"Beyond The Road: the colors of Death Valley" Death Valley National Park Travelogue by goingsolo

Death Valley National Park Travel Guide: 951 reviews and 2,204 photos

Those who speed along Hwy 190 eager to get through Death Valley's desolateness would be surprised to learn that there is a world of color just off the lonely road. Make that the lonely, gravel road that is not too friendly to rental cars lacking off-road capability. But the highs in life involve some sacrifice and what better to offer up than rented tires.

The forces of nature that took away life in the valley left behind colorful canyons and rocks that are a visually shocking contrast to the bare barren earth.A long, long time ago, the areas which are now canyons harbored lakes. The water is long gone, but its tributaries remain in the form of narrow, sloping canyons and gulches. A walk through a drainage ditch doesn't sound like a scintillating activity, but the walls of these narrow passageways contain remnants of the past and lead to expansive views of the colors of Death Valley. The canyons are yet another sight the speeding highway warriors miss as they fly past this hidden landscape.

Iron deposits turn the landscape a reddish shade. It is almost impossible to see the narrow trail which cuts across this formation. There's little margin for error here. Lose your footing and its a long hard tumble downward. In the summertime, the ground cracks, giving full meaning to the phrase "scorched earth" and conjuring up other images associated with red fiery colors. Truly the land of extremes.

This was a tricky trail to hike. Narrow and blending in with the steep wall, leaving little margin for error. But I've been close to the edge of the road many a time so I soldiered on, hoping there would be some great view or big payoff along this trail. As always, Death Valley did not disappoint.

On this same trail, the reddish hue gives way to a pale color as iron deposits are replaced with silt, leftovers from water which once flowed so freely over this portion of the Earth.

It was after this part that I came to the mother of all uphills. It looked like one serious uphill trek. One that works your legs, burns your lungs and almost makes you wonder if you should choose more sedate hobbies. I tend to wonder about this the most when heading uphill. But rarely do I quit, always figuring there will be a great reward, of the visual or emotional kind.

The late afternoon sunlight warms the wavy shapes of Artist's Drive, burning them into shades of orange and red. In the distance, the snow spotted Panamint mountains peek out from the haze.

This was the payoff. Waves of color rolling gently towards those mountains in the distance. There are times when nature produces something so beautiful it literally takes your breath away. Then again, I may have still been recovering from the uphill trek.

A cornucopia of colors are visible here: yellow, orange, red, white and blue. The photo, and the mid afternoon sunlight, fail miserably at doing it justice. This was one of the most beautiful areas of the park. Somewhat hidden from the main road and the speeding motorist who foolishly thought their own destinations were better than the park with the depressing name which had the nerve to get in the way of their travels. Better for me though- more view, less people.

  • Page Updated May 9, 2016
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“"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life."”

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