Stanford Dish and Matadero Creek Trails

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Over the last several months I’ve been going regularly to walk the Stanford Dish Trail, aka The Dish.  In fact, it has become my favorite hilly training walk route, and I typically make two passes around the loop.  This time I wanted to take my time a bit more and stop for pictures of the views and wildflowers.  The day was especially clear, thanks to a couple of days of fairly strong breezes, and the views were exceptional.  I went around the loop just once, and then drove to nearby Matadero Creek Trail for an out-and-back hike.  In this post I’ll describe the hikes, and in another I’ll focus on the wildflowers.

The GPS track image shows both GPS tracks, with the Stanford Dish Trail in orange and the Matadero Creek Trail in grey.  Both trails are on Stanford University land.  The total distance for both was 7 miles, with a little over 1200 feet of elevation gain and loss.  For The Dish, I started at the main entrance at Stanford Ave, where the parking has recently been re-arranged, with back-in parking along only one side of the street – and still no U-turns allowed.

GPS track

GPS track

After the short climb to the loop proper, I went around clockwise.  I have always gone this direction, even though it means a steady climb of 350 feet in about 0.85 mile – almost 8% grade – to the highest point on the loop.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

The Stanford Dish Trail is a paved recreational trail for walkers and runners.  Strollers are the only wheeled conveyances allowed (except for campus security vehicles and a few research personnel) and are quite common, though it should be noted that coyotes do live in the hills and are occasionally seen near the trail.  This spring the hills through which the trail winds have been especially beautiful, thanks to normal amounts of rainfall during the winter.

photo of Stanford Dish Trail

Stanford Dish Trail

The highest point of the trail is, in my estimation, an example of a great viewpoint: all of the major peaks of the southern and central Bay Area are visible from a single location.  One only needs to stop and slowly twirl around in place in order to view all of them.  Practically due north, Mt Diablo rises above the East Bay Hills to an elevation of nearly 3850 feet, some 35 miles away.  In the foreground the Dumbarton Bridge crosses San Francisco Bay, and the low, brown hills denote Coyote Hills Regional Park.

photo of Mt Diablo, with the Dumbarton Bridge and Coyote Hills in the foreground

Mt Diablo, with the Dumbarton Bridge and Coyote Hills in the foreground

A bit to the south, still in the East Bay, specifically Fremont, is Mission Peak, about 17 miles away and 2500 feet elevation.  A distinctive landslide is visible to the left of Mission Peak, and Mt Allison is to the right, with Monument Peak out of view.  Mt Allison is topped with communication towers, and Mission Peak is a popular destination for area hikers.

photo of Mission Peak viewed from the Stanford Dish Trail

Mission Peak viewed from the Stanford Dish Trail

Still farther south in the Diablo Range is Mt Hamilton, site of Lick Observatory with white buildings that often gleam in the afternoon sun.  The mountain actually encompasses several peaks, including Copernicus Peak, Kepler Peak, and Observatory Peak.  It is about 30 miles away, almost due east.  The observatory is at 4200 feet elevation.

photo of Lick Observatory atop Mt Hamilton

Lick Observatory atop Mt Hamilton

Looking along the southern part of the Peninsula, actually southeast, Mt Umunhum and Loma Prieta are visible about 22 miles away.  Mt Umunhum is topped by The Cube, an historic Cold War era radar tower.  Toward the right in the picture and about 5 miles away is Loma Prieta, near the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake named after it.  Mt Umunhum is almost 3500 feet high and Loma Prieta is just over 3800 feet high.

photo of Mt Umunhum and Loma Prieta

Mt Umunhum and Loma Prieta

Across the Golden Gate, 42 miles away in Marin County, is Mt Tamalpais, the sleeping maiden, just under 2600 feet high.  A simple metric for the clarity of the air in the Bay Area is how visible Mt Tam is from the Palo Alto area.  This was a good, clear day.  I believe Sutro Tower is right in the center of the picture.

photo of Mt Tamalpais, 42 miles away in Marin County

Mt Tamalpais, 42 miles away in Marin County

To the right of Mt Tamalpais the skyline of downtown San Francisco is clearly visible.  This picture takes advantage of the zoom capability of my camera.  The buildings are 30 miles away!  Unfortunately, shots like this one emphasize some particulates that are inside the lens stack in my camera, I think acquired a couple of months prior during a visit to Death Valley.

photo of San Francisco skyline

San Francisco skyline

To the right of downtown San Francisco the Bay Bridge and San Mateo Bridge are also visible.  The previous six peaks are my “top 6” peaks in the central and south Bay Area.  From this same location I could also see a couple of bonus peaks.  One is Round Top, the round bump on the skyline shown here.  Round Top is an extinct volcano located in Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, in the Berkeley Hills above Oakland.  It is about 30 miles away and, like the other peaks shown here, looks almost close enough to reach out and touch.

photo of Round Top, in the Berkeley Hills above Oakland

Round Top, in the Berkeley Hills above Oakland

The other bonus peak is Black Mountain, only about 6 miles away in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve.  It does not have a distinct “prominence,” but it is easy to spot if you have a clear view of its surrounding area; it’s easier to get that view from farther away!

From the highest point on the Stanford Dish Trail, the trail descends about 100 feet before climbing again.  On the way down there are clear views of The Dish itself, a radio telescope used for scientific research.  Although there is a smaller radio telescope nearby and equally close to the trail, this larger dish is visible from I-280 and – for good reason – is considered a local landmark.  This view shows some of the support and steering structure that allows the telescope to be pointed in a desired direction.

photo of The Dish

The Dish

The Dish is located at the top of the small climb, at about 1.6 miles on the elevation profile.  After passing The Dish I continued around the loop, enjoying views across the Stanford University campus.

Just as I reached the lowest point on the loop I heard a white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) and then saw it.  It was exhibiting its characteristic behavior of hovering while looking for prey on the ground below.  It seemed to hover in one spot until I almost got it in my camera’s view and focused, and then flew somewhere else before I could get a picture.  I tried for a few minutes to get a picture and finally got lucky.

photo of white-tailed kite

White-tailed kite

I’m not sure what prey the kite was looking for, but there is a large population of ground squirrels that live in these hills.  I think they are more aware of coyotes than of birds of prey.  I have seen dozens of squirrels simultaneously upright on their haunches, all faced in the direction of a coyote and chirping warnings to others.  Only when the coyote leaves the area and gets out of sight do the squirrels stop their warning calls and return to feeding on the grasses and other plants.

After completing the loop and returning to my car, I drove less than a mile to a small staging area along Coyote Hill Rd near Page Mill Rd.  This staging area is for the Matadero Creek Trail, which actually starts at the intersection of Page Mill Rd and Junipero Serra Blvd at the north end of Foothill Expressway.  The first 0.8 mile or so of Matadero Creek Trail is a paved multi-use trail, and after Deer Creek Rd it becomes an unpaved pedestrian path.  (This was at 0.6 mile on my GPS track, which started at my car on Coyote Hill Rd.)  The trail is part of the Santa Clara County Parks Countywide Trails Master Plan.

The elevation profile shows that the trail climbs through the hills to about 425 feet elevation before dropping via a 10% grade to another paved multi-use trail, the Adobe Creek Trail, near Arastradero Rd.  I hiked the Matadero Creek Trail as an out-and-back hike.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

In another post I will showcase wildflowers I saw along the Stanford Dish Trail; here I show a few that I saw only along the Matadero Creek Trail.  One was common yarrow (Achillea millefolium).  Beneath the cluster of blossoms there is a hint of the feather-like leaves that distinguish this plant and give rise to the species name millefolium: thousand leaves.

photo of common yarrow

Common yarrow

As the trail climbed to about 350 feet elevation I passed a beautiful oak tree next to some buckeye, the latter blooming nicely.  Nearby, but just out of view, I could see the moon, a few days past the first quarter.

photo of oak tree and buckeye

Oak tree and buckeye

The trail continued to climb through the hills, with a couple of gentle rolls before reaching the highest point.

photo of Matadero Creek Trail

Matadero Creek Trail

From the area near trail’s high point I once again had nice views of the South Bay peaks: Mt Diablo, Mission Peak, Mt Hamilton, Mt Umunhum, and Loma Prieta.  Mt Tamalpais was hidden by the hills around The Dish.  After that there was a steady descent at about 10% grade to a T intersection with the Adobe Creek Trail.  In this section of trail there were a few views of I-280 making its way through Los Altos Hills toward Cupertino.  For a short distance this busy highway was just a proverbial stone’s throw away from the trail.

As the trail descended I noticed a couple of butterflies, at times on the flowers and at times on the trail itself.  They turned out to be common buckeyes (Junonia coenia).  As usual, a little patience was needed to capture a picture of one of the buckeyes as it paused in the sun.

photo of common buckeye on the Matadero Creek Trail

Common buckeye on the Matadero Creek Trail

When I reached the Adobe Creek Trail I turned around to return to my car.  As I again approached the top of the trail I noticed several horses grazing in the area to my right, on the other side of a fence along which the trail passed.  I paused to look at the horses and take a few pictures, and soon several were walking up an informal path to the area near the hiking trail.  I don’t know what prompted them to come my way, but I enjoyed watching them – and taking some more pictures!

photo of horse in a grazing area near the Matadero Creek Trail

Horse in a grazing area near the Matadero Creek Trail

Continuing the return to my car, I eventually reached the paved multi-use portion of trail.  In my peripheral vision I noticed a few small lizards, probably western fence lizards as they are common in the area.  One of them paused just long enough for me to get a picture, before it continued off the side of the trail into the vegetation.

photo of lizard, probably a western fence lizard

Lizard, probably a western fence lizard

Near the trailhead I noticed some common teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) plants, with seed heads that might be from last season.

photo of common teasels

Common teasels

Although I have visited The Dish many times, this was the first time I hiked the Matadero Creek Trail.  Both trails go through the hills just above the main part of the Stanford University campus.  It is a delightful convenience that both trails are open to the public.

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Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

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You could say that a desert visit would not be compete without a hike in some sand dunes. I began my fourth and final day in Death Valley National Park with just that: a hike in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. While there are several dune fields in the park, this one is the easiest one to access – I think the others all require 4-wheel drive, which I do not have – and therefore receives the most visitors.

My day began, as the others in my spring wildflower visit had, essentially at dawn. I’d been staying in Beatty, NV at a motel with an atomic energy related theme. I presume the name is associated with the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range, which includes a National Security Site. In any case, it was the Atomic Motel, with the “o” a symbol representing an atom. Outside the small buildings with rooms were several space creatures, and the pictures in my room carried through on the theme.

image of one of the exterior decorations at my motel

One of the exterior decorations at my motel

Since this was to be my last day in the park, I checked out and began my drive to and through the park for the last time, passing the now-familiar sights of Daylight Pass, the Death Valley Buttes, Hells Gate, and aptly named Corkscrew Peak, shown here in the morning light.

image of Corkscrew Peak

Corkscrew Peak

From Hells Gate I continued down Daylight Pass Rd through Mud Canyon, where the wildflowers carpeted the landscape next to the road. In one area where I stopped for a closer look I found brown-eyed evening primrose (Chylismia claviformis), golden evening primrose (Chylismia brevipes), notch-leaf phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), cryptantha, lesser mojavea (Mohavea breviflora), and hybrid evening primroses within a few square feet of area. I also found – or perhaps noticed – a new one: spiny-herb (Chorizanthe rigida), also sometimes called devil’s spineflower or rigid spineflower. This one was getting ready to bud, but the identification was mainly accomplished by the distinctive spiny cluster with an array of basal leaves that almost look like another plant type entirely.

image of spiny-herb in Mud Canyon on Daylight Pass Rd

Spiny-herb in Mud Canyon on Daylight Pass Rd

After reaching CA-190 at the bottom of Daylight Pass Rd, I made the small jog over to CA-190 and headed west, toward Stovepipe Wells. This area is known as the Devil’s Cornfield, where at least some of the bushes may be arrowweed (Pluchea sericea, I think). Now in Death Valley proper, the ground is quite sandy and mostly flat. A notable exception is Tucki Mountain, in the background of the picture.

image of Devil’s Cornfield with Tucki Mountain in the background

Devil’s Cornfield with Tucki Mountain in the background

Near Stovepipe Wells Village is the parking area for Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. In addition to my hiking boots I decided to wear gaiters in an attempt to reduce the amount of sand I would later find inside my shoes. Of course there are no real trails in the sand dunes, though near the parking area the sand had almost continuous footprints and there was a smooth “trail” where I suppose someone had dragged a sandboard. (Sandboarding is prohibited at most of the dune fields, but not at Mesquite Flat.)

image of “trail” through the sand near the parking area

“Trail” through the sand near the parking area

My hike plan was not very well formulated: basically I thought I would just explore, and hopefully I would identify a suitable destination and be able to get there and back within a reasonable amount of time. The GPS track shows my route, with the orange dot at the parking area. I did choose a destination, but varied my route somewhat for the return hike.

GPS track

GPS track

My hike was about 3.2 miles total, with a little over 500 feet of climbing. I should note that climbing – and walking!! – on sand is more difficult than on firm ground. Think of the last time you were at a beach and found that it required a surprising amount of effort just to climb a 10-foot dune. Here, my greatest continuous ascent was about 100 feet.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

One of my first tasks, since there aren’t any named landmarks within the dune field, was to choose a proposed destination. I was kind of fascinated by the crescent-shaped dune in the center of the dune skyline in this picture.

image of my destination: the crescent-shaped dune

My destination: the crescent-shaped dune

The next challenge was to figure out, or guess, a path that would minimize the amount of up-and-down required to get there. It’s clear from the picture that there are rows and waves of dunes, so there is no such thing as a route with a monotonic incline (e.g. no descents during the ascent). As my first time hiking in sand dunes, it would be an adventure!

As I was climbing up a row of dunes I stopped to take a closer look at a creosote bush (Larrea tridentate) that had a couple of blossoms (shown in the lower right as an inset). Creosote bush is fairly common in Death Valley, but this was the first time I stopped to look closely and try to make an identification.

image of creosote bush

Creosote bush

Once I got to the top of the row of dunes I paused to look around me and found the dune field to be beautiful and stark, as well as relatively empty. Almost a mile from the trailhead, there were fewer other visitors in view.

image of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Not far away I had an interesting view-perspective looking along a row of dunes.

image of row of sand dunes

Row of sand dunes

I continued toward the crescent-shaped dune crest I had identified early in the hike. About 1.4 miles from the parking area, I arrived and walked around the crescent on the crest. Of course there were more dunes after that, but I decided to turn around and continue exploring elsewhere. An interesting dune closer to the edge of the dune field is in the center of this picture; I think this is called a star dune.

image of star dune near the edge of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dune field

Star dune near the edge of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dune field

Looking more to the west I could see a pointy dune, taller than where I currently was, and decided to go that way. I’m not sure what difference in sand content causes the patches of darker color, but here the color sharply defined a ridge in the direct path.

image of my next destination: a pointy dune

My next destination: a pointy dune

I retraced my path along the crescent-shaped ridge-top first. Especially near the dune crests the wind smooths out visitors’ footprints; these are mostly, but not all, mine.

image of view along the crest of the crescent-shaped dune

View along the crest of the crescent-shaped dune

In other areas the wind creates small fields of ripple patterns in the sand.

I did make it to the top of the pointy dune, at an elevation of about 85 feet, compared to the base elevation of about -35 feet at the parking area. I guess I felt a little like Queen of the Mountain at the top of the dune, and there was a wonderful view of surrounding dunes, all lower.

image of view from the top of the pointy dune

View from the top of the pointy dune

On my return trip I did as much sight-line navigation as possible, but it was a little tricky to see the parking area behind the rows of intervening dunes. So I did make use of my GPS track to help me go generally in the correct direction, while again attempting to navigate a path that – somewhat – minimized going up and over extra rows of dunes. The path on my GPS track shows that I did a pretty good job of that.

When I was about 3/4 mile from the parking area I realized that I was approaching two people who had apparently stopped for a rest or to enjoy the view. When I got closer I could see that one was actually an artist working on a painting. It was an unexpected, but pleasant, find.

image of artist at work

Artist at work

After reaching the parking area I went through a ritual that I saw other visitors doing upon reaching their vehicles: I sat down, removed my hiking boots, and dumped out the accumulated sand. All things considered, I thought I’d done well to have only about a tablespoon of sand in each boot. So I do think my gaiters helped reduce the amount!

My next adventure for the day was a hike in nearby Mosaic Canyon.

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Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Salt Creek Trail

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On the afternoon of my 3rd day visiting Death Valley National Park, after hiking in Titus Canyon my plan was to visit Salt Creek and go on a short hike there. When I got back in my car at Titus Canyon it was about 3pm and I had a 20-mile drive, with a short detour planned. Also, I wanted to explore the Salt Creek Trail with sufficient time before sunset at 5pm, so I needed to be careful about temptations to stop and look at too many other things on the way!

The detour was to a landmark noted on the park map as Historic Stovepipe Well. I thought that should be interesting since I was sure there was a story behind the name of the Stovepipe Wells village and visitor center. The landmark is about 0.8 mile down a gravel road from Scotty’s Castle Rd, a few miles north of its junction with CA-190. An interpretive sign explains that, in the days of mining activities at Rhyolite and Skidoo, now both ghost towns, there were very few known watering holes on the valley floor. Because they regularly got obscured by blowing sand, eventually someone stuck a stovepipe into the ground to mark the spot. Here is what it looks like today.

picture of Stovepipe Well

Stovepipe Well

It’s evident that the local area is very sandy. In fact, if you look southeast from this well, you can see the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes only about 5 miles away. (I was already planning to visit them the next morning.)

Along the access road to the well I noted clusters of desert gold close to the side of the road. I also noticed that, just to the side of the road, there were sand berms about a foot high. I stopped to look more carefully and found that there was an interesting pattern of wind-generated ripples along the side-wall of the berm. The yellow flowers nearby are desert gold. I could see fields of desert gold a bit further away.

picture of sand berm with wind-generated ripples

Sand berm with wind-generated ripples

By the time I got to the trailhead for the Salt Creek Trail, at the end of a 1-mile long gravel road that connects to CA-190 between Mud Canyon and Beatty Junction, it was already 4pm. The interpretive trail, which is on a boardwalk, is less than 1 mile long, so I actually had time to explore a short section of an informal connecting trail that continues along Salt Creek for about 5 miles to the Devil’s Cornfield area. In the GPS track image the parking area, denoted by the orange dot, is at the right; the boardwalk portion includes the small loop in the middle, and the section at the left was the beginning of the trail to the Devil’s Cornfield. The elevation change for this walk was certainly less than 20 feet, but it is noteworthy that the base elevation was more than 200 feet below sea level.

GPS track

GPS track

It was quite surprising to see an actual creek flowing on the floor of Death Valley. Salt Creek originates from brackish springs about 1 mile from the trailhead, and the amount of water changes seasonally. Farther from the springs the water gets even more salty due to evaporation. In some places near the boardwalk the water flow was quite evident and surprisingly swift.

picture of Salt Creek

Salt Creek

In spite of the high salt content, some plants and animals can thrive. The most evident plants are salt grass and pickleweed (Allenrolfea occidentalis), also called iodine bush.

picture of pickleweed along the side of Salt Creek

Pickleweed along the side of Salt Creek

Perhaps the most surprising inhabitants of the creek are Salt Creek pupfish (Cyprinodon salinus), also called Death Valley pupfish. There are two subspecies, each of which lives only in a very limited area; Salt Creek is one of the areas. Because much of the creek dries up in the summer, the only year-round habitat for the 1.5-inch long fish is some pools very near the springs. The pupfish have adapted to very warm and salty conditions: Salt Creek can be saltier than oceans. It is likely that several subspecies that are currently isolated from each other used to be a single species living in Lake Manly, a lake that covered the floor of Death Valley until some 10,000 years ago.

Like other visitors, I looked into the creek and hoped to see pupfish – but I didn’t see any. However, a woman I encountered near the end of my walk was pretty sure she had seen one.

When I reached the far end of the boardwalk loop, barely a half mile from my car, I found the informal or use trail onto the salt flat and did a short exploration. The path of the trail is clear, with gentle curves through the crusty soil.

picture of use trail near Salt Creek Trail

Use trail near Salt Creek Trail

When I had been walking about a half hour I turned around. The trail continues nearly 5 miles to Devil’s Cornfield, but I didn’t have enough time to walk that far – or a car waiting for me there.

On the way back to the boardwalk I enjoyed views of hills generally to the east, nicely side-lit by the sun.

picture of side-lit hills near Salt Creek

Side-lit hills near Salt Creek

After returning to the boardwalk I continued around the loop on the south side. The main part of the creek was in the middle of the loop, and I noticed that there were reflections of the plants lining the creek banks. Again, it was pretty amazing to see water reflections in Death Valley!

picture of reflections of plants in Salt Creek

Reflections of plants in Salt Creek

When I got back to the trailhead parking area I spent a few minutes exploring nearby, since the creek actually flows right past. It was interesting to note that the shadow of nearby Tucki Mountain was moving across the eastern side of Death Valley toward the Funeral Mountains. There was still enough light to see the Funeral Mountains reflected in Salt Creek.

picture of sunset with the Funeral Mountains reflected in Salt Creek

Sunset with the Funeral Mountains reflected in Salt Creek

I got in my car and monitored the progress of the sunset as I started driving back toward CA-190 at the end of the gravel road.  The sunlight turned the hills almost red. Here is a view to the north, with Corkscrew Peak at the left of the skyline, in the Grapevine Mountains.

picture of Corkscrew Peak (left) and the Grapevine Mountains just before sunset

Corkscrew Peak (left) and the Grapevine Mountains just before sunset

There were some wildflowers next to the road so I investigated more carefully while I still had enough light to see. I found brown-eyed evening primroses (Chylismia claviformis) as well as some hybrids between brown-eyed and golden evening primroses (Chylismia brevipes). There was also a bit of desert holly (Atriplex hymenelytra). After reaching CA-190 I did a short 2-mile jog east before starting north up Beatty Cutoff to Daylight Pass Rd. Even in the fading light of dusk I could see a huge field of wildflowers, primarily desert gold (Geraea canescens) and brown-eyed evening primrose, with a few flashes of purple indicating caltha-leaved phacelia (Phacelia calvifolia). Once again distinctive Corkscrew Peak is at the left of the skyline.

picture of wildflowers along Beatty Cutoff Rd at dusk

Wildflowers along Beatty Cutoff Rd at dusk

Finally, nearly a half hour after actual sunset, I continued onward to my Beatty, NV, overnight accommodations without further stops. My evening odometer check showed 150 miles for the day. In the morning I would visit the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes and a couple of other sights before ending my stay at Death Valley.

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Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Titus Canyon

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After my visit to, and hike around, Ubehebe Crater, the next destination of my 3rd day in Death Valley National Park was Titus Canyon. Although I had come to Death Valley to see the spring wildflower bloom I was having memorable adventures exploring other park sights and features.

Titus Canyon is in the Grapevine Mountains in the northeastern part of the park. Unlike most other canyons in the Death Valley, it can be visited either on foot or by vehicle. For hiking, you drive up the lower/western end of Titus Canyon Rd, an unimproved gravel road, for about 2.7 miles to a trailhead. On the way there are nice views of the Grapevine Mountains, in which Titus Canyon is located.

photo of approach to Titus Canyon in the Grapevine Mountains

Approach to Titus Canyon in the Grapevine Mountains

The trailhead parking is obvious, and signage indicates that the trailhead serves adjacent Fall Canyon as well as Titus Canyon. There are a number of things that are interesting about Titus Canyon, besides the fact that it is possible to drive through it – with a 4WD high-clearance vehicle. Beyond the trailhead Titus Canyon Rd is one-way, beginning at its other end some 21 miles to the east on Nevada Hwy 374 (Daylight Pass Rd) outside the park boundary. Along the portion of the road that most Titus Canyon visitors only experience by driving there is the ghost town of Leadfield, Klare Spring, and 5300-foot high Red Pass; for reference, the trailhead is at about 900 feet elevation.

photo of map of Titus Canyon Rd

Map of Titus Canyon Rd

For hiking, once you have parked at the trailhead you can hike in as far as you like as an out-and-back hike; I don’t think you could make a loop out of it, even over to adjacent Fall Canyon. In any case, I simply hiked up the canyon about 2.5 miles and then back down. The GPS track shows the route, with the orange dot denoting the trailhead.

GPS track

GPS track

As with many other canyons in Death Valley, the canyon floor climbs up and away from the valley floor.   You can see this by the elevation contours on the GPS track, and even more easily on the elevation profile. The grade is very consistent, and is a comfortable 6%.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Not far from the trailhead I noticed that the crescent moon was visible above the canyon wall. I thought it made a pretty picture.

photo of moon above the wall of Titus Canyon

Moon above the wall of Titus Canyon

The trail simply follows the road, which is one-way after the trailhead. Hike descriptions suggest doing this hike early in the day in order to reduce the chance of encountering oncoming vehicle traffic. Information for many park sights seems to suggest visiting early or late in the day – in hotter summer weather this avoids being out in the sun at mid-day – but if your time is limited it is simply impractical to miss the main part of the day. I started hiking about 1pm on a Saturday and hoped not to encounter too much traffic. Fortunately, today’s high-clearance vehicles are not electric, so you hear them shortly before you see them. This picture shows what it’s like when a vehicle is coming down the road.

photo of here comes a car!

Here comes a car!

Titus Canyon is, in part, a slot canyon, where the walls are much taller than the width of the canyon. Although some slot canyon areas are so narrow that it can be difficult for a person to walk, Titus Canyon is relatively wide, but still with walls that at times rise hundreds of feet. The bottom 2 miles or so is referred to as The Narrows, and this view is fairly typical. For scale, note the two hikers on the road.

photo of Titus Canyon: The Narrows

Titus Canyon: The Narrows

Because of the high canyon walls it is easy to imagine that not many plants will be found. On the other hand, Titus Canyon serves a watershed area of about 35 square miles, so when rain does come, a lot of water runs down the canyon floor. I found several types of plant that seemed unique compared to other places in the park that I visited, and I have not yet been able to identify them. One is this red grass-like plant that grows in bunches.

photo of red grass-like plant

Red grass-like plant

Not far away was another reddish-looking plant, where the red color comes more from the stems than from the tiny leaves.

photo of red-hued plant

Red-hued plant

Also I found several types of more typical green plants. This one was interesting because it had what seemed to be old blossoms, and the leaves were fuzzy – lay person’s term for hairy or wooly!

photo of so-called (by me) fuzzy plant

So-called (by me) fuzzy plant

About 2 miles from the trailhead the canyon begins to open up, transforming from a slot-type configuration to a more typical canyon as the walls become less vertical. Although I would have enjoyed hiking further, I knew I didn’t have time to go all the way to the next major feature (Klare Spring, about 6.5 miles in) so I simply set a one-hour time limit and turned around at that time. As I was approaching my time limit, there was a nice view of a nearby mini-peak. My GPS software shows an unnamed high point in about the right location with a peak height of nearly 3400 feet; I was at just under 1700 feet elevation when I took the picture.

photo of view of a nearby mini-peak from my turnaround point in Titus Canyon

View of a nearby mini-peak from my turnaround point in Titus Canyon

On the return trip I got to re-experience the canyon, from the uphill side rather than looking uphill. Not far from where I turned around I noticed an area with particularly interesting rock layers, with clearly defined strata perhaps 6-10 feet thick. The road provides a rough length scale.

photo of well-defined rock layers in the canyon walls

Well-defined rock layers in the canyon walls

I noticed a few plants that, amazingly, had found sustenance in small cracks several feet up the canyon walls; here the walls were mostly smooth. Although the leaves are superficially similar, with ovate toothed shape, to the plants I saw earlier on the hike, the leaves of these plants were not hairy.

photo of plants clinging to the canyon wall

Plants clinging to the canyon wall

Here is another view of the canyon, illustrating how the road snakes around localized formations and is, in places, barely wide enough for the single-lane road.

photo of Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon

I have found, on many previous out-and-back hikes, that the scenery often looks different on the outbound and return trips. Here is an example: on the outbound hike I barely noticed this dramatic undercut area, but on the return trip it was hard to miss, perhaps because it was straight ahead of me. In any case, just as I stopped to take a picture, a family came into view hiking up the canyon. After I took the picture and we got closer to each other, the adults were about to apologize for photo-bombing my picture. Instead, I thanked them for providing a length scale!

photo of undercut in the canyon wall

Undercut in the canyon wall

Also it is noteworthy that the lower 20 feet or so of the canyon wall is much smoother than the higher area. Although this could be due to different rock types, it is likely also, at least in part, an indication of how deep the rushing water can get immediately after a rain storm. It is another reminder not to venture into canyons if there is a forecast for rain.

Approaching the trailhead the canyon seems to suddenly end, as it emerges from the edge of the mountains onto the alluvial fan leading down into Death Valley. Especially after hiking a couple of hours in the canyon, it is a striking and beautiful change in the view.

photo of approaching the mouth of Titus Canyon

Approaching the mouth of Titus Canyon

I saw very few wildflowers on this hike: just a few notch-leaf phacelia and golden evening primrose between the trailhead sign and the actual entrance to the canyon, and a few cryptantha farther up the canyon. The canyon itself is an impressive place, and I was glad to experience it on foot and to have the opportunity to take my time and savor the feeling of being in the canyon.

My next stop, and final stop for the day, was the Salt Creek Trail, along CA-190 between Mud Canyon and Beatty Cutoff.

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Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Ubehebe Crater

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After viewing wildflowers during the 65-mile drive from Beatty, Nevada, I arrived at Ubehebe Crater for the first of three mini-hikes on day 3 of my visit to Death Valley National Park to view the spring wildflower bloom. Ubehebe Crater is at about 2600 feet elevation in the northern part of the park, 50 miles or so up Death Valley Wash from Furnace Creek, the main park Visitor Center.

The paved road essentially dead ends at the parking area for the crater, although an unpaved road continues another 27 miles to a remote area known as The Racetrack, an exceptionally flat valley floor where large rocks appear to have been gradually moving for hundreds of years, leaving visible tracks on the valley floor. This is an example of the unusual and, in some ways, strange phenomena that exist in Death Valley.

Ubehebe Crater is an example of a geological phenomenon known as an explosion crater: hot magma heats water and converts it to steam, which builds up pressure underground until it literally explodes upward, creating a crater and spewing rock over an area of up to several square miles. Ubehebe Crater is about 2000 years old, very young by geological standards. The surrounding area is stark and barren-looking, with the half-mile-diameter crater as well as several smaller ones nearby the products of the magma event and associated explosions.

I should note that it was actually rather difficult to do photographic justice to Ubehebe Crater, because you are so close to it that it more than fills the field of view in photographs. This is a view from the parking area, which is barely 100 feet from the rim. The colorful side walls of the crater show different types of rock.

image of Ubehebe Crater viewed from the parking area

Ubehebe Crater viewed from the parking area

A trail goes all the way around the rim of the crater, as shown in the GPS track. The orange dot shows the location of the parking area. About 1/3 of the way around, going counter-clockwise, a short signed side trail leads to a smaller crater called Little Hebe.

GPS track

GPS track

After circumnavigating Ubehebe I walked down a trail that leads to the bottom of the crater, about 400 feet lower than the rim. The rim itself rises and then falls about 200 feet around the circumference.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

In addition to Big Hebe and Little Hebe there are smaller explosion craters in the area. Here is a view to the west, toward the Last Chance Mountains, with smaller, incomplete craters in the foreground.

image of satellite craters near Ubehebe Crater

Satellite craters near Ubehebe Crater

There are widely dispersed small tufts of drought-tolerant grass and similar plants, but the overall sense is that this is a desolate landscape. However, I did find a very few wildflowers, including this desert gold poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma). The blossom, no bigger than a normal poppy blossom, was broader than the basal leaves.

image of desert gold poppy

Desert gold poppy

About 0.6 mile from the parking area I arrived at the sign for the short trail leading to and around the rim of Little Hebe. Little Hebe is about 0.1 mile in diameter and 0.3 mile in circumference. This view of Little Hebe was at the cusp in the Big Hebe trail, which was at the highest elevation of the hike.

image of Little Hebe viewed from Big Hebe

Little Hebe viewed from Big Hebe

As I continued a bit farther around the rim of Ubehebe I had a great view to the northwest of the side of the crater below the parking area; you can barely see a school bus in the parking area. Cascading down the side wall are a couple of trails that lead to the crater floor.

image of Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater

I was planning to hike down to the bottom when I got around to where the trail began. I could even see a group of people at the bottom. I’m sure I was thinking that, if they could do it, so could I!

image of group of people on the floor of Ubehebe Crater

Group of people on the floor of Ubehebe Crater

A little farther along I noticed some more of the interesting striped rock layers off to my right and took a short detour to get a closer look, thinking it might be another satellite crater. It turned out to be a wash, with nearly vertical walls and a flat bottom. It was a nice close-up view of the rock layers.

image of wash with colorful layered walls

Wash with colorful layered walls

Just as I returned to the main trail around Ubehebe Crater a couple of young guys ran past, clearly using the rim trail as a short exercise route. Although I’d seen numerous cyclists on the roads near the heart of the valley, it was unexpected to see people out for a run in such a remote part of the park, nearly at mid-day.

image of runners on the Ubehebe Crater rim trail

Runners on the Ubehebe Crater rim trail

When I got to the first trail leading to the bottom of the crater I headed down. I had previously checked out the trails, clearly visible from the opposite side of the crater, and chosen the one I wanted to hike down. I was sure that it was the least steep, though the elevation profile shows that the grade was 24%!

Once I arrived at the bottom I could see how relatively flat it was. It was quite interesting to just stand in one place and turn slowly around, viewing the crater walls in all directions. It was my first time to hike down to the bottom of any kind of crater.

image of view from the bottom of Ubehebe Crater

View from the bottom of Ubehebe Crater

There were clusters of scrub here and there. Once I’d enjoyed the new perspective of the crater, it was time to hike back up that 24% grade trail. This is what it looked like from the bottom. Other visitors were struggling a bit with the slope, but I found that if I just took my time and kept going, I made good progress.

image of trail leading up from the bottom of Ubehebe Crater

Trail leading up from the bottom of Ubehebe Crater

On my way up I stopped to check out a few wildflowers I’d noted on the way down; I’d mentally bookmarked the stops for the return trip. There were a few broad-flowered gilia, a bit of cryptantha, and even a few brown-eyed evening primroses.

When I got back to the rim trail I continued to the parking area barely 0.1 mile further. The students who had come on the school bus were having a geology lesson at the rim overlooking the crater. What a fantastic field trip!

image of school field trip to visit Ubehebe Crater

School field trip to visit Ubehebe Crater

When I reached my car I did yet another cleaning of my camera following my “close encounter” with some fine desert dust earlier in the morning; then I began my return down Ubehebe Crater Rd and south on Scotty’s Castle Rd. Shortly after turning onto Scotty’s Castle Rd I re-encountered a large cluster of pink wildflowers; I’d noticed it on the way to Ubehebe but decided not to stop at that time. When I stopped to look more closely I could see that they were broad-flowered gilia (Gilia latiflora). It looks like there is a bit of desert plantain (Plantago ovata) in the center foreground.

image of cluster of broad-flowered gilia at the north end of Scotty’s Castle Rd

Cluster of broad-flowered gilia at the north end of Scotty’s Castle Rd

After a brief stop I continued south on Scotty’s Castle Rd toward my next planned mini-hike at Titus Canyon.

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Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: morning wildflowers

On the third day of my trip to Death Valley National Park to see the spring wildflower bloom I planned to drive to the northern part of the park to visit Ubehebe Crater. On the way I saw quite a few wildflowers, in some ways similar to the first morning. This post gives a flavor of the variety of wildflowers I saw: several I had seen previously, but a few new ones too.

To try to give an idea of the geographic distances and locations, this map shows the driving path from my hotel in Beatty, NV, to Ubehebe Crater. One of the important points is that the distance was about 65 miles: a reinforcement that the park is big, and many of the interesting things to see are quite spread out. Also, the driving time is about an hour and a half – without stops. It actually took me more like 2 hr 15 min because I stopped so many times to observe and enjoy the wildflowers.

picture of overview map of the drive

Overview map of the drive

The previous days I had made my way between the Furnace Creek area and Beatty via the Beatty Cutoff Rd, which connects the blue route to the area marked Beatty Junction. This time, since I was planning to drive north, I came all the way down Daylight Pass Rd through Mud Canyon. I should note that the route marked in grey, although comparable in distance and drive time, is actually closed at this time due to a road washout in October 2015 during a storm. As a result, Scotty’s Castle is currently inaccessible.

As I approached Hells Gate, where Daylight Pass Rd and Beatty Cutoff diverge, I had nice views of the Death Valley Buttes and a more distant view of Telescope Peak. To the east there are also nice views of Corkscrew Peak.

Before I reached Hells Gate I saw a yellow-flowering shrub and pulled over to investigate. The shrub was most likely Acton encelia (Encelia actoni). It turns out that another type of encelia, called brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), also grows in the park, but the wildflower page refers to Acton encelia in the northern part of the park. The two types of encelia seem tricky to distinguish unless you know the particular distinguishing characteristics: in this case, have a willingness to break a stem to check for brittleness.

picture of Acton encelia along Daylight Pass Rd east of Hells Gate

Acton encelia along Daylight Pass Rd east of Hells Gate

Whenever I stopped the car and got out to look at one wildflower, I checked out the immediate area to see what else might be there. Near the encelia I made a surprising find: red-stemmed filaree, or cranebill (Erodium cicutorium). It was surprising because it is not considered a native plant, either to Death Valley or the Mohave Desert region, or to California. I tend to consider the entire national park to be such a unique and harsh environment that it’s a surprise to find a flower that thrives in other ecosystems. In fact, red-stemmed filaree is widespread across California and in other states as well. The filaree is the light purple-pink flower at the lower right of the picture, and the spiky structures at the upper left and lower center are the seed pods, whose shape is reminiscent of crane bills.

picture of red-stemmed filaree

Red-stemmed filaree

In the upper right there is some cryptantha, possibly scented cryptantha (Cryptantha utahensis). Here is another example, more magnified. The tiny white flowers have yellow at the throat, and the stems are hairy when viewed up close.

picture of cryptantha

Cryptantha

Right around Hells Gate I stopped again to check out a prominent flash of purple: notch-leaf phacelia (Phacelia crenulata).

picture of notch-leaf phacelia at Hells Gate

Notch-leaf phacelia at Hells Gate

In this area it was both amazing and rewarding to get out of the car and just look around. There was a wide variety of flowers growing in close proximity. Here is a picture that covers just a few square feet, basically on, or just off, the shoulder of the road. When I magnify the picture I can see golden evening primrose (Chylismia brevipes), brown-eyed evening primrose (Chylismia claviformis), notch-leaf phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), red-stemmed filaree (Erodium cicutorium), and cryptantha. There are undoubtedly others that I cannot identify.

picture of wildflowers in profusion, at Hells Gate

Wildflowers in profusion, at Hells Gate

It was particularly interesting to see the two types of evening primrose in such close proximity (see below), since I’d happened to find a hybrid the first morning. In general, brown-eyed evening primroses are found at lower elevations and goldens at somewhat higher elevations, but clearly the ranges overlap. Hells Gate is about 2300 feet elevation, I think at the upper part of the range for the brown-eyed evening primrose.

As Daylight Pass Rd descends from Hells Gate into Death Valley via Mud Canyon, there is a nice view of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, with Tucki Mountain and then the Panamint Mountains behind. The yellow patch next to the road is golden evening primrose.

picture of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Tucki Mountain, and the Panamint Mountains

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Tucki Mountain, and the Panamint Mountains

Farther down Mud Canyon, at another stop, I found several shredding evening primrose (Eremothera boothii ssp. condensata) plants. Each plant has a large spreading base of spotted leaves and often several clusters of flowers. In this example there are at least 6 clusters of buds in addition to the blossoms.

picture of shredding evening primrose in Mud Canyon

Shredding evening primrose in Mud Canyon

Once I noticed golden and brown-eyed evening primroses growing right next to each other in one place, I was on the lookout for other places. I was very interested to see if I would find any other hybrids, like the one I found two mornings earlier. Indeed I did, in at least two or three places. Here is a composite picture to illustrate the range that I found. At the upper left is a golden evening primrose (Chylismia brevipes) and at the lower right is a brown-eyed evening primrose (Chylismia claviformis). Note that the brown-eye is a cream color with prominent brown spots at the base of each petal while the golden is bright yellow, without spots. The hybrid at the upper right is the one I saw two days prior, fairly bright yellow but with distinct brown spots. The hybrid at the lower left is typical of the new ones I found in Mud Canyon as well as along the road toward Scotty’s Castle; it is lighter yellow, but definitely with a yellow tinge along with brown spots.

picture of hybrid evening primroses (upper right and lower left) along with golden (upper left) and brown-eye (lower right) evening primroses

Hybrid evening primroses (upper right and lower left) along with golden (upper left) and brown-eye (lower right) evening primroses

Once I made it to the lower end of Daylight Pass Rd I turned right to go north on Scotty’s Castle Rd, as shown on the map. This road travels along the base of the Grapevine Mountains and gradually gains elevation as it follows Death Valley Wash. Along the way it passes several alluvial fans at the base of the mountains.

I continued to stop periodically to check out the wildflowers, especially when I saw a flash of a different color from what I’d been seeing. One of the stops revealed my first sighting of broad-flowered gilia (Gilia latiflora). These pretty flowers have pink-light purple petals with blue stamens and a bit of yellow at the throat.

picture of broad-flowered gilia along Scotty’s Castle Rd

Broad-flowered gilia along Scotty’s Castle Rd

I should note that it is an interesting challenge to drive in a safe manner – and at a reasonable speed – while frequently glancing at the side of the road for interesting, and potentially small, wildflowers. The best solution may be to just stop frequently! Along the way I passed some more encelia and some lesser mojavea (Mohavea breviflora).

I made another stop when I saw what looked like a small cactus in my peripheral vision. It turns out that it’s a beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris).

picture of beavertail cactus

Beavertail cactus

I had an interesting adventure while walking closer to the cactus to frame my picture. I was paying no attention to the terrain at my feet and essentially tripped into a 1.5-foot high sand berm at the edge of the shoulder. I actually briefly touched my camera on the ground and, of course, stirred up quite a bit of very fine desert sand, which got all over the camera among other places. Unfortunately the camera was on and the lens was fairly well extended, which meant that I got sand all over the outside of the zoom mechanism and on the exterior lens surface. The poor camera made quite a grinding noise when I changed the zoom. I cleaned it as well as I could with a Kleenex dampened with water and by blowing, and stopped taking pictures until I got to Ubehebe Crater. Fortunately, the numerous additional cleanings and exercising of the zoom I performed over the next two days seemed to do a reasonable job of removing the sand.

When I was editing my pictures for this post I made an unexpected discovery: in the lower right portion of the beavertail cactus picture I noticed a different plant that I was able to identify as desert plantain (Plantago ovata). Here I show that section of the original picture, magnified. It’s not in perfect focus, since I was focusing on the cactus, but it was clear enough to make the identification. The basal leaves are distinctive, along with the long stem and finger-shaped head with tiny flowers.

picture of desert plantain

Desert plantain

In any case, I continued my drive the rest of the way to Ubehebe Crater. About 33 miles from the bottom end of Mud Canyon is the Grapevine Junction, where the grey route joins the blue route on the map image above. From this junction it is 5 miles to Ubehebe Crater, the site of my first planned hike of the day.

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Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Artist Drive at sunset

For the last adventure of my second day at Death Valley National Park, visiting to see the spring wildflower bloom, I planned a short but scenic drive along a road called Artist Drive, located along Badwater Rd south of CA-190. A one-way loop, the entrance is at mile 8 and the exit is at mile 5. I’m certain the road is one-way for safety reasons: it’s virtually impossible to drive this road without stopping several times to get out of your car and enjoy the beautiful and colorful formations!

In fact, the area is visible for many miles along Badwater Rd. As soon as you get off Badwater Rd and start driving along Artist Drive you automatically slow down to take in views that are literally continuous for the 6 or so mile length of the road. My plan was to begin the drive late in the afternoon and basically stay for the sunset. The hills line the Death Valley basin facing west, so they are beautifully illuminated by the late afternoon sun. I began a little over one hour before sunset, with the sun playing hide-and-seek with light, scattered high clouds.

photo of approaching the colorful formations at the beginning of Artist Drive

Approaching the colorful formations at the beginning of Artist Drive

At the left of the photo the ground has a faint golden hue due to the many desert gold (Geraea canescens) flowers in bloom. I stopped a couple of times to look more closely at the flowers. At one stop I found purple mat (Nama demissum), brown-eyed evening primrose (Camissionia claviformis), cryptantha, and caltha-leaf phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia) in close proximity. Here is a close-up of some purple mat, considered a belly flower, with blossoms that are just a few mm across.

photo of purple mat along Artist Drive

Purple mat along Artist Drive

This map shows the area; note the one-mile scale at the lower right. Badwater Rd is about 50 feet below sea level, and Artist Drive climbs up to nearly 1000 feet elevation in the first 2 miles before undulating along the base of the hills and eventually returning to the exit at Badwater Rd.

photo of map of the area around Artist Drive

Map of the area around Artist Drive

About 1 mile in I noticed quite a few cars pulled over to the side of the road with people getting out to walk around, so I did likewise, with my short exploration shown in orange on the map. After a short climb there was a lovely view to the southeast; I’m pretty sure that Dante’s View is in the background, with an elevation of about 5500 feet.

photo of view toward Dante’s View

View toward Dante’s View

This area was about 400 feet above the valley floor, so there were nice views of across Death Valley, with the Panamint Mountains in the background on the west side of the valley basin.

photo of Death Valley floor from Artist Drive

Death Valley floor from Artist Drive

There were more wildflowers here, including some gravel ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla).

photo of gravel ghost

Gravel ghost

The road continues along the base of the hills, with new formations coming into view. In some areas the road was close enough to formations to see the rough texture, somewhat like pock marks, created by uneven erosion.

photo along Artist Drive

Along Artist Drive

Before long I made another stop to look at wildflowers, as a larger-size shrub had caught my attention. It is encelia, either brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) or Acton encelia (Encelia actoni).

photo of encelia: brittlebush or Acton encelia

Encelia: brittlebush or Acton encelia

Nearby there was some caltha-leaf phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia).

photo of caltha-leaf phacelia

Caltha-leaf phacelia

Another larger, eye-catching shrub was pygmy cedar (Peucehyllum schottii), also called desert fir or desert pine, which is unusual in a couple of respects. First, there is only this one species in the entire genus. Second, it is neither a cedar nor a fir nor a pine, even though it looks rather like an evergreen; instead, it is in the aster family.

photo of pygmy cedar

Pygmy cedar

Elsewhere nearby there was some lesser mojavea (Mohavea breviflora).

Soon some of the formations were taking on more unusual coloring, including some green.

photo of colorful formation along Artist Drive

Colorful formation along Artist Drive

Perhaps 3.5 miles along Artist Drive there is a side road signed Artist Palette. I had not fully done my homework so I did not know what this was; but I thought I should check it out. I’m glad I did, since it is surely considered a highlight of the drive! Artist Palette is a section of the hills with an extensive palette of colors due to different types of rock and chemical interactions with salts and water.

In lieu of taking a panorama shot with my camera, I stitched together two shots. Near the center of this composite picture there are several people (click on the picture to enlarge it). Apparently there is a way to hike out there, though it would surely be inadvisable to be out in the middle of the formation at sunset without a headlamp.

photo of Artist Palette

Artist Palette

It was now only about 15 minutes before sunset and I was hoping to see the rest of Artist Drive in daylight, so I continued around the loop. Here is a nice view of the nearby hills, with exceptionally warm colors due to the illumination by the late afternoon sun.

photo of late afternoon sun-illuminated hills

Late afternoon sun-illuminated hills

I did stop several more times to appreciate the changes in the hills’ coloration as the sun began to set over the Panamint Mountains on the west side of Death Valley. Just before sunset you could see the shadow line float up the hillside. This picture was taken just a few minutes before sunset.

photo of approaching sunset along Artist Drive

Approaching sunset along Artist Drive

A few minutes later the shadow line was high on the hills.

photo of last sunlight on the hills along Artist Drive

Last sunlight on the hills along Artist Drive

I timed my return to Badwater Rd perfectly, as the last sunlight was fading into dusk. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day of sightseeing and hikes at Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point Badlands Loop, and Golden Canyon Trail.

A few minutes later, as I passed through Furnace Creek, a few scattered clouds glowed pink for a short time after sunset, then faded. After dusk I drove, once again, up Daylight Pass Rd to my hotel in Beatty, NV, completing a 155-mile day. The following day I would drive to the north part of Death Valley for more adventures.

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