Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Death Valley -- Day One

The main reason we are staying in Pahrump is to have a base from which to make day trips into Death Valley and to Ash Meadows Wildlife Reserve. We had been in Death Valley many years ago, driving through on Hwy 395, but have never spent any time there, nor have explored anything beyond that brief trip through. We were totally unprepared for the multiple colors of the hillsides and buttes. In many ways, it reminds me of the Badland National Parks. The yellow in this picture is a field of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens). There were miles of them!

The chloride/borax content of the soil makes for blazing white hills...

We hiked the boardwalk into Salt Creek where we saw lots of little pupfish. The water is very clear and the fish are 1 inch to about 1 1/4 inches long.

One of the most striking wildflowers we saw were several clumps of Wooly Desert Paintbush (Castilleja foliolosa) --

And of course, the Borax Wagons! Each wagon carried 12 tons of borax and were pulled by the famous 20-Mule Teams (actually 18 mules and 2 horses). Each team pulled two wagons of borax and a 1200 gallon water tank (36 1/2 tons) on a 165 mile trip to the rail head at Mojave that took 10-12 days one way.

We only saw a small portion of the park today. I can't wait to see more of the wildflowers -- and to see Scotty's Castle!

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