Depending on the direction you enter the Valley you will either see the basin or the Sand dunes (entering from the north). From a distance they appear small but look close and you can see the size of people walking toward the peak of the highest dune. Few reach the top as the heat takes it's toll.
I decided that I would forgo the hike and focus on the compositions from below the peaks.
As I walked in the lower sands the compositions unfolded for my camera. The scale of the vegetation, the colors of the distant hills all effortlessly fell into perfectly designed formations, a symphony for my eyes.
Inyo Mountains and the Panamint Range seemed to be faded by the sun. The Death Valley floor cracked from the ever present heat. I was beginning to understand how this valley got it's name. I could not imagine how the early pioneers survived it's crossing on horseback and wagon, brave and more then slightly crazy souls they must have been. One is struck by silence of this place, it's as if it was holding it's breath waiting for you to burn up or get out. It looks like no life could exist here. The gates to Hades might seem an appropriate name if it were not for the contradicting beauty beckoning me ever deeper into it's heart. What would I find around the next bend? The stereotype of the cow skull comes to mind, bleached white by the beating sun... I drove on and soon I would be surprised by what I found at my next stop.
"LIFE" in the Death Valley. At Furnace Creek, water amidst the dry parched land came as a real surprise to me. I am so amazed how even in the worst of situations life finds a way. As I walked the path following the creek I discovered that there were small fish living in the water (Stickel Backs). In the Town of Furnace Creek I was told by the Ranger that there was Desert Iguana, Mule Deer, Bobcat, kit fox and Desert Bighorn Sheep in the full range of the park but all I saw were the little fish. I guess one has to be here a long time to take it all in . I was grateful for the fish.
If you want to stay at the hotel in town you will need to make a reservation and the same is true if you are going to tent camp. If you are not prepared (like me) you will be relegated to the RV park. I don't recommend it as there are no showers and you can't use the hotel pool.
Twenty Mules and the story of Borax is told in the remnants of the exhibit of wagons that still remain in the valley to remind us of the past industry of Death Valley.
In total it took four days for me to reach the southern end of the valley, I am treated to the profits of the earlier rains that came in winter. Fields of yellow and purple flowers blanket the sides of the road and the adjacent hillsides, as if to say thanks for coming and have a safe journey. I have a moment of sadness as I drive up the mountain and leave. One more glance in the rear view mirror and I am off to my next location.