Death Valley

Trip Start Feb 07, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, November 1, 2007

And so our road trip begins... We leave the smoggy palm lined steets of glamourville and are soon charging through the arid landscape of Southern California. There's a lot of armed forces based out here, and as we near Death Valley we start seeing jet fighters shooting through the valleys not far above us. Soon after we spot a helicopter circling a bunch of police dotted around a tent in a remote ravine. At first we think it's a crime scene, but soon realise that the helicopter is filming actors! The scenery soon becomes even more barren as we drop down, down, down into Death Valley National Park. We watch an amazing sunset from high up at Zabriskie Point looking down from a ridge over the salt flats of Death Valley.
We're luck enough to be staying in the park, so in the morning we watch the sunrise over the mountain range from our room. There's some really fascinating geology in the park. The forces that created this area are quite incredible. Many of the canyons formed along fault lines - as the  running water was chanelled into the cracks it gradually carved out the canyons. Many of the canyons have huge alluvial flows at the entrance to the main valley where the water filled with sand, gravel and rock has flowed into the valley. We visit the lovely Mosaic Canyon for a morning walk. Whole sections of the narrow canyon's walls do like mosaics. They are formed by ancient fragment of rocks that have subsided deep into the ground, become super-heated and have then been pushed up to the surface again. Nearby are the Mesquite sand dunes, located on what was once the base of an ancient lake. Futher down the valley is 'Devil's Golf Course' (very similar to the salt plains in Northern Chile). Rather than being flat, this salt plain is made of weird lumpy formations, caused by a random composition of minerals that crystalise at different rates. Our final stop is 'Badwater', famously known as the lowest land in North America at 282 feet below sea level. There is apparently 11,000 feet of accumluated sediment and salts here, but the filling of the valely can't keep up with the subsiding tectonic motion that occurs on the fault lines that rund along either side of the valley. About 2000-4000 years ago this area was a lake that has since evaportated. There's a small pond remainind next to the road, home to the hardy Badwater snail. Even though it's Fall now, it's still really hot on the salt flats. In Summer the temperatures soar and barely drop in the night time because of the enclosing mountains that continually recirculate hot air. It's a barren and inhospitable place, but at the same time it's incredibly compelling. You can see the evidence of the forces of nature everywhere.
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