For my birthday, Michael Blair brought me to Death Valley National Park! It was a surprise–we got on the road and drove for hours while I tried to guess the destination. What a cool place!
February counts as springtime in the lowest place in the continental US, and the plants are green and some even flowering. The sunsets were beautiful and the stars even more so. Death Valley National Park is one of the last remaining dark sky parks, meaning it has little to no light pollution from urban areas and the stars are indescribable. It’s more stars than I’ve ever seen! When we arrived, we drove to the sand dunes, and hiked up and up until we got to the top of the tallest one we could find! Hiking the dunes was definitely a “take one step, slide a half step backwards” kind of situation, but it was so worth it, and an experience I won’t ever forget. We lay in the cold sand, digging our toes in until we reached the warm sand that had been baked by the sun, and looked at the most intense Milky Way I have ever laid eyes on.
The next day we drove down to the Badwater Basin Salt Flats and the lowest point on the continent (282 feet BELOW sea level!) The landscape was desolate and strange, but having an adventure partner with a masters in geology makes visiting places like this a whole different experience. The ground was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There were razor sharp crystals growing out of the flats, and possibly…hairs? See evidence in photo below!
The other great gift of this place was the temps! I’m a lover of warm weather, and there are 70 and 80 degree temps in Death Valley in the middle of winter. In later months, it is one of the hottest places on the entire planet. Glad I got to witness it in its milder temperatures! I can’t imagine this place in summertime! If springtime here is in February, I certainly wouldn’t want to be here in July or August.