The purpose of this blog is twofold. First and foremost it is in preparation for an upcoming class that I will be teaching at the Lister Academy - it will allow for me to experiment with the technology that we will be using in the class, plus give a forum for my students and I to stay connected.
Secondly, this blog gives a nice side-effect that our friends and family can see what we're up to during our travels. I hope that all viewers (students, colleagues, friends and family) will enjoy the posts and feel free to leave your own comments.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Death Valley

I wasn't sure if I should have titled this post "The beautiful colors of the dessert", or "Help me, I'm melting!". The surprising thing for me about Death Valley was how beautiful and colorful it can be. The part that wasn't so surprising was how tremendously hot it is. I know what they say about it being a dry heat - and it is - but so is a blast furnace!

Today was a day of extremes - we started out in Brian Head, Utah which is a ski town at almost 10,000 feet elevation and then we ended up in Death Valley, including Badwater which is 282 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. We decided that neither extreme is really for us. While the mountain top was typically 50 degrees cooler than Death Valley, we found the altitude a bit difficult to adjust to - headaches, plus trouble breathing and sleeping. It was difficult breathing in Death Valley, too, but that was because 118 degrees can take your breath away.

The drive from Utah brought us through the northwestern corner of Arizona (about 20 minutes), and then across Nevada before ending up in California. We planned to stop at the Whole Foods in Vegas in order to get supplies for this next leg of the trip, so we figured we'd spend a bit of extra time and drive down Las Vegas Boulevard for fun. We had been there about 7 years ago, and it was interesting to see how it had changed.

Once we got checked into the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, we headed out to see the sites. It was already around 4, but we'd be leaving first thing in the morning, so there was no time to waste. Badwater, as mentioned before, was our first stop, and then the Devil's Golf Course. Both of these are areas that have massive salt deposits from ancient times when it was a saltwater lake. Next, we drove through Artist Drive and stopped at Artist Pallette - a beautiful area that has multi-colored hills from the variety of minerals. While there we also really noticed these interesting bushes that seemed to shimmer in the light (extra credit for any of my students that can post a comment with the name of these plants)

Our last stop was Zabinskie's Point, which was well timed for sunset. This was an overlook that was perfectly situated to capture the incredible effect of sunset on these "badlands". The way that the shadows give added dimension to the hills was amazing. Thankfully, it cooled down once the sun went down - I'll bet it actually dipped below 100 by the time we went to bed.

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