This is a work in progress; more photos may be uploaded later. Last updated 4/30/98.
The next day, we headed for Death Valley. But first, we made a stop
at the Trona Pinnacles.
These tufa spires (like the ones at Mono Lake
though a different color) are imposing and otherworldly.
Best of all, no one seems to know about this place, and we had the Pinnacles almost entirely to ourselves. Even better, from Trona we got an excellent view of Telescope Peak, the snow-capped mountain which looms more than 12,000 feet over the sub-sea-level floor of Death Valley to make up (with the other mountains in its range) the western wall of the valley.
After spending an hour or so at in Trona, we proceeded on to Death Valley. We drove past a field of dunes, but I haven't uploaded any dunes pictures yet (they're not that good, you're not missing much).
Then we headed south, down into the low part of the valley. The lowest
spot in the US, Badwater, is two hundred feet below sea level.
Near Badwater are a couple of tourist attractions: an arch whose name I
and Elephant Rock, which is actually about four feet high and not very impressive in person.
The most impressive sight in this part of the valley is Artist's Drive,
a beautiful, narrow road which winds through colorfully painted hillsides.
The climax of the Artist's Drive loop is the area known as the
Artist's Palette: oxidation of different minerals in the rock create
a multitude of colors.
At that point, we were running out of light, and since we had not been able to arrange for lodging in the valley, we headed northeast, to Beattie, NV for the night.
Behind us, Corkscrew Peak loomed.
We had intended to go straight to Dante's View, high above the southeast rim of the valley, because the guidebooks said that it was best in morning light (probably because of the light on the high mountains which make up the valley's western border). But the day was severely overcast, and we decided to head into the valley first, to try a hike in Golden Canyon and to check out the Devil's Golf Course.
Close up, the salt sculptures look like miniature snowy mountains.
While I was framing photos, Dave wandered off into an eroded rut in the
canyon's wall. I eventually followed him, and we ended up rock-scrambling
several hundred feet up, before we finally lost our nerve in the rapidly
increasing wind (see the account of our Moab Trip
to see why we're a little nervous about high winds on desert outings)
and steep terrain, and decided to head back down. The view coming down
was even better than it had been climbing up, since we could see the
high peaks of the western valley through the gap in the canyon walls.
The Golden Canyon hike is a constant source of amazement. Every time the streambed turned a corner, we were greeted by a vista even more amazing than the one before, and usually completely different from the previous one. After a while it got to be almost comical -- we'd round a corner, our jaws would drop and then we'd laugh and say "Oh, well, just another stunningly beautiful view."
This includes views such as Manly Beacon, above (named after an early settler),
or the Red Cathedral, left, which marks the end of one fork of the trail.
When we reached the base of the Red Cathedral, the trail ended, causing confusion: the trail guidebook said that the trail went all the way to the parking lot at Zabriskie Point. We studied the guidebook for a while, and eventually discovered that the trail had split just before the "old parking lot". Parking lot? We'd been hiking down a dry streambed, remember. We puzzled over it, and finally decided to retrace our steps back and try to see where we went wrong.
When we finally got to the "old parking lot", this time we recognized it,
and had to laugh.
We found the other trail, and went a little way along it, but it didn't look like a very pleasant walk, so we opted to return to the truck and drive to Zabriskie Point and then to Dante's View.
As we neared the trailhead, we saw a man and woman standing on the trail, obviously trying to decide whether it was worthwhile to proceed further. The man took a look down the canyon, then waved his hands in a dismissive motion, and they turned around and shambled back to the parking lot. We laughed for the rest of the trip (and weeks afterward) about what they'd missed, probably having no idea and thinking that they'd seen Golden Canyon.
While I was admiring and photographing the view, a raven flew by, very
close to me, holding something bright orange in its beak. Perhaps a cheeto,
stolen from some visitor's lunch? Unfortunately, I wasn't sufficiently
quick-witted to catch him on film, but I got him on the next pass (minus
Unfortunately, the clouds had come in, a wind had kicked up and we were
not prepared for the cold there. Dave was shivering and was in a hurry
to get back inside the warm truck, so I snapped a few pictures and
But not before snapping a couple of obligatory raven pictures:
Then we hit the central valley. There is really no good way to get through the central valley, I'm convinced. I've tried just about every alternative, and really, the only solution is to endure.
This time, we took some minor highways instead of the freeways, which
created some interesting experiences -- it turned out that the road had
flooded in the rains which had happened on the weekend we spent in the
valley (the very rains, in fact, which we had gone to Death Valley to
But it did make for some interesting driving ...
Later, heading along another highway back toward I-5, a crop duster buzzed
Then we hit I-5 and it was a straight and boring buzz up to the bay area and home.