It was midweek, a day like any other in Los Angeles. The lanky palms outside the window were flailing graciously, and the sun, as it slid behind the hills had started splashing the sky with a hypercolor tint. Yet, I’m tired of the city. Let’s go somewhere.
The road north through California’s sparse center was clear as we woke up with coffee and hit the CA-14 by 7am the next day. We moved further away from suburbia, and dustings of frosted snow began to appear on the peaks of the mountain ranges as we sped through their valleys. Arriving at the border of the national park just after high noon, we could feel we were somewhere truly special. It was the perfect time to go; a place known for its harsh extremes and unforgiving heat in the summer is simply perfect in the more mild, off peak months. It’s the hottest, driest and lowest point in North America, which makes way for sharp contrasts between diverse terrain from one end of the park to the other, spanning towering sand dunes, mountain ranges, vast salt flats and natural artworks in the form of landscape. We felt no sense of urgency as we stocked up on gas and a map from the general store and set off on our way.
You have your cities lights, give me moonlight in the desert.
A vision in any night sky, the moon is particularly magnificent when witnessed in the haunting desert setting. Unbeknownst to some, Death Valley is also a dark sky park; the bleed of urban light unable to reach its rolling dunes and trails to interfere with the illumination from the thousands of galaxies above. Take a guided night walk (or lead your own way) through Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes underneath the glow of a full moon (March 23), or voyeur into life after dark at Badwater Basin during a new moon for incomparable opportunities for star-gazing and long exposures.
Can we talk in flowers? It will be easier for me to understand.
In a rare and wonderful gift, Death Valley is aburst with vast fields of wildflowers and desert rose. Peppered throughout the basin, blooms of sunny yellow (Desert Gold and Golden Evening Primrose), deep purple (Notchleaf Phacelia) and crisp whites nestled beside Joshua Trees are enjoying a robust season thanks to rare thunderstorms and heavier seasonal rains. Something that happens only once every decade; a proclaimed ‘superbloom’ is in full swing, layering the valley in a patchwork of velvet petals.
We have found Eden, if only a mirage.
Wander through the Valley long enough and find lush oases – a long, lonely trail under the beating sun, beset by a towering Telescope peak, leads to a solstice of shady greens and a glistening waterfall; Darwin Falls. In a climate doused with consistent drought, these secret gardens on the west end of the park and far from other attractions, provide refuge for wildlife, and for us, a secret swimming hole for tired bones.