On our first full day in Death Valley, we woke up to catch a Ranger tour of Golden Canyon. Sarah gave us a lot of information about the history of the canyon. The story goes that a caravan traveling west was sold a faulty map of the area and ended up having to burn their belongings and eat their livestock before they were saved. Upon leaving, one of the survivors supposedly exclaimed, “goodbye, Death Valley!” And the name was born (a name which the native Timbisha Shoshone, who live on a reservation in the park are not really fans of).
The park was soon popularized and a roadway was erected in Golden Canyon to entice new car owners to the park, but the road didn’t stand a chance against flooding muddy waters and erosion. Sarah brought out her water bottle and spritzed the canyon wall. It was all mud. When it (finally) rains in Death Valley, the land isn’t able to drain it. Flash floods cover everything in thick layers of mud. We also got to see gypsum from Death Valley’s ancient lake between layers of sediment.
After our Ranger talk, we decided to walk the rest of the Golden Canyon trail and Gower Gulch Loop. We stopped to take in the beauty of the Red Cathedral…
…and high colorful hills intersected by side canyons.
It is the most popular hike in Death Valley for a reason.
Each turn seemed to open up new painted hills, with the sun hitting them just right.
While hiking through Gower Gulch, we were able to see once again the power of water in this area. Colorful conglomerate rocks decorated the slot canyon walls as we walked through a dried up riverbed.
We saw our first signs of life at Death Valley in two small, well camouflaged lizards.
After hiking five miles in the sun (it’s no joke in Death Valley- the park even closes for the summer), we got in the car and headed north to Ubehebe Crater. Unfortunately, we missed our turn and added another hour to our already long drive (National parks are huge). But ‘tis life! To the crater!
Ubehebe Crater is about 2,000 years old. Considered an “explosion crater”(glad I wasn’t there when that happened) it is a half mile across and 500 feet long. We planned to walk around it, but the winds were picking up and I didn’t want Ryan to have to send my parents a postcard from Death Valley explaining how I fell into a giant hole.
We decided to eat lunch at Stovepipe Wells Village pub and see some pupfish instead.
These fish are only found in Death Valley, a sign of their evolutionary ingenuity and will to survive. Upon seeing the pupfish chase each other, I exclaimed, “how cute!” This of course is how they got their name, as they look like playful puppies. A sign informed us, however, that the fish are actually not playful; they chase each other for territory and mates. It makes sense. If you want to survive in a desert, you have to be tough.
We’re not tough enough to survive in the desert, so it’s time to pack up and move on. Goodbye, Death Valley!