Death Valley Adventures, Day 2

Day two started out with a beautiful morning. No sunrise adventures, although I kind of wish we had. I know it would have been amazing. We brought our own healthy snacks, so after some food in our room, we headed out to explore.

And to our surprise, the hotel greeter bid us a grand farewell as we exited the hotel parking lot! What a beautiful healthy coyote! 🤎

Our first stop was Harmony Borax Works. If you’d have asked me a few weeks ago what borax was, I’d probably have said “something my grandmother used for cleaning”. And I assume I’d have been right. What I didn’t know was what borax really was, and where it came from. Borax is a mineral, and the common name for sodium tetraborate. It occurs naturally by repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. Borax was discovered in Death Valley in 1881. From 1883-1888 borax was hauled out of the valley by teams of 16-20 mules, depending on the size of the load. The famous twenty-mule team actually consisted of eighteen mules and two horses at the rear. The rear wheels of the wagon were seven feet high and the entire unit with mules was more than one hundred feet long.

20 Mule Team Borax branding logo was created by a young journalist named Stephen Mather. He later became the first director of the National Park Service.

Our plan was to head to the northern part of the park, but due to flooding that road was closed. After a quick stop for a photo of Devil’s Cornfield, we headed to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

If you look carefully, you may be able to see the people at the top of that highest sand dune in the second photo below.

We left the sand dunes and headed west. Let me say that Death Valley is indeed a valley surrounded by some very high mountains. The height can sneak up on you. As we drove, I suddenly realized how high we had gotten, and how far down we were going to go if we continued on this path. I also realized we’d be driving over these same mountains when we exited the park in two days. After a brief chat, it was decided we’d head back and explore elsewhere. We’d see the sights on this road on our way out.

Below is the view from the point we turned back. Come Friday we’d head down into that valley and to a viewpoint on the other side before exiting the park. I will say, I was less stressed on Friday. Maybe the time to prepare for the downhill adventure helped!

Our next stop was Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. The drive out and back was much longer than we expected, and our slow assent to the base of the mountains in Wildrose Canyon took us to the snowline! The kilns were built in 1877 and remain in excellent condition. They supplied charcoal for two lead-silver smelters about twenty-five miles away where fuel was scarce. Workers would fill the kilns with pinon pine logs cut from the surrounding hillsides and fire them. After a week of smoldering, about two thousand bushels of charcoal were ready to be hauled to the smelters. The Kilns were only used for a couple of years.

Side note: we noticed a lot of animal droppings along the road coming and going. When we got back to Stovepipe Well, we stopped at the ranger’s station and I asked what animal it might be. We were told they were probably burros. Burros are not native to Death Valley. During the gold rush they were brought in by Mexican explorers. Burros eat a lot and cause damage to native vegetation, spring ecosystems and compete with native wildlife, such as bighorn sheep and desert tortoise, for limited resources. There is an entire page about burros on the park website. We never did see any burros.

The drive was desolate and beautiful as we headed back out of the Wildrose Canyon. There were people at the kilns, but we saw very few cars on the drive in and out.

Heading back down into the valley:

When we got back to our hotel area in Furnace Creek, we took the short drive down to Artist’s Drive to see Artist’s Palette. The timing was perfect for the afternoon sun to light up the colorful minerals in the mountain rocks. We did not walk down into the rocks. It was a pretty steep climb down onto the path.

Perhaps the most mind-blowing experience of our entire visit at Death Valley was visiting Badwater Basin. Named for the small salty pool of water pictured below, it’s said to have been too bad for mules of early settlers to drink. Visitors must remain on the boardwalk to help protect the tiny snails that live in the water area.

We walked out along the path into the vast salt flats. The Saltpan is about 95% table salt and covers two hundred square miles. The further we walked the more desolate and surreal it felt. We arrived a bit before sunset and hung around to experience the sun setting behind the mountains. The really crazy thing is the perspective we had from below didn’t even begin to show the vast magnitude of the salt valley. In my next post I will show the views from Dante’s View, a point directly above Badwater Basin which gives a whole different perspective you simply can’t experience from below.

The vastness of this space, the air, sun, and sounds, is an experience for the senses that can’t be put into words. They say on a hot sunny day you can hear a metallic sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract. What doesn’t need to be said, is keep your exposure to a minimum in the summer. The heat can kill.

The lowest point in North America:

We were to stay on the path to help preserve the flats. The further out we went, the narrower the path.

Below we are looking back at the parking area:

The sun set on another beautiful day in Death Valley. 💛

20 Comments Add yours

  1. This coyote was Staring at you. Death Valley was so stunning. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anita! I’m guessing that coyote is used to having people around. He actually sat there for a while, then walked away.


  2. Toonsarah says:

    Amazing landscapes, especially of the salt flats! I hadn’t realised there was so much variety to Death Valley 😮

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah! I was surprised too, that is why I am so fascinated with it at the moment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. kewtiebird says:

    Beautiful sights. And interesting info. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. NicholeW says:

    Thank you for sharing all these lovely photos of the desert. It has been way too long since we’ve traveled that way, and my heart misses it. If I wasn’t a lake girl, I could totally see myself living out west.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, you are welcome, Nicole! I am a beach girl. But the older I get, the more I’m open minded to seeing what else there is out there. I can’t live by the beach, but I will continue to visit from time to time!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wind Kisses says:

    This was fascinating! From the coyote all the way to the salt flats. Your photo journey WITH the information is so appreciated. I am always grateful it is YOU who does my homework before we head out. lol. Death Valley really is a vast place, and I can see how it could get away from you. The photo of the people on the dunes in the distance tells that story very well. I want back a few times thinking I might find a favorite photo. Impossible. I love them all and the way you organized the post. The kilns, the long road, the Badwater Basin, the view points with people…all..

    We installed an extra piggyback, gas tank for trips like this so we can get further. Clearly, we would use it here. Happy Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, what a nice comment, Donna! If the opportunity came, I’d go back and see a couple of things we missed. But I don’t know if it will. I just continue to be grateful for each new experience God grants us. …and value each adventure as if it may be the last! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wind Kisses says:

        I feel like that too. As we walk into the easter season, I am most grateful for the gifts we are given every day.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Prior... says:

    Hi Lisa
    If I never get to visit Death Valley in person, I will not feel bad because I m enjoying your posts – a lot
    and some of the views make us feel like we are there
    thanks for showing us the lowest point in North America – I would have expected it to be in Fla
    and the kilns look really cool
    and hope the burros are not doing too much damage

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It is fun to write the posts and relive the moments. It was such an amazing adventure. I’m so glad you enjoy the posts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Prior... says:

        Glad it is fun for ya and great ideas to break up the posts

        Liked by 1 person

  7. That coyote , 🙂 The desert has it own rough beauty, love the three shots of the sand dunes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, the coyote was pretty awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. SoyBend says:

    Great landscape photos and an interesting history. I visited there once many years ago. It gets really hot there in the summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, do not go in the summer! I asked if people come in the summer, they said yes they do! But more from other countries and not the US. Maybe they don’t know what they are getting into 😊🔥

      Liked by 1 person

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