Salt flats all around, cool this early morning in January. The Panamint Range brillant, but bare--- bare of trees, bare of snow despite rising to over 11,000 feet high. It's other-worldly here in the lowest place in both North and South America. During summer, it's not uncommon for temperatures to never fall below 90 degrees even at night, and daytime highs commonly go to over 115 degrees. The record high was at nearby Furnace Creek, in 1913, at 133.9 degrees, or 56.6 Celsius -- still the World All-time record! And in June 2017, a prolonged heat wave produced temperatures of up to 127 degrees, twice!
Saltbrush in the brillant sun.
The climate is so hostile and bizarre on the Death Valley floor
that plants have adapted by doing their major growing during the
cool season, and then going dormant during the hellish hot season.
On this cool but pleasant morning in January, this hardy silver
survivor may be stirring. in contrast, the image to the right
is interesting because those fierce-looking plants actully are
not hardy enough to survive in the hottest, lowest parts of Death
Valley where the saltbrush lives. These spikey guys live a few
thousand feet higher up, where there is a bit more rainfall and
a climate not quite as ferocious in the summer. They look like
stunted, broken-down Joshua trees, but I cannot confirm that.
And high above the Valley, at over 10,000 feet, you'll find stands of ancient Great Basin Bristlecone Pines. This one is long-dead, perhaps dead for more than 1000 years, perserved by the freeze-dry climate of Telescope Peak. In the White Mountains to the north of here, a specimen of Bristlecone has been dated to 5062 years old in 2012, far older than Redwoods and Sequoias. At 5000+ years old, that tree is the oldest tree in North or South America, and, depending on how one defines the matter, the oldest tree in the World.