This past week I had the opportunity with a friend from work to go to Death Valley National Park. This is a truly amazing place and the difference in topography and scenery around the park is quite an impressive feat in the natural world. We went to Eureka Dunes in the northern portion of the park where there are several endemic species to dunes: Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis and Astragalus lentiginosus var. micrans. These particular dunes are the ones endearingly called “The Singing Dunes.” It was a very special place to be and see the wondrous landscape of Larraea tridentata, Echinocactus polycephalus, Opuntia basilaris, Eucnide urens and many other species of desert flora.
We also traveled to Mesquite Springs in the lower part of the park and hiked the beautiful Telescope Peak, which is over 11,000′. The following day we searched for a plant that Rebecca had vehemently sought after and eventually we found it in Surprise Canyon out of Panamint Valley. It was an amazing plant, Annulocaulis annulatus, and many of the other species of flora in the canyon were quite interesting. Particularly, the shrub Peucephyllum schottii (Desert Pygmy Cedar), which is found in the Asteraceae family. I have never seen a shrub in the Asteraceae that captivated me with amazement like this particular plant did. We left the park that night and headed to Lone Pine, CA where we enjoyed a good meal at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant.
The greatest part of the trip for me was most assuredly the chance to walk amongst the ancient Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva). It has always been a dream of mine to see these splendid specimens gnarled and contorted on the dry slopes of the White Mountains in CA. A tree that quite literally has weathered the toughest storms, winds and cold for millenia. Feeling the bark and seeing the needles (they stay on the tree for 35-40 years before dropping) closely bundled on the branches, the sap laden cones and knowing that these trees have stood for thousands of years was a humbling experience considering that our own lifetimes are like a blade of grass that springs up and withers away the next day. What a thought!
This was a trip I will not soon forget and it may well be my last trip here in the vicinity of Carson City.
Consider the wonders around you my friends,
Ethan CCDO BLM