Day 2 started with a hike at the Golden Canyon. Our breakfast was light – PB&J, an orange, some water and we were off. Our sleep the previous night was terrible as the building that we were sleeping in had this inconsistent loud banging sound. Imagine a entryway door constantly slamming but throughout all hours of the night. We never did figure out what it was…
Back to the Golden Canyon hike, which I would definitely recommend that. None of the hikes are terrible at Death Valley (at least in the mild 60° winter) except for the one up to Telescope Peak (up at over 11k ft elevation!)
This 1.5-2mi (each way) hike was nice in the brisk winter morning. Most of it is rock and packed dirt and sand which is easy on the feet and most of the canyon is softer dirt and sand. Over the years, the water running through the canyon has carved a pretty clear path and the end of this hike leads to either Zabriskie Point or the Red Cathedral (where we ended up). I also recommend that you hike up one of those smaller sand hills to get a great view of either the valley or Red Cathedral.
We took a quick break on one of the sand hills that I just mentioned to enjoy the view of the Red Cathedral and marched on to the actual base of the formation. The picture ot the right is the view back into the valley from the end of our hike, pretty awesome huh? Round trip, it took a little under two hours at a pretty leisurely pace. Check out the gallery at the end for more pics!
Next stop, Badwater Basin which is home to the lowest point in North America at 282ft below sea level. A definite other must see at DV, but probably because of its meaning and the fact that the salt makes the basin look like snow.
Approximately 1/3 of the way up the rock face is sea level to give you some perspective. Also, apparently the salt there is 4x as salty as table salt. We quickly hiked the Natural Bridge hike on the way to Devil’s Golf Course and it was quite a let down. Below is the only good view from the hike (leaving :P).
After this hike, we went to Devil’s Golf Course, but I’ll skip that for now since we went back again for sunset. Next stop was another quick hike at the Harmony Borax Works… which again was not what we expected. Apparently, Death Valley used to be mined for sodium borate and the Borax Works were once an operation for extracting this for use. Borax is used in stuff like washing detergent, cosmetics and enamel glazes. Next, we stopped by Zabriskie Point for daytime shots. This worked out perfectly because we could see how the Golden Canyon hike connects to Zabriskie point and we got to see the Red Cathedral and Manly Peak from two angles. Zabriskie Point is another tourist hot spot as it has a great view of the valley and is merely a short walk uphill with many viewing benches along the way.
Finally, on to the favorite part of this day… the Devil’s Golf Course! This place was spectacular since all of the formations were created from the harsh conditions of DV. The combination of salt, dirt and wind over time created these sharp, coral-like formations that covered nearly as far as the eye could see. Some parts seemed thin and sharp, but you could easily walk on them without breaking. It was definitely one of the most interesting and out of this world experiences in the park. Enjoy the pics!