If you’re going to hike 25 miles in one day, it better be worth it…

ImageThe utterly gorgeous Spring Beauty pictured here was a sight for sore eyes after I had a less than pleasant hike this day in March at Death Valley National Park. I drove past Badwater, the low point that most people are familiar with, and grabbed a dirt road that headed toward the Panamint Mountains on the west side of the valley in the direction of Telescope Peak. Little did I know that what I was expecting to be a well-graded dirt road turned out to be a 4-wheel drive only road, and my proposed 9 mile, 3500 ft gain and loss hike had just turned into a 25 mile, 7000 ft gain and loss hike if I wanted to see the Claytonia. Good morning from just above sea level!

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The road was long and grueling, with the trail being only slightly more forgiving. I made it up into the Pinyon/Juniper belt by the afternoon and I really started to feel good about the habitat I was seeing, but I was more than exhausted from the hike, and I had a rapidly approaching turn around time of 5pm. It’s got to be around here…

ImageMy 5pm alarm went off as I dug up the first couple of plants for voucher specimens. I had to work quickly and run down the mountain before dark set in too deeply, with my head on a swivel to watch for mountain lions. Did I forget to mention I was alone? I’ll definitely be back to this and other desert mountain ranges next spring in the very early spring months (Claytonia is often found blooming next to melting patches of snow). But next time, I’m bringing a truck! Long hike…

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