We spent our last two days in the park looking for wildflower blooms in the southern end of this desert park, and going to one of our old standby locations – Dante’s View. The drive down through Badwater to Ashford Mill was highlighted by a few areas of moderate blooms, mostly of Desert Gold. In 2005 when we were here during “The Bloom of the Century”, this whole area was simply covered with blooms, again all Desert Gold. This year, while nice, it simply couldn’t compare with the earlier visit.
We stopped at several locations to photograph. At one point, I found a spot I had visited in 2005 and thought it would be cool to make a comparison image to show how the two years stacked up. Down at the Ashford Mill area it was the same story – nice but not spectacular. We stopped at several locations and made some images. Another difference this year was the abundance of Sand Verbena, a low growing purple flower that really likes sandy areas for growing in. There were several large swaths of this stuff and although it didn’t really photograph that well, it was quite nice to see.
A day later, we drove up to Dante’s view high atop a peak overlooking Death Valley. It is always an impressive sight and usually about 15 degrees cooler than the valley floor, which today was in the high 80’s. Up here it was quite breezy and cool. While the valley has actually gotten more rain so far this year than in an entire normal rainfall year, you wouldn’t know it by looking out over the view. There were only a couple of obvious areas of water to be seen. Most of the spots I remember seeing water in earlier years were not only visible as the white residue of the salt pan. It is still cool to see and I made a couple of nice abstracts.
We left Death Valley the next morning, March 31st, headed for a stopover in Las Vegas for some stocking up before we move on to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. This will be a “first look” park for us. It sounds nice and very unlike anything I would imagine Nevada having within its boundaries – that is red rock sandstone. On the way out, we stopped briefly at Death Valley Junction a little bit outside the park. This dilapidated little town consists mainly of the Amargosa Opera House, run by Marta Becket, and a few abandoned and near-abandoned buildings. Marta is now 85 years old and has lived here for something like 40 years. In her earlier days, she would sing and perform her unusual ballet at the refurbished Opera House. This is truly a unique experience and one we were happy to have had many years ago. Today, she mostly recites poetry and draws for her continuing audiences.
But back to Las Vegas. What a pit. And that is about all I have to say for Vegas. Mary has been wanting to come here for years, but I have always resisted. The weather had gotten pretty bad and we lengthened our stay to wait out the severely windy conditions. Gusts in the 60 mph range. But with an extra day, Mary convinced me to take a walk on the strip. Our last evening there actually was a perfect night. The wind had stopped and it was a very comfortable temperature for walking. We took in a couple of the free outside casino shows and trudged through the excess and mass of humanity that is Vegas. We photographed a bit, ate some dinner at one of the casinos’ and happily left around 10pm, exhausted.