Death Valley National Park
Sand dunes and mesquite by QT Luong, the first landscape photographer to capture images in each of the 58 national parks.
Sand Dunes and Mesquite by QT Luong
I celebrate the splendor and variety of the natural and human heritage with my photography. For the past twenty-five years, I have been privileged to travel, trek, and climb in some of the most remote and beautiful corners of the earth. Laying down in a colorful meadow dense with wildflowers, clinging precariously to a vertical icy mountain face, listening to the silence of desert sand dunes or to the calls of a bustling floating market might seem like very different experiences, however, I feel that they share the same life-affirming benefits.
For more of Tuan's national park images, visit www.terragalleria.com/parks
Never mind the heat (although, Death Valley does lay claim to the highest officially recorded temperature on Earth.) It's the geology that captures your mind as you roam this sprawling national park. The sand dunes. The eroded hillsides and carved canyons. The alluvial fans painted scarlet, lemon, orange and purple with wildflowers after wet winters.
Death Valley exhibits one of the most incredible geologic displays not just in North America, but throughout the world. Some, citing Star Wars, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and other Hollywood productions, might even call it otherworldly.
Yet the centerpiece of this landscape is really not a true valley, one created by a river. Rather, it is a nearly 160-mile-long "rift valley" forged by the downward movement of the valley floor that separates two mountain ranges, the Armagosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west.
What is it about the hard salt pan, the shifting sand dunes, and the life-threatening temperatures that lures travelers to Death Valley National Park?
Well, for starters the incredible blooms that can daub the desert landscape come Spring following modestly wet winters with pinks, crimsons, yellows, reds, and blues can be intoxicating. For Europeans, the searing heat of July and August seems to offer an attractive red badge of courage, if you will, for travelers from France, Germany and Italy seem to dominate the crowds that gather here in summer.
Automakers look forward to those hot days so they can test their latest creations to determine if they have the mettle to be sold.
There's much history in Death Valley, as well, from the 49ers who struggled through the valley on their way to the California gold fields and the Chinese workers who mined borax that was hauled by the 20-mule teams, to a desert rat who told tall tales to swindle investors and is remembered today at Scotty's ranch with its palatial mansion.
In a National Park System where we bestow superlatives and recognize iconic parks, Death Valley is in a league of itself. You can find yourself relatively far below sea level in 120-degree heat, or standing in snow atop a 11,049-foot peak that offers a vast panorama of the park. So unusual is this setting, that it even attracted R2D2 and C3PO.
Traveler's choice for: Photography, geology, hiking, history, and, when winter rains fall, wildflowers.
If all you're intending during your visit to Death Valley National Park is to stay on the main roads, then navigating this huge landscape is easy. If you're thinking of being a little adventurous, with treks to the Racetrack or perhaps the Ibex Dunes, well, things get a little more challenging.
Though its name reflects the hallmark of this landscape, there is more than a desert to Death Valley National Park. Stand at Badwater, 282 feet below sea level, and you can gaze up to Telescope Peak, which towers overhead at 11,049 feet above sea level.
You can find trail runners in more than a few national parks these days, and Death Valley National Park, with its wide-open spaces and roads running through tight canyons, is a spectacular draw for those looking for great scenery and solitude on their runs.
This is where you can find things such as websites, helpful phone numbers, friends groups and cooperating associations, and, sometimes, books relating to the park.