Walk / Hike / Play, Death Valley National Park
The name doesn't make this trail sound very appealing, nor does the description at the trailhead which says that this is a walk through a drainage ditch. But Gower Gulch Trail was the sleeper hit of this Death Valley visit.
The three mile loop trail has some spectacular views. There's a killer uphill on a rock formation and a traverse along a very narrow trail with steep exposure to the side. But the view defies description. A wave of browns and rusts swept across dozens of triangular shaped rocks spread out below. An unbelievable sight, especially in the late afternoon sunlight.
Although its not exactly a trail, you can walk up to four miles within Mosaic Canyon. The colorful rocks make this a pretty hike and I'd imagine the cool temperatures the canyon walls provide by blocking out the sun are quite refreshing in the dead heat of summer.
A few spots require scrambling over rocks and there are supposedly two "dry falls" at the end which you must scramble over to complete the hike. I'm not sure what or where these are, but I stopped when I got to the first significant rock wall. It looked like it had some good footholds and was doable, but the guy hiking just behind me cautioned against it. Since I generally follow unsolicited advice from hikers, I decided to turn back at this point.
The Gower Gulch Loop is one of the easiest ways to catch some fantastic views of the Badwater region without embarking on a grueling mountainous trek or a trecherous unpaved road. The loop is a three mile hike which is relatively flat with the exception of one brief steep uphill section and one narrow exposed portion. But don't let either of those segments deter you as they present some of the best scenery you'll find.
The loop follows a drainage ditch through the valley adjacent to Golden Canyon. Its an easy to follow trail and leads to a short detour to Zabriskie Point (unfortunately closed during this visit due to flood damage.) The loop takes under 2 hours and is well worth the time and effort. I'd recommend doing this early morning or late in the day to see soft sunlight bouncing off the canyon walls and rock formations.
Favorite thing: The best way to truly see Death Valley is to leave the air conditioned confines of your vehicle and go for a hike. There are trails of varying degree, ranging from nature trails of a mile and under, 2 hour to half day canyon excursions and loop hikes of a couple to several miles or grueling full day double digit mileage treks up to Death Valley's highest peaks. But you won't see this park behind the wheel with the windows rolled up and going 80 mph. In fact, you'll miss out on all its treasures.
The Golden Canyon trail is a one mile (one way) easy walk through this colorful sun drenched canyon. Once you get to the end of the marked trail, its another half mile round trip to see Red Cathedral. For an even better hike, take the fork in the trail and do the Gower Gulch loop. From this route, a separate trail leads over to Zabriskie Point, although its cuirrently closed due to damage resulting from the floods.
Fondest memory: Watching the sun bounce off rock fragments from the top of the Gower Gulch trail. It was a beautiful sight, one of the best I've seen on a trail, probably because I expected so little out of this hike.
Hiking in the dessert is a expierence that I will never forget. In this area , no one around at all. We climbed and hiked for hours. Then set-up camp. The larger hills in the background looked like mountains to this Mid-Westerner, but they are not. We climbed them and it took awhile due to the ground material underneath your feet moving and sliding from you. In fact , I had slid one time going more than 500 feet. I was glad to have a first aid kit on board with us. Very shape rocks.
But in this expierence , We grew.
The picture is of a old mining camp entrance.
When we were there , we started to walk around looking for a souvenir. We then heard some couple yelling at us?? Watch out for the baby rattlesnakes and baby scorpions.
We were in this area in the month February and apparently this is when the liitle creatures are born..................Now to try to get back to the car.
In the Death Valley National Park there are several places of intrest. The scenic drive connects the majority of them and even without the airco in the car (recommended to be switched off to prevent a boiling motor) in here temperatures stay barable. That does however not mean that you should stay in the car at all times. Take short walks at the places of intrest like "Badwater", the "Devil's Golfcourse", "Artist's Palette" or the beautiful "Golden Canyon".
Fondest memory: Swimming in the Furnace Creek Ranch at 23.00 hours with 37 degrees Celsius, while we hear from the homefront that they experienced the first night with frost!
The sanddunes near Stovepipe Wells : a piece of the Sahara in the Far West !
Coming from the west over Towness pass, this was the first we saw from the valley. It's so stunning an luckily it was only 7 am (not too hot...), so we could afford a walk in the dunes. Amazing... No footprints, just some marks of the rattlesnakes, who were still asleep a this hour (because to cold for them ;-))
People know or remember Death Valley from old westerns where poor settlers were looking for a road to the west. Why would people want to there, you ask me? Nowaday, we have air conditioning, but you need to experience walking around at 120 degF at 4PM in a landscape that looks so hostile, but where life manages to exist and almost thrive.I have been a geology fan forever... this is a great place for that.
Fondest memory: I have enjoyed Death Valley so much that it is already on my list should I be in the general area anytime. In the mean time, when I miss it too much, I stick my head in the oven for a moment... it does the trick.
Fondest memory: Hey man, didn't they warn you're not allowed to thumb within the park area??? :))