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 Wrangler Steakhouse, 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 23rd
The morning sun graces the palms of the oasis at Furnace Creek Ranch, with snow-covered Telescope Peak in the background
Mia makes the requisite call home, silhouetted against the mountains
The group meets with U.S. Park Service ranger Alan van Valkenberg.
The requisite group photo at Badwater playa--the lowest spot on the western hemisphere.
The enigmatic polygonal designs cover the Badwater surface !
Alan helps the group examine fine-scale features on the salt.
Brandy shares with the group her research on life in extreme environments.
Alan shows the group the meteorological measurement station at the center of the playa.
Mia, Renee, Sam, and Josh verify the chemical content of the evaporite deposits....
Michael poses in the middle of one of the polygons...
Off to the Devil's Golf Course--an older, dissected evaporite surface.
The group shows off their (questionable) golfing skills ...
Lily, Renee, and Ryan examine some micro-structures in the salt.
The colorful landscape of Artist's Palette
Emily and Lily get up close and personal with some hydrothermal alteration products.

Before we say our farewells, Alan shares some thoughts about job opportunities with the Park Service.
The sand dunes at Stovepipe Wells
Renee and Mia discover a star dune at the center of the dune field.
The group takes a leap down the leeward slope of a sand dune!.
En route to the Owens Valley, the group pauses at the Black Canyon overlook.
Matt, Debby, and Liz stretch out with some aerobic exercises overlooking Panamint Valley.

And a hot dinner awaits us at the White Mountain Research Station, our home for the next two days.
After dinner, Lily and En'Yeto demonstrate the latest in Owens Valley fashion!