Unlike other National Parks, Death Valley is not a place for the casual passer-by tourist out for a pleasant drive for the day. It takes real effort to get here, and to stay and survive here. But still, for all of it's hostility in the summer, it's a fascinating place and quite pleasant to live in during winter months. This stretch of road above is actually over 200 feet below sea level. At one of the stops, there's a small sign about halfway up one of those hills that marks where sea level actually is.
Much of the southern valley was once a giant inland sea. What remains there now is a salt flat that stretches for about 100 miles. This picture was taken directly above the road picture from a spot 5000 feet above the valley called Dante's View:
The landscape appears quite desolate, but it's actually quite varied up close. It still, however, gives you the feeling of being on the Moon or Mars in places. Here's one of the spots on the Artist's Palette drive where Millie got to take a little walk
But lest you think Death Valley is totally a harsh desert environment, here's a surprise. Right in the middle is an oasis of palm trees and even a lush green golf course known as Furnace Creek. These developments have been here since the 20's long before this was a National Park, so they got grandfathered in. Here is the posh Furnace Creek Inn (rooms about $400 a night!):
Even at my far more humble campground ($18 a night!), there were a few trees sipping the water from the Furnace Creek water supply. I stopped back at my camper at high noon and thought it'd make a terrific infrared shot--
So while much of Death Valley is famous for it's dried mud flats and arid conditions:
There are some plants and wildflowers that manage to survive and flourish in the middle of this
I really wished I had more time here than what I had planned for. There were vast areas of the park I never made it to, so this is certainly on my list of places to visit again....even though it's nearly impossible to get to!
As sunset approached, I was torn by having to decide on just one place to photograph. I decided to shoot the dunes near Stovepipe Wells... and loved every minute of it!