memento, dot farmer. Care to send a pic of it some day? Thanks for posting your comment and a trip (for me) back on memory lane.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:56:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For more info (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA ridebalanced

    On Death Valley, check out this older diary: Death Valley National Park.

    Thanks for another great diary richholtzin!

    "I come close to despair because so many of the pieces of the country are broken, and when you see that, you have two choices: You can give up, or you can do something about it." Elizabeth Warren

    by Ed in Montana on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 05:47:57 AM PST

  •  Love it! Great diaries! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ed in Montana, CA ridebalanced

    Got to drive through there July of 2011 on the way to the Sierra Nevadas. We stopped at Furnace Creek when the thermometer read 119. Wanted to feel what it was like. Got a little droopy within a few minutes.  

    I hope to camp there in some winter or spring soon.  

    Keep these diaries coming!

    •  I thank you for your commentary. . . (0+ / 0-)

      AgavePup. I, too, drove thru the valley many years ago and I think the temperature was a bit higher, say, 125. My car also overheated and I was enthralled, stupidly, because here I was in the middle of nowhere and my car got sick. Well, I managed to repair the damage (good old duct tape and bailing wire around the radiator hose got me to Lost Wages, at least). Anyway, it was my second time in the valley and I think I was baptized as a desert rat that long ago (the 1970s). Anyway, thanks for posting your commentary and winter, like spring, camping. . .it's the best. Bundle up at night, because it is indeed quite cool in the desert. . .that escaping long wave radiation/low humidity phenomenon.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:51:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Death Valley Stargazing award - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, CA ridebalanced

    Grab a blanket!

    The International Dark-Sky Association announced the designation of Death Valley as a "Gold Tier" International Dark Sky Park today (Feb. 20). That tier is the highest bestowed by the IDA and means that you can view night sky objects only visible in the darkest skies on the planet.

    •  oh thank you . . . (0+ / 0-)

      for this announcement. I, and so many others, have pressured this council to do just what you presented, as a fact. I know Natural Bridges NM is exceptional in night sky scrutiny, but I think DV is even better. . .it's own turf is so expansive, which means the view above is the same, if not more. Thank you, yacoltgal, for being the direct source for such a laudable endorsement.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 06:19:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  • again!... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA ridebalanced

    ...I believe those yellow flowers are arnica...

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 09:22:57 AM PST

    •  your thoughts on the flowers. . . (0+ / 0-)

      as in "arnica." I thought so, too, but another commentator said they were. . .darn. . .I can't remember now. . .have to look it up. But since you and I think the flowers are arnica, paradise50, then why not? HA! Thanks, as always, for your commentary and I am glad you enjoyed (and survived) the tour of DV. No, wait; what am I saying. . .it's still the cooler winter season in the valley; the pictures were spring, summer and fall!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:47:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Camped @ Furnace Creek just 2 weeks ago (3+ / 0-)

    It was the first time I'd been to D.V. in well over 45 years. What a treat. We drove the washboard road out to the racetrack, visited several old mines, did the Titus Canyon drive, and viewed the park from Dante's Overlook. It was just a fraction of what the park offers but it hooked me. I will need to go back as there are some many things I want to see and do.

    Another great diary, Rich with magnificent pictures.

    I don't get mad. I get stabby!" - Fat Tony D'Amico

    by sizzzzlerz on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 10:01:51 AM PST

    •  you are trying to make me envious. . . (0+ / 0-)

      and I am glad that you did, sizzzzlerz. I haven't been there for a few years, the last time with Northern Arizona University, as an instructor with the Road Scholar program. Anyway, all those places you mentioned. . .it all comes back to me. Now tell me: What is you thought about why the sailing stones of Racetrack Valley actually move??? P.S. I bet in all those years since you were last there the place hadn't changed too much, other than more tourist numbers and facilities? My first time in DV was around 1971, and that seems to be the time when you were last there, as well.)

      As always, thank you for your interesting commentaries and support. The John Wesley Powell 9-part lengthy series starts today, around 4 MST. Hope you can join me on the down-river(s) adventure given his 1869 expedition.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:46:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  DV is full of the bizarre (0+ / 0-)

        but the sliding stones on the racetrack are truly the bizarrest. I have pictures similar to yours and I must have looked at over 100 stones with tracks, some fist sized many much larger. There are tracks that go in one direction, stop, and then go off at 90 degrees. Other tracks loop back on themselves. Its hard to believe rocks can do this but the evidence is there.

        Theories I've read attribute it to wind and a slick and icy surface. Me, I believe its the rock gnomes out bowling. In any case, its someplace everyone should visit.  Just make sure everything in your car is bolted tight. That road is bum-pey!

        I don't get mad. I get stabby!" - Fat Tony D'Amico

        by sizzzzlerz on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 04:39:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was posted in Death Valley for three years. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA ridebalanced

    A natural resources manager, I worked in what was then Death Valley National Monument between 1985 and 1988. It was the best job I ever had with the NPS. I could tell some tales about pitch, soot-black nights when the moon was down and quietude so profound I can still hear it; about two grown men, me and my office-mate, Dave changing a tire in the middle of the salt-pan in July at 122 deg. F; about 5-year old wild-girl daughter, Rhiannon, calmly informing me that there was another sidewinder rattlesnake outside our house at Cow Creek; and haboobs: roaring, dust-choked from the north, south down the valley in a massive Valley-wide front of suspended silt and salt-dust.

    The place always reminded me of the Passage from the Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy:

    It was at present a place perfectly accordant with man's nature--neither ghastly, hateful, nor ugly; neither commonplace, unmeaning, nor tame; but, like man, slighted and enduring; and withal singularly colossal and mysterious in its swarthy monotony. As with some persons who have long lived apart, solitude seemed to look out of its countenance. It had a lonely face, suggesting tragical possibilities.
    Fantastic pictures; are some of them HDR? Your article took me back to some good times.
    •  YuccaPete. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA ridebalanced

      my thanks for your wonderful commentary. And I am going to be upset with you, and I think so will most of the DKos community, if you don't a diary or two or three given your experience at the park/monument, with the NPS. Already I infer a epic portrayal in writing. So, please, please, think about doing this. Your writing already shows its appeal to sharing with others a story or two or three that's sure to be appreciated. And if you don't do this, then how about sending me an email via my profile and fill me in some more details of your lengthy time spent at DV? My tours as an educator were always just that: touring with my charges and then a return to where I lived at the time. (Of course, when I lived in Blue Diamond, near Lost Wages, I was able to get to/from the valley more often, and by myself. But it's not the same as you folks who worked there, and for the NPS. I worked for same, also the USFS, so I know something about such employment. Thanks, again, for posting your commentary and for the lovely quote you sent, from Thomas Hardy.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:42:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fabulous diary!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA ridebalanced, MRA NY

    Wow, this is spectacular!  Thanks for being such a great
    science writer and capturing such incredible beauty with
    these stunning photos.  I really, really want to go there
    now.......just not in the summer.  I already get the flame
    broiled treatment in Phoenix.   Do you think there could
    be some sort of geomagnetic movement from within the
    earth that makes the rocks move?  That is awesome!

    •  your insight on the moving rocks. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA ridebalanced, MRA NY

      Debs2. . .and I'm jealous. I didn't even think of it. The 'sailing stones' at Racetrack Valley are also not typical sedimentary rocks, but the harder metamorphic types. It has always been difficult for me to accept the wind is behind this wondrous to the eye movement. . .yet the eye never sees the rocks move. I almost believed like the cowardly lion said, "I do believe in spooks," only in this case a sort of playful poltergeist activity. Anyway, I really don't know if anyone has come up with the right answer but I do think you might be onto something: geomagnetic movement, indeed. Glad you enjoyed the series and I'll keep providing the tours as long as there's an interest in the community for me to present them. Today, around 4 MST, is the first of a lengthy 9-part series on Major John Wesley Powell's first expedition in 1869. Perhaps a bit of history will interest you by reading this abridged account. Next weekend I'll post another stunning national park, this time Capitol Reef-Waterpocket Fold. You're going to love its stunning  and rugged beauty. Meanwhile, anyone who can live in and tolerate the typical weather where you live. . .I think you can easily adapt to Death Valley's hotter times.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 12:36:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful read! Off to Part II. Thanks! nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

    by MRA NY on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 03:17:06 PM PST

    •  MRA NY. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OutCarolineStreet, MRA NY

      I thank you. The 'wonderful read' in this diary is especially a very good thing for me to hear and continue on with such a series of virtual tours. . .thanks to you and the rest of the Dkos community that finds interests in these postings. I appreciate hearing from you, et al., because it keeps me moving forward in preparation for many other virtual tours still to come.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 06:16:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  this one holds so much beauty and knowledge - (0+ / 0-)

        I look forward to the others.

        PS - am sending this to my 82 yo Mom - a former teacher and avid reader.  On rare occasions I come across wonderful diaries that I think she'll enjoy,  that also serve to bring her Republican eyes to DKos! :)

        "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

        by MRA NY on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 10:24:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent, Rich. (0+ / 0-)

    Great teaching.

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:45:12 AM PST

  •  Beautiful pictures (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My husband and I visited Death Valley several years ago. Sort of on our bucket list. We were amazed at how beautiful it is. We were there during a meteor shower, and you could actually see it because there are very few lights to cause light pollution.

    I would love to see the desert bloom, but it sounds like you have to be ready on a moment's notice.

    Thanks for your posting.

    It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. Mark Twain

    by lynneinfla on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 07:18:22 AM PST

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