Death Valley welcomed us to the park with 100F plus temperatures – a combination of somewhat hotter than usual temperatures for this time in April and our arriving later than we originally envisioned. We however, were determined to work around the weather and experience the park for at least several days.
We knew we would not be able to hike in the full heat of the day so we set our alarm for the early morning in order to hit the hiking trail by 6:30AM each morning. This approach gave us four to five hours each day to hike with safe conditions. We also went out in the evenings to drive to various vista points and view the impressive night sky.
We have included some photos from several of our hikes including Golden Canyon, Red Cathedral, Gower Gulch and Natural Arch. The Natural Arch Canyon hike features an easily reachable natural arch about one third of a mile from the trailhead. The interesting and increasingly challenging hike comes after passing through the arch as you encounter a series of dry waterfalls which must be climbed to continue up the canyon.
The USAF flies low level training missions through Rainbow Canyon. As aviation buffs, we were thrilled to be at Rainbow Canyon when four F16 fighter jets came roaring through the canyon fast and low. We managed to photograph one of the fighters in the canyon and we have included that photo in this post.
We ventured to the Keane Wonder Mine to see the remains of this abandoned gold mine and mill. It was one of the few mines to utilize an aerial tramway to haul ore down the mountain. This mine closed in 1912.
The Billie Mine, an underground mine, was the last mine to operate in DVNP, closing in 2005. There are still thousands of mining claims that exist within the area that is now DVNP. However, it is unlikely that the National Park Service will allow any further mining within the park.
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. We walked out onto the salt flats early one morning and found the experience of being on the valley floor – the immense scale, the complete quiet and the forces of nature so evident – very humbling.
It is quite apparent to us that we could spend months exploring DVNP and not come close to seeing and experiencing all the wonders of nature that exist in this vast park. DVNP is larger than Connecticut and ninety percent wilderness.
It is also apparent to us that this place is not to be taken lightly if you are going to seriously explore the more remote locations within the park. This park is both extremely beautiful and inherently dangerous. Regardless, we recommend that you experience it first hand if you have the opportunity.
P.S. As with many of the public lands within the United States there is a saga related to Native Americans. The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe have lived in now what is Death Valley for over 1000 years. When the precursor to the national park, DV National Monument, was created in 1933 the Timbisha were displaced with no provision for a new homeland. It was not until 1982 that the tribe was recognized by the federal government and allowed to have a reservation within the park – initially a grant of 40 acres for the 199 tribal members (in three million acre park!). In 2000 the Timbisha Homeland Act returned 7500 acres to the tribe. The reservation is located within the Furnace Creek area of the park.
Natural Bridge Canyon