The spirit of Death Valley 

click to flip through (5) PHOTO BY KARIN LEPERI
  • photo by Karin Leperi
 

Death Valley National Park in Southern California is dubbed a lifeless land with an array of morbid names — from Death Valley, Funeral Mountains, and Last Chance Range to Dante's View and Badwater. It's a land of ungodly extremes, one where Mother Nature goes awry with both climate and geology, where instinct and survival are sorely challenged even amongst the fittest. It's a land where the savage summer sun torments relentlessly, while winter solstice brings pleasant days and cool starry nights featuring the universe. It's a geological mosaic of topsy-turvy time, a land that tells stories about the forces of tectonic and volcanic agents; where some spaces feel more other worldly than they do earthly.

However, it is within these extremes that a soul can find both silence and solace. For Death Valley has a way of stoking the inner spirit and challenging the soul so as to see the world in new ways and through new eyes. In doing so, you will see the hidden beauty and yes... life in the so-called Valley of Death.

Embrace the extremes.

Discover the largest national park outside Alaska with 3.3 million acres of stark desert beauty. It is the hottest, lowest, and driest place in North America. Red-hot in summer, some say it is hotter than Hades.

Meditate about mountains.

Walk to Zabriskie Point for a stunning view of Manley Beacon, named in honour of one of the members who guided ill-fated gold rush pioneers out of Death Valley in 1849. At the edge of the Funeral Mountains, the tortured terrain is all about beauty in the face of adversity from the elements.

See beauty where you least expect — in the Badlands.

An unearthly world of undulating gullies and ravines, the badlands are best admired from Zabriskie Point. These mustard-yellow mudstone hills are left over from an ancient lakebed. Since they also contain impermeable clay, rainfall disperses in torrents, carving the terrain even deeper. In early morning or late afternoon, the landscape is aglow with light, shadow, and vibrant colors.

Ponder Illusion.

At 86 metres below sea level, Badwater is the lowest spot in the western hemisphere. Though the water looks drinkable, it's not. Salt concentrate — the resultant residue from water evaporating faster than it is replenished, ensures that the waters are not potable. Instead, admire the reflection of the Black Mountains in the lowest pond in America.

Experience design in nature's polygon salt pans.

The salt polygons in the Badwater Basin playa consist of large amounts of sodium, chloride and sulfate. They are formed when water-soaked sheets of mud or salt start drying out and contracting. Ideally, this desiccation causes the ground to contract to a point in six directions. Much like no two snowflakes being identical, the resulting polygons tend to be unique in shape and design. Examine detail in the texture, shape and geometric design of these marvels of nature.

Listen to singing sand dunes.

The sand dunes are one of the most intriguing sites in Death Valley. While the "sub-barchans" or the modified crescent-shaped dunes at Mesquite Flat are the most known and accessible, the Eureka Dunes along the western edge of the Last Chance Range, the highest dune field in North America, are known to sing — a result of when highly-polished grains of sand slip in dry weather. This rare but audible acoustic energy emanates as a distinct boom.

Engage in panoramic wonder from Dante's view.

In the Black Mountains, about 1.5 kilometres above sea level is Dante's Peak. From this vantage point one can look across a basin of alluvial fans all the way to the western edge of Death Valley — the Panamint Range. This view also takes in the lowest point at Badwater as well as the highest point in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney at 4,418 metres — about 160 kilometres north.

Connect with time at Ubehebe Crater.

Ubehebe Crater was formed when Ubehebe volcano violently erupted somewhere between 800 to 6,000 years ago. So powerful was the explosion that the entire volcano is gone: all that is left is a gaping hole about 183 metres deep and 800 metres wide. Today, the eerie landscape remains much like it was after it blew its top so many years ago.

Celebrate colour on the Artist's Drive.

Artist's Drive is a 14-kilometre one-way road that crests and dips through rock sporting an array of pastels and Technicolor: from peach, salmon, and creamsicle orange to sea mist, jade, red, rust, and purple, the hills look as if they were painted from an artist's palette.

Enjoy creature comforts.

Browse the grounds at the Inn at Furnace Creek and enjoy the oasis setting in the desert, where you can catch the reflection of the hotel in a natural spring-fed pond. Toast the sun as it majestically sets behind the Panamint Mountains and feed the body with fine dining at the Inn's dining room.

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