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26 Ivan A Oakeson

Springtime For HayPatch & Death Valley

April 9, 2005 - HayPatch, UT & Death Valley, CA - After viewing a news story about the "once-in-a-lifetime" blooming in Death Valley National Park, and receiving emails saying "You should go...", we (Ivan and Catherine) couldn’t resist the chance to go view it in person. We’re always in the mood for a weekend getaway, and with Death Valley only about an 8-hour drive from our house, the blooming desert beckoned us to come see and photograph its splendor.

We drove to Las Vegas and then headed northwest toward the park. About 20 miles from the park we started to see evidence of the springtime blooming. Off the road about 50 feet were several orange cushions that appeared to be a blooming cactus. We pulled over to see what it was. It wasn’t a cactus, but rather a plant covered with moist spaghetti-like "blooms" certainly not like any other flower I’d seen before. (If you’ve ever played with Silly String before it dried, you’ll know how this stuff felt to the touch.) We had a theory that this plant was a hoax staged by the Park Rangers, until we saw hundreds of them in one stretch as if it were a springtime pumpkin patch. We were sure we would see a patient Linus waiting among the plants for the Great Pumpkin to appear.

We continued into the park, stopping to take photos of each variety of flower we could find - a treasure hunt, if you will. There were tall flowers reaching a few feet in the air and there were small flowers less than an inch off the ground. Walking through this display was at times treacherous - I didn’t know which of the flowers had just bloomed after being dormant for 50 years, and I didn’t want to lessen their rare chance to reproduce by squashing them with my immense feet. 

About midway through the park we came across huge fields of yellow flowers, fields that spread at least a mile across. The scent was awesome - sweet, delicate and inviting. What seemed curious was that there weren’t any bees or other pollen-hunting bugs flying around. Rather, the only animals we saw in the vast fields were humans with cameras. These humans seemed intoxicated by the beauty and the scent. They ran happily through the flowers, snapping photos all the way. The purity of their happiness was a refreshing and contagious sight to behold. 

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Signs of civilization in the Death Valley park:

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