On the Eastern border of California, and near the Western border of Nevada, is an area that is full of mystery, wilderness, and desert solitude. This area is Death Valley National Park. The name alone “Death Valley” transcends time and space, and for hundreds of years has been a beacon to prospectors, explorers, adventurers, and today, casual visitors. While Death Valley is, as its name suggests – a fundamentally hostile environment, with temperatures regularly soaring over 100 degrees from April through October, it is more than a flat wasteland. In reality, Death Valley is one of the most geologically diverse environments on the planet, where the remains of glacial Lake Manly are laid bare, and the effects of active volcanism and erosion are easily visible. Within the confines of Death Valley, one can find tall, uplifted mountains, year-round waterfalls, volcanic craters, sand dunes, eroded canyons, and the lowest spot in North America.
If you play your cards right, you can follow the previous posts from a snowy 11,000 foot peak (Telescope Peak), past some unique structures (the Charcoal Kilns and Eureka Mine), through an ancient canyon with cracked granite blocks (Mosaic Canyon) down to rolling sand dunes (Mesquite Flat) all within a day. That alone should make Death Valley a “must-do” in anyone’s book – I personally can’t think of another place world-wide where you can traverse such a variety of terrain in a day or less. Granted, if you’re going to do all of those things in a day, you’re going to need to get an early start, and move quick, but it is indeed possible.