Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Death Valley is a geology wonderland -- there are volcanic mountains, wind-shaped rocks, metamorphic rocks, dunes, mud flows, and desert rocks that have turned to black patina from baking for hundreds of thousands of years in one of the hottest, driest regions on earth.
Wind is an almost constant in Death Valley. Here it has kicked up a dust storm that will eventually rise high enough to block the view of the mountains:
At 282 feet below sea level, Death Valley's Badwater Basin is the lowest spot in the western hemisphere. There is a small pond of water here, but mostly the area consists of dried salt deposits and occasional round "pots" that hold a small, muddy film of moisture. And Badwater Basin sits on 9,000 feet of fill -- material eroded from the mountains -- meaning the actual bottom is a whopping 9,282 feet below sea level!
With mountains on either side of the desert valley and a high wind usually blowing, in several places the conditions are right for the formation of sand dunes. Except for the top few inches, the dunes are quite solid and can easily be walked upon. Footprints disappear rapidly!
It is an extreme but lovely place. We were in one of several campgrounds but felt like we were roughing it -- no phone or internet!