Thursday, July 31, 2014

Geo-RoadTrip 2014: Death Valley Part 2

Further down the road brings us to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.  It offers some interesting exhibits and a nice brake from the heat.  The thermometer outside is a popular photo op.  You can see in the above picture that the temperature was 121 degrees.  (It eventually reached 123 degrees while we were there but we didn't get a picture of that.)

At our previous stop, Zabriskie Point, the mineral Borax was mined for years using 20 mule teams.  Inside the Visitor Center is you can see some in both a processed and natural state:

After we cooled down we headed back outside and further down the road to the Devil's Golf Course.  This oddly specific name refers to a particularly brutal portion of the park:

The rocky rough texture of the ground is due to halite salt crystal formations.  You can make out some hexagonal patterns and a better looks at the salt crystals in these pictures:

There's still more park to discover.  Coming next is even more Death Valley!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Geo-RoadTrip 2014: Death Valley Part 1

At this point in our trip we had finally reached our primary destination: Death Valley National Park!  The huge and foreboding area stretches across seemingly endless deserts and mountainous landscape and backward through history and prehistory.  It's unforgiving weather and unwelcoming terrain is at its worst in the summer of course, that's when we went.

While driving through the park (with the air conditioner on full blast) our first stop was at Zabriskie Point.  It offers a great view of the "badlands":

While the park is a great display of natural processes, further down the road is a memorial to a part of mankind's history:

This historical marker commemorates the journey of the 49ers who traveled through the area on a quest to find riches (in the form of gold) in California.  Perilous journeys like these through the area often led to starvation, dehydration and tragedy and helped to secure the dangerous reputation of Death Valley to this day.  Here's the marker's text:

Luckily we had the advantage of paved roads, an automobile and several liters of water so we are able to tell our tale.  Next up, we go further into the Valley!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Geo-RoadTrip 2014: Valley of Fire

After leaving the Hoover Dam, we went down the road quite a ways to our next stop, the Valley of Fire State Park.  The park is full of dramatic, almost alien-looking sandstone formations.  Its appearance can be dramatic and its picturesque nature draws travelers and professionals (more on that later).

Notice the holes in the rock surrounding Devin.  Various theories abound involving water flow and mineral deposition, but these too help to add to the park's ambiance.  So much so that, like many places in the area, it has drawn the attention of Hollywood producers.  One of the many productions that have utilization this location include the movie Star Trek: Generations.  The "holes" can be seen behind Captain Picard:

Other than being the dramatic backdrop for Picard's heroics, the area has secured a place in pop culture history as being the "death place" of Captain James T. Kirk (which occurred in the same movie).

It won't be the last Star Trek related stop on our trip, so stay tuned.  Next up is Death Valley!  Also, video is coming soon!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Geo-RoadTrip 2014: Hoover Dam

Another year, another Geo-RoadTrip!  This one started in Las Vegas!  But we quickly left the bright lights and loose slots of Sin City and searched for something impressive.  The first stop on our itinerary was Hoover Dam.  On the way we stopped to make a pit stop in Boulder City for some grub and alien-themed photo-ops:

A UFO & dam influenced town is just a highlight on the road to history.  After a few burgers and hijinks it was straight to the bridge for some picture snapping and video shooting.  Here's what all the fuss is about:

Not much can be said about the dam that hasn't already been said.  It's big and impressive and worth a stop if you are in the area.  One interesting thing we noticed was a symptom of the recent drought.  Check out the Lake Mead "bathtub ring":

When the water level decreases you can see the white area on the shoreline.  Mineral deposition causes this color and in ideal times it would be covered by water.  Hopefully some relief will come to the area soon.

Next up is the Valley of Fire!  Video coming soon!