Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chasing the Super Bloom - Death Valley 2016

During our recent swing through Death Valley, it occurred me to that the national park may be misnamed. Valley of Light? Drama Valley? Valley of Vibrant Earth and Sky? Even when it isn't busting out major primary colors, as it is now, Death Valley is life affirming. Its eerie stark beauty is like no other, and the sunrise and sunset-saturated colors of the rocks and mountains, dunes and salt flats, canyons and washes, will persist long after the fantastic but ephemeral super bloom fades. But right now, and perhaps for the next couple months, Death Valley is putting on a rare show. 
Hordes descended upon Death Valley the weekend we visited - February 26-28 - as breathless reports of a super bloom continued. I was concerned, that since the bloom had been in progress for a few weeks, it would be on the wane by the time we dropped in. And when we first entered the park, from the west, we searched in vain for spots of color. It wasn't until we reached the Badwater area at sea level and below,  that splashes of yellow appeared, and then well past the official Badwater tourist zone, that flowers were thick and lush, providing the spectacular effect I'd anticipated.  It was a joy to see.

Earlier areas looked more like this, attracting just as many flower lovers and photographers. I loved being among them, rushing forth to capture whatever caught my eye. It reminded me of the excitement bears and bison elicit in Yellowstone. I'd like to think I'm above succumbing to group think about random roadside rarities, but I'm not. I can leap out of cars with the best of the them, camera at the ready.
Last yellow-tinged photo leaving Death Valley en route to Beatty to the east. 

Sparse  vegetarian, but, in contrast to the usual barren rocks, a highly decorated Death Valley scene.
The notch-leaf phacelia sets off the yellow of desert gold.

Desert Five-spot, our prize sighting. Globe-shaped flowers and roundish leaves. We saw a half dozen, mostly stand alone.
Lesser Mojave. We saw few of these, and only in a 
a nameless wash on Mormon Point. (A wash that led to a
winding slot canyon marked with a cairn by hikers we met
in the parking lot. Otherwise, we would not have known.)

PK walking amidst hip-high Desert Gold, which were thick in the south end of the park.

Desert Ghost. 
Desert Gold blooms are the most numerous, but the understory is full of purple and white flowers.

We spotted this bloom at Dante's View high above the valley floor. The vast majority of color was at or below sea level As the season progresses, the bloom is expected to move up, so late-arriving wildflower aficionados will not be disappointed they didn't get in on the ground floor, so to speak.
Death Valley from Dante's View, 5,476 feet above sea level. Even without flowers, it is awe-inspiring.


  1. What a treat, Mary! So glad you were able to be there at the right time..Thanks for the photos!

  2. Just sittin' here grinnin' like a goofball. That five spot is a stunner.

  3. Finding my way here a year later, through this year's trip links. Amazing!