It must be the desert air, or maybe the extra oxygen at this elevation.
After getting up at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise over the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley National Park and before the heat of the day set in, the next logical thing for us to do was….
We thought we were getting to the dunes early, but a tour bus full of people had already spilled out onto the dunes, sitting (mostly) quietly as we were…in eager anticipation. It was almost a full moon and we saw it set over one set of mountains just before the sun rose over another set of mountains. What a delight!
After the beautiful sunrise we sat in our bag chairs enjoying coffee as the tour bus patrons marched like ants across the sand back to the parking lot. Then Jim got the idea to try a handstand. It’s a nice soft landing, I thought. I wonder if I can still do a cartwheel. What better place to find out!? We messed around with that for a while, then played around with some shadow photos (and I do mean played), until finally it was time to get on our way and out of the sandbox.
The walk back to the parking lot in early morning light was fascinating, looking at the tracks of the many night creatures. Like many Death Valley residents, the kangaroo rat lives for the nightlife and manages to survive without drinking a single drop of liquid water. I probably don’t want to know all the critters that were scurrying, hopping, or slithering across the sand just a couple hours earlier.
During our visit to Death Valley we encountered so many more foreign visitors than Americans. Of all the national parks we’ve visited so far, this is the first where the guide filled with maps and highlights includes French and German translations. What a marvel this must be for Europeans to visit a single national park that is bigger than some entire countries in Europe.
Jim shared an early morning cup of coffee with a couple from the Netherlands (where we just visited a couple weeks ago!) while we were parked in the Stovepipe Wells campground, and we chatted with another couple from Australia while we were making our way through the Artist’s Palette.
Death Valley is one of the extreme geological wonders of the world and it held so many surprises for me, including the fact that it’s still evolving. The valley floor continues to be stretched like silly putty as the Earth’s crust moves and shifts. If I had to sum up Death Valley in four words: incredible variety of textures. In four other words: You should see it!!