Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this trip ended up being the perfect International Women’s Day celebration. I had heard about the super bloom in Death Valley through a shared article on Facebook. I learned that the super bloom is a rare event that takes place about every 10 years. Over the winter, El Niño helped Death Valley get just the right amount of rain for this spectacular event to take place. I shared the article with one of my hiking friends, KN, and jokingly asked her when we were going. Two weeks later she texted and asked if I wanted to go the following week. Of course I did! I had three days off in a row and timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We were fortunate enough to be an easy 5 hour drive away, so we simply couldn’t pass up the chance.
We left San Diego at 6:30 AM and had an uneventful drive to the park. The first thing we did once we arrived was set up camp. We rushed to put up our tent and headed over to the visitors center. After speaking with a helpful park ranger we went to the recommended location to see the wildflowers. What KN and I had initially expected were a decent amount of flowers here and there, and perhaps bigger clusters every now and then. We were happily proved wrong. When we drove up Beatty Cutoff, a beautiful yellow carpeted the entire hillside. The color stretched all the way to the base of the mountains.
When we got out of the car we realized there were not only yellow flowers, but also purple flowers, white flowers, pink flowers, flowers flowers flowers! Surprisingly, there were not as many people as we thought there would be, but there were photographers aplenty. Initially we had tried to borrow a nice camera for our trip instead of using our phones. However, we did not have any luck finding one and were sadly left to our own devices. That did not stop us from taking way too many pictures though. After exploring the area directly around our car we decided to walk away from the road and see if the flowers really did get as dense as they looked. Boy did they ever! Suddenly what we thought were dense flowers were not dense at all. They started to stretch out in every direction and you could not walk anywhere without the fear of stepping on one. It was then I realized this trip was really going to exceed my expectations.
The sun was soon to set, and we had already spent more time with the flowers then we had planned. We hopped in the car and went to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes to watch the sunset. It was almost a bust because of the clouds, but the sun ended up peeking out right above the mountains. After watching the color scatter cross the sky, we played around in the Sand Dunes. KN and I were very tempted to try for the tallest sand dune 2 miles away, but we didn’t have enough daylight. Instead we headed back to our campsite and filled our bellies with hotdogs. After looking at the stars over some tea, we went to bed.
The next day we woke up at 4:45 AM. We are not the pair to typically be up this early, but we wanted to watch the sunrise from Dantes View. I was very happy we made this decision because we had a perfect view into the valley and the colors just got better and better. The sun slowly crept across the top of telescope peak and the surrounding mountains. Which were by the way, covered with snow. I took a moment to appreciate that the combination of snow, desert, and flowers was certainly a unique combination.
After we spent a good half hour watching the colors the morning had to offer, we brought out the Coleman Grill and began cooking eggs and bacon at 5,475 feet. It was windy and took a little time for the bacon to cook, but do not fear! No bacon was wasted. Once our bellies were full we geared up and headed out for a hike. The plan was to do Dante’s Ridge, but we had a lot on our agenda for that day and planned to go as far as we could with our allotted time.
KN and I didn’t make it very far once we started hiking because there were so many new flowers. After all, the whole point of this trip was flowers! So we took our sweet time and plenty of pictures.
When we finally realized how slow we were going, KN and I sped it up and knocked out 3 miles. The views from the ridge into the valley were incredible. The air was so clear, it seemed we had picked the perfect day to do this hike. We got to a good turnaround point and decided to head back to the car. On the way, KN came up with a term called PPM, or pictures per mile. After looking at her GPS to see how slowly we had gone for the 1st mile, she came up with the good idea of implementing the PPM system. Sounds like a good excuse for walking slow to me! We got back to the car around noon and headed to our next stop, which was the second ranger-recommended flower field.
This field was supposed to be south of Badwater Basin. We did not know how far south, but we did not need to know. After driving a few minutes past the popular tourist site we suddenly saw the yellow. So much yellow, KN and I started squealing for joy. It was better than we could have possibly imagined. We got out of the car and started unpacking our lunch. Although the day was hot, we decided to bring out my handy old beach blanket and sit smack-dab in the middle of the flower fields while enjoying our sandwhiches.
This wound up being a great decision because to be surrounded by the fields, versus simply walking through them, makes for a surprisingly different experience. Walking through the flowers fields didn’t give me me as good of a perspective as getting down low. Sitting down for an hour made me appreciate just how many flowers there were. After lunch, and once again taking too many pictures, we drove back to Badwater Basin. Both of us had already been there so we did not stay long.
After taking a few goofy shots we headed off to Artists Palette. We stopped at the first site, which neither of us were very excited about. We simply thought there was going to be more color for something called Artist Palette. We left somewhat disappointed, but after driving for a little while longer we saw the actual Artists Palette. It was beautiful! So many colors! I have no idea how nature can make a simple hillside so pretty.
Realizing we were once again running out of time, we headed to Zabriskie Point to catch the sunset. We did not quite make it in time for the actual sunset, but the colors were stunning nonetheless. We still got to see the best part, which was the light slowly going down across the colorfully-banded hills. We enjoyed this view until it got dark, and headed back to our campsite. After a dinner of enchiladas and hot cocoa I gratefully flopped into our tent. It had certainly been a long day.
This was the morning KN and I were going to sleep in. So why I was up at 7:30 AM, I’m not sure, but we were going to take advantage of it. The original plan for the day was to go to the race track (where “moving rocks” leaves trails in the dirt), but finding out that we needed a high clearance vehicle for a 2 1/2 hour drive changed our minds. We did not have the time nor the vehicle. We decided to go back Zabriskie Point and explore the area more thoroughly. The idea was to do a quick 4 mile loop, but we ended up looping all the way to Golden Canyon, making for an 8 mile trip.
The vistas, colors, and general scenery made me very thankful that we decided to hike the longer loop. There were so many amazing things to see, and the views never got old. Though there was lots to keep me distracted, I was very aware that we had been hiking longer than expected, and the day was heating up.
Come 1 o’clock we had almost made it back to the car. However, with my history of overheating, I was getting worried about my water situation and the high temperature. We started to get a good pace going, and made sure our PPM was zero for the last mile. We quickly made it to the car and thankfully KN had a Gatorade stashed in the cooler. I took the courtesy of dumping my leftover water on my head, which felt amazing and cooled me off immediately! Then I took a nice big swig of Gatorade and felt normal again.
Sadly, it was time to head home, but that does not mean we drove out of the park right away. We still had a few stops to make. After getting gas for an outrageous price, KN and I stopped at Salt Creek to watch the pupfish play. Pupfish are little fish that can survive in high saline water and very high temperatures. After reading the boardwalk’s explanation of the pupfish behavior, it was easy to see that these playful looking fish were simply trying to get through their tough little lives. We didn’t stay long, but quickly made our way to the market in Stovepipe Wells. After enjoying our sandwich and lemonade lunch in the shade we headed to Mosaic Canyon. Since we still had one more stop to make after this one we promised to make it a quick stop. After we started walking for a few minutes, KN realized she had done this walk on her last visit. We were in luck, she remembered! The interesting things to see were all in the 1st mile.
We admired the marble and the beautiful colors the sunset was shining on the stone, and headed back to the car. Even though we did not stay long, it was certainly worth it. I was impressed simply because it was there. How can something like that wind up in a place like Death Valley?
Our last stop was Darwin Falls. This was a must do for us because we had no idea that there was a year-round waterfall in Death Valley. It seemed too bizarre to be true. We drove to the edge of the park and took a left-hand turn down a 2 1/2 mile dirt road. The sun was going down, but the hike was only a mile long. It was a pretty, although windy, walk along the river bed. As we got closer to our destination, the wind thankfully died down. The last quarter of the hike was very nice. We stepped over little streams, navigated over rocks, and quickly found our waterfall.
The waterfall was much bigger than I had imagined. I had assumed a waterfall in Death Valley was going to be a lame trickle of water down a vertical slope. This was not the case! I was impressed by how much water was flowing, and how lush and green the surrounding area was. We relaxed for a few minutes to simply enjoy our surroundings. KN and I had rushed through so many parts of our day that we wanted to take this one in. After hydrating and eating a few snacks we decided it was finally time to go home. We made it back to the car just before dark and enjoyed our long drive back to San Diego.
We had seen people from all over the world on our Death Valley trip. They had come from so far to see this rare and beautiful super bloom, but KN and I had simply hopped in the car and made a quick three-day trip out of it. I am so very glad that we did because I would not have wanted to miss this. If we had only gone to the ranger-recommended flower locations and nowhere else, I would have been satisfied with the trip. A few days after we got back, KN looked through our pictures and counted 42 different flowers. How amazing is that? The last time I was in Death Valley everything had been dead and desolate. To see all of the color and life from the superbloom was truly a wonderful experience. Although I wish I had brought a better camera, the trip was certainly a success. Great scenery and great company are hard to beat.