Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Death Valley

California is a huge, huge state and is extremely diverse in its climate and landscape. we’ve seen the redwoods on the coast and the lush hills of Humbolt county, ideal for growing weed, Lake Tahoe with ski mountains and its vast lake, and cnce you descend the east side of Sierra Nevada mountain range you get into their rain-shadow and things get very dry, very quickly. In an hour of coming down from Tahoe and its tall trees and greenery you’re in among bare land and sparse, scrubby plants.

We headed to south Lake Tahoe to see our friends for a day, but on the way it was important to visit Chico, Ca and visit the Sierra Nevada brewery which was very cool. The place started in 1980 in a shed and now is a huge operation that ships its stuff as far as Sydenham’s Sainsburys.



They offer more beers at the brewery than the shops so it was important to make sure we had a representative sampling. Thankfully, they offer such a thing for 12 bucks, and here’s Steff getting into it:







Here’s the lake a little out of the town of south Lake Tahoe.





Here’s the west side of the SN mountains and the landscape changing to desert.






Coming down from the SN mountains into Nevada. The view is huge!





CA - Monolake panorama

Mono Lake in California is emptier than it should be due to the water consumption of large cities lowering the water table. Still looks nice though

Next place on the agenda was Death Valley. This is a huge national park and contains the lowest and highest point in the continental US. Badwater basin is 282feet below sea level and can sometimes reach 130F in the summer. The highest point is mt. Whitney at over 14,000 feet.

To avoid drying up like jerky, we visited in the winter when the temperature was a much more reasonable 70ish. I wanted to come and see the moving rocks of the Racetrack Playa. This is a dry lake bed where rocks weighing several hundred pounds spontaneously move across the playa floor leaving tacks in the mud. It seems mysterious, but apparently it’s just the wind nudging them along when the lake bed is wet. Rain is rare so no one has seen the stones move, but I can believe the wind is strong enough. when we were there it was blowing constantly at about 30-40mph which made camping in pain, and if we’d been tent camping we’d now be tent shopping.

_MG_8884The road to the place was a bitch. We were advised that a high clearance 4x4 was needed and road tyres frequently succumb to punctures from the rocks. It was a 27mile drive one way down washboard stone road which made it take more than 2 hours..




I even tried to get off the bumps by riding up the banks - not sustainable






The tracks of  the mysterious moving rocks and us






60 miles away is Badwater basin, the lowest point in the US and is a dry-ish lakebed and salt flat.






It may be dry but I still got wet when laying down to take this picture. Now we go towards Las Vegas for a week of work and a visit to the grand canyon.

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