Zigzag Mountains of Death Valley

Many of the mountains in the mountains surrounding Death Valley National Park show marks of the geologic action of folding.

DV_folding 3

DV_landscape mts Armargosa Mountains, Death Valley, California

Check out other posts for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Zigzag

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Crooked & Squiggly


Crooked layers of earth, Death Valley National Park, California

crooked, squiggly - amargosa mtns


Squiggly tree roots, Dr Phillips Community Park, Orlando, Florida

squiggly, dr phillips park 3.22.13 173



Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

Death Valley National ParkQuestion of the day:

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

Leu Gardens, OrlandoI love travel, all types of travel, but I’m particularly fond of my days happily wandering the US; boondocking and exploring…the life of adventure. But I also love planning for a trip. I spent weeks planning my first extended trip west and months planning for my “jubilee journey“. I love planning, I’m a planner and while I do use GPS to find an exact street address I prefer maps for seeing the bigger picture. I love the feel of paper in hand and seeing where a highway begins and ends. I map out trips to new places, this is just part of the journey; planning what beautiful places to visit, when and how long to spend at each.

Great Dunes National Park, CO

But all this planning is just a guide and I rarely, ok never, make it to all the places I planned on. With map in hand and itinerary packed away only to be found when I return home I set out with eyes wide open and observant of any enticing distractions. I love the freedom of traveling the open road and a rigid itinerary takes away from that freedom. With caution to the wind and wind up my tailpipe I head to my first destination but I ALWAYS get sidetracked. Allowing myself the freedom to follow the signs along the road guiding me to some unknown adventure awaiting me in some unexpected place is the sheer joy of travel. In the end locations change, a one night stay turns into five, places are left out to only be regretted later, new jewels in the landscape are found and I always arrive home wondering how soon I can leave again.

Grand Teton National Park, WY

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Travel Theme: Dry

I always like to post something a little off, different, unexpected but the obvious was screaming in my ear…a dry river bed in the driest place in the US – Death Valley National Park, California. I visited there with my girls in 2005 and it has haunted me ever since. I regret that I didn’t return during my second national park tour. At first glance this place appears devoid of anything of value but a closer look reveals an unexpected beauty.

Death Valley is also the hottest place in the US. The day we were there it was 114° in the shade at 10:00 am. As we went on our way that evening we all said “I’ll never go back”. But before we finished the hour and a half drive to Las Vegas my heart was already longing for a return trip.

There is something very special about the desert, the quiet, peace and solitude is the perfect prescription for our over civilized generation.

DV_dry river 2


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A Word A Week Photograph Challenge: Undulate


Undulating Mountains


Death Valley National Park, California


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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Numbers ‘and’ Letters

These numbers indicate how deep the water is during flash floods.

DV_dry river 2

Sea level. I took this photo at 282 feet below sea level.

DV_sea level2

Photos taken at Death Valley National Park, California



Weekly Photo Challange: Layers


Death Valley National Park, California

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Travel Theme: Roads

The “You want me to go where road!”

As my family and I were driving through The Valley of the Gods in southern Utah we approached a mesa, a vertical wall of rock several thousand feet in height. I stated “Ashley, I think this road is going to end but the map shows it going through.” We got closer and then in a panicked tone I exclaimed “I think were supposed to drive up the side of that mesa!” Now my fear of heights is only second to my fear of spiders. Luckily my daughter was driving because I would have turned back. This photograph was taken at 1100 ft. I got out of the car shaking; my daughter too was unnerved by the windy drive with its hairpin turns on a single land gravel road. We still laugh as we talk about this scary journey up the side of a mesa.


The Scenic Road

This scenic road in Brown County State Park (Indiana) is a favorite getaway spot as 1000s of visitor come to view the beautiful fall foliage.


The road goes on forever

It may seem like forever as you drive through Death Valley. What seems close is just an illusion and as you think you are getting close to your destination you are actually still very far away.


The long and winding road

This winding gravel road was taken as I drove the back country of Parke County, Indiana in search of an elusive waterfall…and yes I found it, Groundhog falls.


An Ancient Road

The Sunken Trace is a remnant of the ancient Natchez Trace Parkway where in the early 1800s people walked 500 miles enduring hardships and even deadly conditions in order to find for themselves a better life.


Mountain Roads

This photograph was taken from a rest area along Utah’s scenic route I-70. Many highways were carved from mountain rock to make westward travel more efficient.



Check out this and other Travel Themes at Where’s My Backpack.

For the Love of Geography: Deserts

Death Valley_radiator water

Years ago before having visited my first desert landscape my perception of deserts was that they were devoid of any benefit: devoid of life, devoid of beauty. As a geographer I knew the facts, however my (mis)perceptions remained.

Let’s address some these common misperceptions:

Deserts are devoid of water.

Death Valley_badwaterWhile there is little water in desert regions there is water. There is rainfall in all deserts. The Arica Desert in Chili gets less than an inch while others get as much as 10 inches. This may not be much but the earth and vegetation have a way of conserving what little water they get. If you visit during the “rainy” season beware: flash flooding is an unforeseen danger for the unaware visitor. (While there is water in the photo to the left you wouldn’t want to drink it, thus the name “Badwater”. Even so there is water, albeit intermittent)

Deserts are always hot.

While desert temperatures can exceed 120° in the winter temperatures can dip down into the 30s. Those would be considered “hot” deserts. There are also “cold” deserts which occur in the higher altitudes and Antarctica. In a cold desert precipitation is usually in the form of fog or snow.

Deserts are devoid of animal life.

Desert jackrabbitActually there are numerous species of mammals including javelina (a type of wild hog), prairie dog, mule deer, porcupine, coyote, jackrabbit, fennec fox, and rats. Additionally, there is an abundance of snakes, lizards, owl, roadrunners, hawks, scorpions, spiders and tarantellas.

Deserts are devoid of plant life.  

CA_joshua treesThere are numerous plants, trees, shrubs, cactus and flowers including wooly daisy, saguaro cactus, prickly pear cactus, Joshua tree and yucca. Not only is desert vegetation beautiful it is also useful. Plants feed small animals as well as providing water.

Deserts are devoid of beauty.

DV_in basin I have visited desert regions on several occasions and after returning home, deserts are what I most long to visit again. The vegetation and the mountains are beautiful. The absence of sound and the dry warmth is soothing to the soul. I long for the peace I experienced. I encourage all of you to visit the desert and let the toxic build up of everyday life melt away.

Mojave Desert: Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada

DV_282 sign2My first visit to a desert region was Death Valley National Park in the northern region of the Mojave Desert. My daughters and I spent a few hours exploring then went to the nature center. It was 10:00 am and the thermometer read 114° in the shade. The heat was nothing like we could have imagined. We explored the rest of the day at my insistence, they weren’t happy about it. They went along with it because I had reserved a nice cool hotel room in Las Vegas. As we left we all agreed “We will never come back here. It’s too hot, there’s nothing pretty to look at and not much of a place to hike.” I did hike into the basin only because I couldn’t have come so far and not do it. I may have gone 150 yards before returning. TOO much heat!

DV_devils golf courseBut those few hours was all it took. Before we arrived at the hotel I was already longing for the peace and beauty of the desert. I told my girls I wanted to go back some day and even they agreed there was more to this desolate place than we had first seen. Death Valley is surreal, otherworldly. Once you visit it leaves a little of itself in your soul. I haven’t been back to Death Valley yet but I have visited many other desert landscapes, all beautiful, all restored my soul.

Death Valley trivia: During our visit I kept feeling like there was something familiar about the place. On our way to Vegas I decided to watch a movie…Star Wars. As I watched my eyes got big and my heart. I checked the credits and confirmed the movie was filmed in part at Death Valley.

All photographs taken at Death Valley National Park

Other posts in this series on Deserts: Great Basin, Chihuahuan Desert, High Desert Land, Sonoran Desert

Travel theme: Hot

There’s no place in the U.S. that gets as hot as Death Valley National Park. This photo was taken at 10:00 am and it was already 114 degrees. I didn’t do much hiking this day.

Tubs of water are available for overheated radiators

Death Valley

Heat Vapors

Death Valley


Check out all travel themes at Where’s My Backpack