Saturday, July 18, 2009

Artist's Palette And Other Places In Death Valley

The Artist's Palette Drive is located on the east side of Death Valley, up in the Black Mountains. It gets its name from the colors produced by oxidation of various metals on the mountainsides. The drive is a little over nine miles road and the road is well-paved and suitable for all cars.

Below you can see the start of the drive. Note the "layer cake" look of the hills and the reddish streak running upward toward the right:

As you drive along, you will see patches of green and aquamarine among the brown and white of the hillsides:

As you drive along, the green and aquamarine patches become brighter and larger, and are striking under the bright Death Valley sun:

Salt Creek is located on the floor of Death Valley near the junction of California highways 190 and 267. I can't help but pity all those early explorers and travelers in Death Valley who thought they had found a huge source of water in this godforsaken desert, only to taste it and learn why it came to be called "Salt Creek." The water does support some plant life, however:

Stovepipe Wells is along Highway 190 on the western side of the park; it is the most used entrance to the park and offers gasoline, food, and lodging. It's also the starting point for the trail up Natural Bridge Canyon, an easy hike in cooler weather. Below is a look at the natural bridge:

Adjacent to Stovepipe Wells is a network of sand dunes that visitors can hike across. These dunes are spectacular in the light of dawn and sunset:

There is much, much more to see in Death Valley; it is my favorite national park by far. If you're thinking of a California vacation, skip the usual tourist traps like Disneyland or Fisherman's Wharf and instead head out to Death Valley. You'll be glad you did.