Waking up early, we knew we had a full day ahead of us. One of the main rules of any National Park in the USA is that you may not take dogs on any of the trails. The concern is that the dogs may hurt the wild animals or the wild animals may hurt your pet. This is a fair assumption in a lot of cases. Therefore, we left our girls at home in a well aired trailer with plenty of water. Luckily it was a very cool day, so we didn’t have to worry about them.
First stop Badwater Salt Flat
This was a fair distance from our campsite, but the drive was amazing. Bill as usual had to stop many times to take pictures :). Joy doesn’t mind in the least, this will be the only way we will remember all that we have done. Through the phenomenal pictures Bill captures of all the places we have been and seen.
Badwater Salt Flat is called “the salt dipped heart of the park”. We arrived at a parking lot off to the side, with stairs leading down to a small walk way. “The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world.”Borrowed from the website.
At 282 ft you are standing at the lowest point in North America. If you look back at the rocks behind you, you will see a sign showing where SEA LEVEL really is. This puts things into perspective for you. If you stand there long enough, Joy swears you can begin to taste salt. (We have been to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Same thing happened there).
The Information Sign said to stay on the beaten path while at Badwater. You do not crush the tiny snails that live in the salt flat. This area is said to be about 95% pure table salt and covers 200 sq miles. In Summer time apparently the heat can be overwhelming. Glad we went in March. 🙂
Natural Bridge was our next stop
This was a 180 ft inclined path in deep sand pebble mix. Still being new to hiking, Joy could REALLY feel the burn haha. The path wound its way up between high canyon walls. They were painted beautifully with different hues of brown, yellow, red, pink. There were erosion marks like cave faults and mud drippings.
This 50 ft natural bridge is half a mile into the walk. The span was formed by the pounding waters of floods gone by. The old water course curved around the north side of the bridge. On the other side of the bridge the path becomes more narrow.
Experts said this was a gentle incline (giggles) maybe some day it will be for Joy.:)
Continuing on we come to Devil’s Golf Course
“The Devil’s Golf Course was once covered by an ancient saline lake. The water dried up leaving behind layers of salt that have been twisted and gnarled by the forces of erosion. Serrated spires rise in a chaotic jumble. The valley floor is a ragged, scabby terrain that seems to stretch for miles.” quote from Death Valley Hottest Place On Earth by Roger Naylor
Apparently if you are here during the summer when it is warm and it is very quiet around you, you might be lucky enough to hear a “metallic cracking sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract” It seems to be an unnerving sound like a gun shot.
We found the area to be interesting to some extent, but mostly it reminded us of dirty ice in the winter when a creek or small lake is breaking up and has had wind blow dirt over it. Being there in March, the weather was not warm enough for us to appreciate the phenomenon of salt pinnacles expanding and contracting.
Artist’s Drive or Artist’s Palette OMG!!
No matter what ever else you do in Death Valley National Park, the Artist’s Palette is a MUST! This is a beautifully paved 9 mile loop through the twisting colourful foothills of the Black Mountains at 25 miles per hour. The reds, pinks, oranges, yellows and browns appear because of the hematite in the rocks. A red iron oxide and limonite, a yellow iron oxide. The green is from the chlorite and the blue is from manganese.
We drove this in late afternoon which made the colours so vibrant. Bill had to pull over many times to capture this all on camera. At one point, we even parked so he could go hiking down a valley to see more. (a Park Ranger suggested this little tidbit to us when we were in the Visitor’s Center).
This drive was incredible and we almost wanted to do it twice in a row but we had two other things on the agenda for the day still to do.
Just as we arrived at Zabriskie Point the clouds started to break up, turning the already wonderful view into something sensational!
Zabriskie Point outlook is a scenic overlook of the Death Valley badlands. To reach the viewing area it is a short 1/8 mile slightly inclined walk. As you are walking to the viewing area, every step is a new picture opportunity! 360 degrees of awesomeness!
Our last stop of the day was Twenty Mule Team Canyon
This was a last minute addition to our list. Since we had to be on this highway to see Zabriskie Point, we decided to drive a few minutes more and check out the Twenty Mule Team Canyon :). We were certainly glad that we did. Yes, the going was a little rough on this narrow dirt road, but again, the canyon was so interesting and picturesque.
The mud walls curved, rose and fell and at times seemed like they were coming in the windows at us. There were high hills to climb and narrow winding blind down hills. At the end it felt like we had been on spectacular wild roller coaster ride in slow motion lol. This was a 2.7 mile, one way route that was quite a pleasure to drive and view.
This area is considered the belly of the badlands with it’s mud stone cliffs and crumbling ridge lines. There is very little growing here due to the type of soil and continues erosion which makes it difficult for roots to take hold. It is said that these are some of the most distinctive badlands in Death Valley National Park.
The colours of this snaking drive through this canyon are almost equal to the Artist Palette with the the hills of black, dark brown, yellow, cream and even white seen throughout the canyon.
Apparently a lot of old miners dug tunnels into the hills but these have all been sealed up. This area was part of the Monte Blanco mining district. Even though this is called Twenty Mule Train Canyon, this was not the original route taken by the famous twenty mule teams.
We absolutely loved this drive as much as we did the Artist’s Palette. Definitely not something to miss.