Death Valley 2016


George and Yvonne in sandy terrain with mountains in background

This was our first Road Scholar trip. Our group of twenty-four traveled on a Road Scholar bus. On the bus the leader gave short talks on geology. He also showed videos about Death Valley including videos on plants, animals, and one from the 1950's and 1960's TV series, "Death Valley Days" hosted by a young looking Ronald Reagan. We stayed in a hotel near the Las Vegas airport on the first two nights, and then stayed at the large Furnace Creek Ranch the next four nights.

On Monday, we visited Valley of Fire State Park 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The park's name comes from red sandstone formations. We saw beautiful rock formations on a rugged mile long hike on the White Domes Trail, and interesting petroglyphs on the shorter Mouse's Tank trail.

During the next four days, we saw several sights in Death Valley National Park. America's largest national park outside of Alaska is the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the country. Summer temperatures often exceed 120°(F). Rainfall averages less that two inches per year, and some years have no rainfall. Elevation of 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America.

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Monday:  Valley of Fire State Park and a huge buffet dinner at Bellagio

  • Darrell explains geology formations with a few helpers.
  • Darrell points to some possible interpretaions of these petroglyphs
  • A nearby portal in the rocks gave this view of rocks in the bright sun.
  • Two of our hikers approaching a clearing where several movies were filmed.
  • The mile long hike on the White Domes Trail was our most challenging hike.
  • Taking a break in a slot canyon on the White Domes Trail
  • More rugged terrain on the White Domes Trail
  • George and Yvonne on the White Domes Trail
  • After dinner at Bellagio, we posed by the Eiffel Tower. A replica of the Arc de Triomphe was also nearby.

Tuesday:  Badwater Basin, Devils Golf Course, and Zabriskie Point

  • Fault lines and other evidence of geologic activity are common in Dealth Valley.
  • Hiking on the salt flats at Deadwater Basin
  • Badwater Basin, at 280 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.
  • Devil's Golf Course is a large area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires.
  • Yvonne and George at Zabilskie Point
  • Geology talk at Zabilskie Point

Wednesday:  Titus Canyon, Mesquite Dunes, and Mosaic Canyon

  • Hiking in Titus Canyon
  • Yvonne in Titus Canyon
  • George in Titus Canyon
  • We hiked on the Mesquite Dunes just before lunch at Stovepipewells looking for footprints from snakes, birds, and insects.
  • Hiking in the slot canyon portion of Mosaic Canyon was nice and cool.
  • Two therapy dogs enjoying the view in Mosaic Canyon

Thursday:  Ubehebe Crater, Salt Creek, Artist's Drive, and Golden Canyon

  • Ubehebe Crater, caused by a massive volcanic explosion, is 600 feet deep.
  • View looking away from Ubehebe Crater
  • Salt Creek is the only home of the rare pupfish. These fish only emerge from an underground water source for spawning in springtime.
  • Artist's drive is a scenic drive through brightly colored hills.
  • Mike and Sue hiking in Golden Canyon
  • Hikers in Golden Canyon

Friday:  Golden Canyon, Harmony Borax Works, Gower Gulch, and Death Valley 49's

  • The Natural Bridge Trail is a one mile round trip out and back hike.
  • Approaching the natural bridge
  • View from just past the natural bridge
  • Darrell standing next to "Mushroom Rock"
  • Two hikers in Gower Gulch
  • A 20 Mule Team Borax wagon used in the 1880s at Harmony Borax Works
  • Horses pulling a covered wagon in the Death Valley 49's parade
  • Mules pulling a covered wagon in the Death Valley 49's parade
  • This trio gave a great performance of classics like Rawhide, Back in the Saddle Again, and Riders in the Sky.