Saturday, March 12, 2016

In Search of Wildflowers


One of the Death Valley park rangers suggested a hike through Fall Canyon, and since we hadn’t been there before we took a drive north to the Titus Canyon trailhead off Scotty’s Castle Road, which is where the Fall Canyon trail also begins. Besides just being a good hike, he said there should be a lot of flowers blooming in the canyon.

I mentioned that the park was crowded, but really what I meant was around the Furnace Creek area, where there are several campgrounds, the visitor center, the ranch, and the inn. Despite there being quite a few cars at the trailhead parking area, most people must have been walking through Titus Canyon because we didn’t see that many people on the hike.


The first half mile is along the base of the mountains, where we saw plenty of flowers.


Golden evening primrose.




Desert five spot.


Then we dropped down a very steep, short hill to the mouth of Fall Canyon.



In addition to finding flowers, we were surprised to see so much vegetation growing on the ground and canyon walls. The canyon floor is nothing but rocks and gravel.



It makes us feel so small and insignificant walking through high-walled canyons like this.



I expected there would be more cactus, but this was the only one we found.


Some of the natural coloring on the walls looked like strange rock art.



After 3.5 miles and right around this next bend was the end of the trail for us, and the 35’ dry fall for which the canyon gets its name.


There is no way to climb up, but I read that about 300’ back from the fall is a place where you can get up and around it, and the canyon is accessible for another three miles. Not that we wanted to continue on, but we weren’t able to find any way up and around.


While we were stopped there eating lunch, two young women came by, and I saw them taking pictures of something on the ground. When they passed us again they said it was a butterfly that was alive but moving very slowly. We went back to look for it and it hadn’t moved.  It was quite cool as no sun was reaching that part of the canyon, so after Jim took a photo he scooped it up in his hand and carried it back with us. We weren’t quite back in the sun yet but after a few minutes it flew off.


In another mile or so we saw a couple who told us they had been watching a chuckwalla just up ahead. They showed us photos they had taken, but when we got to the same area it was gone. Shortly after another couple was walking toward us, and Jim told him to be on the lookout for the chuckwalla. Interestingly the guy was wearing a butterfly t-shirt, so Jim told them about our butterfly and showed him the photo. He said he was hoping to see one of those in the canyon, and identified it as a sagebrush checker spot, and a female no less. Had we not spoken with them about the lizard we never would have learned about the butterfly. A funny coincidence.

On our way home we took a little detour around Starlight Pass and Beatty Cutoff roads, where the ranger said the wildflowers were at their peak. By then it was cloudy and the photos don’t really show the vast sea of yellow that covered the entire desert floor.


It’s hard to believe anything can grow in soil like this, but the conditions were right this year with El Nino rains, so the desert is full of colors other than earth tones. I’m glad we got to see it as it won’t last much longer, and could be another 10 years before it happens again.



  1. Love this post! Wonderful story about the butterfly, and nice to have the ID also. You're lucky to see this rare wildflower bloom.

  2. Great pics of the hike and the Super Bloom. Reports are the flowers in Borrego are starting to look good. Nothing like the fields you have, but worth a trip out for us next weekend.

  3. I am so envious of your being able to get there for the super bloom. The flowers are gorgeous and so is that butteryfly. What a day you had.

  4. Thanks for sharing all the wildflowers, still brown and gray here in Wisconsin though the forecast looks good for the next week so maybe we'll have an "early" spring this year!

  5. I think that last pic shows the yellow carpet pretty well. How lucky to be there when you were.

  6. Lovely hiking photos. Jim saved another life!

  7. We too found the crowds to be centrally located. Great looking hike and love the big spillway at the end. Such a bonus to see the butterfly and find out what it was. NP hikers are a friendly bunch.

  8. The butterfly pic was awesome, nice that she held her pose so that you could get the pic. I have so many of fluttering wings, I can't count. Nice hike!

  9. The wildflowers are beautiful:) Fall Canyon is a nice hike. We did that after we drove the road out to drive Titus Canyon. I called it a slot for!

  10. Death Valley is misnamed. There is, as you saw, plenty of life there. How were the temperatures?

    1. Temps in the 80's dropping into the high 50's at night.

  11. Great post! Death Valley is on my bucket list. In the mean time I'll follow along with you.

  12. Awesome photos. Poor little butterfly. My wings wouldn't work either if I was so cold.

  13. Nice! It sure would be a hoot to see a chuckwalla some day...

  14. Always like Jim, coming to the rescue. ;) Would love to be in Death Valley with your guys.

  15. Great hike, and love the butterfly story. How amazing it is to see wildflowers in such a desolate landscape -- tenacious beauty, indeed. We've seen gorgeous fields of wildflowers in Anza Borrego, and it's always a delight.

  16. Wow you were there at the right time, Im imagining the colors on the desert floor. IT must have been very colorful and vibrant