Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Spring Awakenings in Death Valley

©Bert Gildart: According to park interpreters, this is one of the best years Death Valley has experienced for early season flowers.

“This is about the earliest we’ve seen desert gold in years,” said a park volunteer, who has been here for almost a decade. “Normally, we don’t see such blooms until March, which is usually the best month for wildflowers. To a great extent, it is because of the unusually abundant rain we received last month.”

As a photographer this early spring awakening has provided some wonderful opportunities, and Janie and I have been rising at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the morning light and the calm that is usually associated with that hour of the day.

Desert gold carpeting the valley

Desert Gold Carpets the Valley


Though desert gold appears to occur in the park’s lower elevations, we’re finding that it is particularly abundant just north of Cow Creek, not far from the park’s residential housing. Here, you’ll find the species filling the side canyons that radiate off this valley that is well below sea level. We’re not far away from this run of flowering beauty camped as we are at Furnace Creek. If you’re here in the summer, you’ll understand the designation.


Because desert gold is yellow, it photographs well in full sunlight–not requiring the use of strobes as do species colored purple or red. With these darker colors shadows seem to block up, but not so with yellow, which can be dramatized even more with back lighting. With such lighting, you can dramatize the tiny hairs growing along the stems, which help prevent desiccation, a necessity in an area that receives but a few inches annually.

Backlighting is effective

Backlighting is effective for flowers


Naturalists say that other flowers will soon follow, and already we’ve found half a dozen other species. Botanists, however, say their ultimate abundance will depend on whether the park receives any more rain. Many natural history enthusiasts have their fingers crossed, recalling the abundant rains of several years ago that created one of the park’s best flower years–ever.

Though it may be some time before Death Valley sees such a spectacle again, for us, this year is turning out to be a good one.

One Response to “Spring Awakenings in Death Valley”

  1. Rains Saturate Pegleg | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] that the desert will indeed be carpeted this spring with flowers. Several years ago the carpets of area-wide flowers were impressive, and with the rains this could provide an [...]

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