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No flowers in Death Valley

My trip to Death Valley was shortened unexpectedly by a night-time disagreement with some unfriendly rocks in Marble Canyon.   It seems that skid plates and 10.75 inches of true ground clearance (not the misleading kind quoted for Jeeps, Explorers and their ilk which is only at the center) is still not enough if one misjudges in the dark and bounces the vehicle hard on its underbelly.  While I was able to drive home, accompanied by some worrisome noises, the repair bill was even less friendly than the rocks, and repairs will take several days.   If you do visit Death Valley with a vehicle having at least 8 inches of clearance, Marble Canyon is a wonderful excursion, with “narrows” ultimately terminating at a enormous granite chockstone weighing many tons.

I was in Death Valley last year at exactly the same time (within a few days).  I can report that compared to the wild profusion of flowers last year, there is next to nothing this year.  The simple “bare feet in the sand dunes” test confirms that there is considerably less moisture present—last year moisture could be found within an inch of the surface; this year the sand is dry and hot on the southern side of the dunes by 10am.  I only visited the northern part of the park, but it seems unlikely that the southerly parts will be of much interest (for flowers).  The big pluses of visiting in February are that the temperature is very pleasant (60-75°F), the roads are nearly empty of tourists, and all the lodging facilities have vacancies.   By April, it’s much warmer, the roads are clogged, and lodging full.

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