The Highs and Lows at Death Valley

Death Valley – Just the name conjures images of a harsh, hot and hellish land, a desolate and barren, lifeless place of merciless severity.

If you dare to take a closer look, you will see that in Death Valley, nature is putting up a truly spectacular show: singing sand dunes, sculpted canyons, boulders moving across the desert floor, extinct volcanic craters, endless expanse of salt pans, dreamy drive through multi-hued mountains, highest highs and lowest lows – This is a land of superlative beauty.

Adventure and drama starts to unfold on its remote, long and winding, seemingly endless roads.

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Our first stop, after a 7 hour drive, was the Darwin Falls, just on the western hedges of Death Valley, near Panamint Springs.

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Lower Darwin Falls

There is no formal trail and the one-mile walk to the lower falls involve rock scrambling, and several stream crossings. The trail is riddles with a choice of path at every corner and all of them lead to the same breathtaking destination – The Lower Darwin Falls. Though not majestic, there is something very solitary and serene about this place that calls out to the recluse in me.

After waiting in the cold and dark morning, its truly magnificent to watch the sun break the curtain of darkness over the Zabriski Point.

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Sunrise Over Zabriski Point

Watching the mountains change color, from black to dirty brown to golden is the perfect start to the day! The Zabriski Point is a very short and very steep hike from the parking area.

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Zabriski Point At Sunrise

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Zabriski Point

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Zabriski Point

The Mosaic Canyon hike is quite strenuous and equally rewarding. Walk through the narrow wash and let the cool and vivid hued canyon surround you.

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Lower Mosaic Canyon

We walked beyond the lower canyons, where the canyons open up and you are greeted with spectacular views of the golden ridges.

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Mosaic Canyon

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Panoramic of Mosaic Canyon

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Golden Ridges At Mosaic Canyon

The 4 mile round trip will take 2 – 2.5 hours. The Mosaic Canyon offers some spectacular photo ops, so load up on batteries before you start.

The Mesquite Sand dune is another enigma of the Death Valley. A walk on these silky, rippled dunes will convince you that you’re someplace far from the familiar.

Badwater Basin, the salt flats of the Death Valley, is another favorite place of mine. Walking on the salt flats that stretches up to the horizon, feels almost surreal. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America (282 ft below sea level). It is a foreboding but jaw dropping landscape of crinkly salt flats that is otherworldly in its beauty.

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Badwater Basin

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Badwater Basin

Across the valley rises the 11,049-foot tall Telescope Peak, the tallest in Death Valley, as white as the salt flats, but snow covered.

The place to be nearing sunset is the Dante’s Peak. Perched atop the Black Mountains at 5,475 feet, Dante’s view offers panoramic views of Death Valley. Both of Death Valley’s elevation extremes, 282 feet below sea level and 11,049 feet above, can be seen in a single glance.

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Dante’s View

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Dante’s View

My favorite activity at the Death Valley was Star Gazing. After sunset the world’s largest International Dark Sky Park begins to shine with a Million, no, a Gazillion stars. There are some ‘best place’ to watch the night sky spots, but I simple parked on the side of the highway, and gazed in awe at the expanse of the Milky Way and reflect on my place in the universe.

A couple of days is not enough to explore the beauty and mysteries of this formidable, spectacular and one-of-its-kind National Park.

Tips:

Pack a lot of food and munchies. There are a few places you can grab a bite, but choices are limited and almost no options for travelers with diet restrictions.

There is something about the place, you can get dry and dehydrated even if you are stationary, so drink and carry a lot of water.

I visited in January and still it got quite warm in the afternoons. If you plan t visit Telescope or Dante’s peak, carry layers.

Most of the park has paved roads with short stretches of dirt roads, but a high clearance vehicle with 4WD is recommended. We did not drive a 4WD and we were fine.

Fuel up whenever you see a Gas Station.

Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure

Like thousands of other issues I was oblivious to, Juvenile delinquency is one that caught my attention recently. Having had a sheltered life myself, I realize I had never given a second thought to the life of juvenile delinquents, until I crossed paths with Fresh lifeline For Youth Program, Santa Clara (FLY). 

So, who really are juvenile delinquents?

Juvenile delinquents are minors, usually defined as being between the ages of 10 and 18, who have committed some act that violates the law. Poverty, parental abuse, illiteracy, peer influence are some of the biggest causes which force a child to get involved in criminal acts. Socio-cultural environment, both inside and outside of home, plays significant role in shaping one’s life and overall personality.There is never just single cause of violence, but we can certainly list a lot of risk factors, which increase the development of criminal behavior. 

The solutions are generally focused only on punishment and very little on prevention or intervention. I believe we are responsible for making an effort to maximize the chances of the juveniles to become a well-adjusted and contributing member of our society, and that can be accomplished by not punishment and reprimand but by right education and modelling behavior. 

Fresh Lifeline for Youth (FLY), has made groundbreaking progress in preventing juvenile crime and shaping the lives of juvenile delinquents. With the mission to prevent Juvenile crime through and incarceration through legal education, leadership training and one-on-one mentoring, they believe all the children deserve a chance to become more than their past mistake. The testimony of the effectiveness of the program is the ‘77% reduction in Juvenile incarceration in the Santa Clara county since 2000’.

There is a need for a change in the  society’s outlook and attitude towards delinquency. Instead of distrust and condemnation, the delinquents must be dealt with sympathy, understanding and positivism to enable their successful rehabilitation. 

Signing off with my Favorite quote from Rumi:

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure”

For more information on fly: http://flyprogram.org/ 

Yosemite, The Winter Wonderland

I have been to the Yosemite Valley in Spring and I have been there in Fall, but nothing has left me more in awe of the Valley than its transformation in Winter.

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Half Dome

 

Yosemite in winter is like stepping into the magical land of Narnia. The valley is wrapped in a snowy blanket with the gray towering granite peaks and the gushing waterfall in the background and the snow capped white trees scattered in the landscape.

There are lot of things to do for people who don’t like to do anything. Taking a stroll in the ‘No man has yet set foot on’ meadows right after a snowfall, braving the slippery trail to be covered in the mists of the bridal veil falls (falling a few times), starting a snow fight, catching fresh snow on tongue or simply clicking away on the camera capturing some exotic winterscapes.

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Cook’s Meadow

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Winterfell – At Half Dome Village

Just when you think you have seen everything stunning the valley has to offer, a turn around the corner and you will be greeted by another spectacular sight that will take your breath away.

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Tunnel View

There are few places like the Winter Yosemite that offer greater fantasy landscapes and more profound solitude.

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Bridge Of Serenity

If you have not yet visited the valley in winter, tis the season to pack up your bags and head into the winter wonderland

Visited on: 24 – 25 December 2016

Weather: COLD. 25 – 30 Degree Fahrenheit with snow showers.

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Tips: You will need layers of warm clothes, gloves, warm socks and cap. I wore my Columbia hiking shoes and they were fine for treading on the snow, but it would be great to have snow boots. Snow Chains are a must. (It was our first time driving on snow, and it was not half as difficult as we thought it would be).