News from the Field: Day 2--Death Valley to White Mountains

After a scrumptious breakfast at the Wrangler Steakhouse at Furnace Creek Ranch, we set off to the Death Valley Visitor's Center, for a delightful meeting with Park Ranger Alan van Valkenburg. He shared some of his impressions about life in Death Valley, and some great background on geology and natural history of this extraordinary desert. We proceeded to explore Death Valley's fascinating landforms at Badwater, the lowest (and hottest!) point in the Western Hemisphere, the Devil's Golf Course (not a Jack Nicklaus-approved course!), and Artist's Palette, a beautiful natural vista of multi-colored cliffs. Lunch back at the Forty-niner Cafe, followed by a hike up the sand dunes at Stovepipe Wells. We headed west out of the Park over the Panamint Range, down to Panamint Valley and back up over the Inyo Mountains to the Owens Valley. We were greeted by a spectacular view of the High Sierra, with the jagged peak of Mt. Whitney towering over the valley. A long drive along the Owens Valley led us up to the beautiful White Mountain Research Station just in time for a great spaghetti dinner.

    May 11th
The morning sun graces the palms of the oasis at Furnace Creek Ranch, with snow-covered Telescope Peak in the background
Alan von Valkenburg starts us off with a tour of Death Valley on the Visitor's Center's topographic model of the region
After the Visitor's Center, the caravan heads off to Badwater Pan, with the Black Mountains in the background
The shepherd leads the flock out to Badwater to examine the evaporation structures out on Badwater playa--the lowest spot on the western hemisphere.
The enigmatic polygonal designs cover the Badwater surface !
Alan van Valkenburg, our tour guide out on the playa
Alan shares some of his great knowledge of natural history with the group
While Adam Ganson sneaks off for some playa frisbee...
On to the Devil's Golf Course--view of the Fairway!
Adam and Jack show proper golfing form...
Nicole Phillips verifies the chemical content of the evaporite deposits...
And Adam heads off to explore the austereterrain...
A group picture with our interpreter before leaving the playa
The colorful landscape of Artist's Palette
A trek off to the sand dunes at Stovepipe Wells
John discusses aeolian sediments at the top of a sand dune
Spectacular structural features exposed on the west side of the Panamint Range, with Panamint Valley below.
Preethi Veerlapati does an interpretive dance on the theme of metamorphism in Paleozoic limestones.
And a hot dinner awaits us at the White Mountain Research Station, our home for the next two days.
After dinner, a review of yesterday's website pix!