About two years ago, I spent a week visiting a few national parks with my parents in California, Nevada, and southern Utah with my parents. I blogged about the experience but when I look back on those posts, they are rather boring to read. I didn’t include any pictures at all and my narrative account was very blow-by-blow. I included details such as what restaurants we ate in, the flights to and from Las Vegas, my impressions of every single little trivial detail. I guess I was afraid I would forget the experience if I didn’t describe EVERYTHING. It was the first time I had ever gone on vacation with my parents without my sister and it was such a one of a kind trip, I guess I wanted to be able to record every little morsel I could remember.

Well, I’m not about to rewrite everything I experienced–if you have the stomach for it, you can reread my amateur posts (dating from March-April 2009). But I thought I would at least include some of the pictures I took, because if I may say so myself, I took some damn good pictures during that trip. I also think this is just a personal reminder to myself that my native country, the USA, also offers some incredible travel destinations. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve decided to share these pictures now–nostalgia for the trip, homesickness for the US? It doesn’t really matter, just enjoy the pictures.

For this first post, I decided to post the pictures from Red Rock Canyon (located outside of Las Vegas) and the day trip we took to Death Valley in California. These were the first two parks we visited on the trip and they both deal with desert landscapes so I guess there is a common theme.

These first pictures are from Red Rock Canyon, the first place we visited that week. I’m a girl from the American Northeast, I’m used to gentle rolling hills of leafy green trees. The Mojave Desert is such an eerie place. Canyons such as these ones are such an alien and fascinating landscape.

As you can see, it’s called Red Rock Canyon because… there are lots of red rocks!

looks like a wolf shadow

these are crazy people rock climbing during extremely windy conditions

The canyon’s not all rocks, there is some flora as well.

One particular passion of mine that many people are unaware about is my interest in Native American culture. The canyon used to be inhabited by various Native American cultures, up until the 1800s. These petroglyph (drawings or engravings by Native Americans on rocks) handprints are some of the left over tell tale signs that they once used to live in the canyon. Look closely in this next picture, there are some red handprints on the rock.

The second park we traveled to that week was Death Valley. Death Valley is very famous in the USA for being the hottest and driest place in North America. During the summer temperatures rise to over 100 degrees (Farhenheit). We were there in March and it was easily over 80 degrees! I can’t imagine visiting in July or August. The valley’s history and geology is fascinating; if you want a full account go to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Valley_National_Park. The valley is also home to the lowest point in the US, located at Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see very much in one day. The one place I really wanted to see was Racetrack Playa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racetrack_Playa), a dry lake bed with stones that leave linear “racetrack” imprints behind. Basically the rocks move and leave tracks behind them and nobody really knows why or how.

As you can see by these pictures, the entire valley is characterized by a very bizarre landscape. I felt like I was on another planet the entire time I was there. It’s a mixture of unusual geological elements and a desolate kind of beauty. The first European settlers that made their way through there during the California Gold Rush got turned around and were lost for weeks. Somehow they made it out and the saying goes one of the women in the wagon party turned around and said “Goodbye Death Valley!” Hence how it got its name.

entering Death Valley

eroded badlands at Zabriskie Point

doesn’t this kind of look like Mars?

Artist’s Palette has various colors on the rock caused by the oxidation of different metals.

Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, is fed by a small spring which is surrounded by salt flats. The water is undrinkable due to the salt’s presence, making it “bad.”

Sunset as we left the valley and headed back to Las Vegas.

I can easily say Death Valley ranks as one of the weirdest places I’ve ever visited.