A Different Kind of Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day this year we decided to bypass the traditional candy, flowers, or dinner at a crowded restaurant. With a desire to enjoy the sunshine, avoid crowds, and spend some together time away from life distractions, we packed the camping gear, loaded up the car, and headed to our favorite place…

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I know, doesn’t sound very romantic, does it?  For some crazy reason (to some anyway) we love this place! Over the past 30 years we have been here about 25 times and each visit is unique as well as beautiful.  Maybe it is the serenity, the diversity, or  the peacefulness that calls to us but we are drawn back here year after year. Last spring we came in early March to experience the Super Bloom.

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2016

Once every decade or so, the desert comes alive with a magnificent show of flowers. The almost magical conditions of dormant flowers seeds, rain, and weather have to be just right for this phenomenon to occur.  It really was a sight to behold.

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2017

 We left home at 4:00 am and arrived before 9:00 am. The campground much busier than expected but we found a couple leaving so we were able to get a great campsite. We had packed light for our brief visit and set up was completed in no time.

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We now had a full day to soak up some much needed sun and enjoy the day.

After settling in and taking some time to appreciate the day before us, we decided to head over to the pool at Furnace Creek Ranch. There is a marvelous spring-fed swimming pool that maintains about a 80 degree temperature year round. For a mere $5.00 each we could use the pool and showers for an entire day. We had a lovely swim with snow capped mountains in the background. I actually forgot to take a picture but more information and pictures are found in the provided link.

A few hours later we headed back to the campsite for lunch and a brief nap.

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 We wanted to make the most of our short visit so soon pulled out our beloved Scrabble game for a few ‘friendly’ (but competitive) games.

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It was Valentine’s Day after all so we continued the celebration with some bubbly.

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We completed a lovely day with barbecued steak and baked potatoes, a campfire, and star gazing. The nighttime sky is unbelievable!

Before we knew it we were enjoying the sunrise from our tent…

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…and it was already time to pack up and head back. We might have stayed another day but we have two new kittens at home and were not yet comfortable leaving them for any length of time. I know our cat-sitter had things under control but you know how new parents are!

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After breakfast in the cafe, we decided to take the scenic drive out of the park and headed towards Badwater, at about 279 degrees below sea level. Furnace Creek is almost at sea level. You can see the snow capped Panamint Mountains in the distance.

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While I was snapping pictures of the salt flats at Badwater, Thommmee was snapping pictures of me!

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We lingered along the way…in no hurry to leave.

Jubilee Pass

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It is not often you see such green in the desert. We have had a great deal of rain this season with more expected. This is seriously helping our drought situation!

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For us, this was a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day.

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Death Valley-Super Bloom

A special treat is happening in the Death Valley……spring flowers! With only an average annual rainfall of 2 inches a year, this season, the park got  3 inches of rain so far! Three rare storms in the first two weeks of October was enough to cause millions of dormant wildflower seeds to spring forth.

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Our yearly camping trip to Death Valley Nation Park is at Thanksgiving so the chance to visit this past weekend during the super bloom was a special treat. The roads, campgrounds, hotels, and just about everywhere we went was full of enthralled spectators. Never before had we experienced such unique splendor. Death Valley, despite its name, is such a beautiful place anytime of the year. Although barren of many plants, trees, and shrubs, the diversity and beauty of the park is not to be missed. It is this diversity that makes this park so incredibly appealing-from the salt flats to the sand dunes, the mountain tops  to the badlands, and the sunrises to the sunsets. It is a land of extremes.

We were going to see Death Valley in the spring and during the extraordinary blooming of spring flowers!  Out the door at 3:30AM we arrived full of anticipation and excited to explore. We spent two days driving around the park with many stops along the way.

This is some of the highlights of our trip.

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Desert Gold

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Deep Purple Phacelia

(If touched can cause a rash)

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More than 20 species of wildflower bloom in the park at various elevations.

We saw these at a higher elevation but I don’t know their name.

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The Desert Five-Spot

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The Gravel Ghost

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(see how seems to float from the very interesting leaves hugging the ground?)

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The Charcoal Kilns. No flowers but a group of young people making a video!

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Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level. That is not snow in the background…

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…it is a salt flat.

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This was a shrub growing among the Desert Gold flowers.

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On a normal trip the landscape would look more like this…

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…instead of this!

 Our second night  we were sent packing with 45-60 mph winds… which collapsed our tent….so…we slept in the car! Not the best way to end our trip but worth every minute to have been able to enjoy such a rare sight.

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A day earlier than planned we soon found our way home. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it though!

Camping-Silverwood Lake

We finally decided to take out new tent out for a trial run.  Since we had not been out for a while our tent had languished in its original box for about 5 months. In our area it is very difficult to find an open camping spot without advance planning so we chose a mid-week trip to a nearby lake. You should understand, lakes in this part of California are few and far between, so they are usually full of boaters and crowds.  Mid week and before the kids were  out of school we had no problem getting in and very few neighbors. Even the park ranger looked  surprised when we arrived, no reservation, and asked to camp for one night!

We chose Silverwood Lake in the almost high desert located in the San Bernardino National Forest.

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This would not be a place I would venture to mid summer as temps can hit the 100’s quite often. I am also afraid of rattlesnakes (well to be honest, any snakes) which are quite common in the desert heat.  The other draw for this spot is the less than one hour drive to get there.

When you think of desert camping you don’t often think of trees…

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…which they had plenty of…

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…or water…

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…or beaches.

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They had plenty of that too.

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We had a lovely campsite, plenty of room for multiple tents.

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(Site 41)

It was a little breezy and mildly warm temperatures.

A homing pigeon stopped by for a rest on his way to wherever.

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Thommmee was so excited when he saw an eagle scoop up a small squirrel in its talons and fly off. Of course we didn’t have time to get a picture of nature in action.

The desert has a variety of beautiful and unique flowers.

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We didn’t get many pictures because I actually turned my phone off for 24 hours!  Yes, it was hard but it was also very relaxing. No internet, no connecting with anyone else or thinking about anything else except enjoying God’s beauty and spending time with Thommmee.  I had time to be alone and reflect.  We took a few little hikes to appreciate the exquisite diversity of the desert scenery. Although it was only one night, there was something about the quiet time that replenished me.

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It was just what I needed.