Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Death Valley

It takes about two and half hours to drive from Las Vegas to Furnace Creek Visitor Center at Death Valley, where we stopped to check out the museum and buy souvenirs.  Our day was supposed to be easy one with no hikes, just sightseeing.  We head to Devi's Golf Course, a vast expanse of jagged formations with salt deposits formed by drying up of lakes.  We next stopped at Bad Water Basin, which is known for the one of the toughest ultra marathons.  It's one of those lower than the sea level places like Dead Sea, Sabkhat Ghuzayyil, Turpan Pendi etc.  A wide white trail is formed in Bad Water Basin due to people walking on it.  Apparently the water there is so salty that even the ass, I mean donkey, of some bloke refused to drink the water and that bloke called it Bad Water and hence the name.  We then head to Artist's palate after which we wanted to be Zabriskie Point for sunset, but the sun ended up setting right while we were somewhere on Artist's drive.  Artist's drive's got mountains made of vivid coloured earth which brought back to me the memories of Lamayuru in Ladakh. It was twilight when we went to Zabriskie Point, where I put my tripod to use for the first time in the trip.  Zabriskie point has got a breathtaking panoramic vista of erosional landscape formed by dried up Furnace Creek Lake millions of years ago.  We then drove to a small little town called Beatty and checked into a motel.  

The next day we stopped at the sand dunes before heading to Telescope peak trail head at Mahogany flat.  The drive to Mahogany Flat is a meandering one both horizontally and vertically which I so loved, the last stretch is not asphalted and has boulders on it, an SUV is definitely recommended.  We stopped at Charcoal Kilns for few clicks which is a couple of miles before the trail head and it has a restroom. Mahogany Flat has a campground as well and the trail to Telescope peak which is about 7.1 miles long starts there.  The trail is quite rocky, picturesque, lot less crowded, not too tough and has no toilets or any other touristic amenities.  Despite the pain in my left knee, I loved this hike for its desolation and views.  The last stretch of Telescope peak had traces of snow and it was very cold, it took us about 3 hours to reach the summit.  Summit is windy and cold and it offers a 360 degree panoramic view of Death Valley, for telescope peak is the highest peak with an elevation of 11000 feet.  After finishing the sandwich, signing the guest book, clicking few pictures we started our descent back which was harder on my knees.  One last pint of beer was waiting for me in the car which helped me to recover quicker from my pain.  

Death Valley, geographically and geologically, is a very special place.  Colourful mountains, eroded landscape, dried up salt lakes, weird formations, smooth silky sand dunes and many more geographical features are in store here.  It's definitely not known for landscapes that Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Lassen offers, it may cause disappointment in some with such expectations.  However, I liked it for what it is. 

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