from the chaos of las vegas, we fled back into the desert, and wow, is this a trip of contrasts.  death valley holds some more superlative records for our catalogue this trip – largest US national park outside of alaska, hottest recorded temperature on land (on the planet: 56C!), lowest point in the US (-282 feet; we stood there and looked up at a sign high on the cliff that said SEA LEVEL).  but mostly, it was desert-y, in all the possible and surprisingly varied ways we could have imagined.  high, dry mountains, desolate plains, sedimentary rock faces in stunning colors.  empty lake basins (lake manly was once 90 miles long and up to 600 feet deep), dry golden canyons with gorgeous rock formations, fields of low scrub in a range of colors to rival the rocks, and very, very few other people.  until we reached badwater basin, we saw perhaps two other cars (over a distance of ~50 miles).  from there, we hiked a few short trails and had some company as the afternoon light and rising moon drew photographers to the most picturesque spots, but in general it was a place of vast solitary expanses (for which we were grateful, after the previous day) and otherworldly scenery.  with a few extra moons in the sky, some of the views could easily have come straight from science fiction films; the pebbles said he kept expecting sand people to descend on us in the canyons.   luckily, they did not – at least, not that he noticed.  >:)

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