I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love the desert. In fact, when news of the world gets too intense, there is nothing like getting yourself to a desert landscape for a time of contemplation, made easier by the fact that most desert places are completely out of range of cell phones, wi-fi and pretty much everything else except the exposed bones of the continent. So, given what’s going on in the country lately, I thought it would be a good time to get myself down to the desert. The one I chose this time was Death Valley, which is a place you can’t really visit any other time but winter or early spring.

The last time I was here, I had just missed a super bloom by about three days. A fierce wind had blown through just before I arrived and pulled half the petals off the flowers. Turns out, I still saw plenty of flowers, something I didn’t fully appreciate until last week’s trip when I could compare memories of the super bloom with Death Valley in the middle of winter before enough rain had come through to bring up any flowers. Did I mention that most of California was in a two week deep freeze. I mean a really, really, really deep freeze. With the alarming spike in temperatures on the polar ice caps, the Arctic was actually warmer than Death Valley!

Well, at least it made for some comfortable hiking. I chose the Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch trail which is about a six mile loop hike.

And you really should get there early when the morning sun really does turn part of it golden.

People think of the desert as dry, but even in Death Valley, you can see where massive amounts of water carved out the land — in this case fairly recently.

Without too strenuous a climb, the Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch loop gets you to some amazing views.

You can choose to go on even higher ridges. I chose not to.

The colors in Death Valley are amazing!

Hiking towards Cathedral Rock.

Across this ridge is the lowest point in the Continental US. That snowcapped mountain, Whitney, is the highest.

Good thing I met many friendly, experienced Death Valley hikers. Because the trails aren’t exactly well marked.

Looking toward the Panamint Hills in the far distance.

And back along the Valley floor and return to the trailhead. Boy, was I glad it was barely 60 degrees!

Until I started to make Instant Pot risotto at sunset. Then the temperature plummeted and my dinner came hot out of the pot to instantly turn cold.

 

Over all, a very successful trip. Perhaps it’s just our unusual cold snap, but next time I visit, I might try a little later in the year.

More photos here on my Flickr stream.

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