Thursday, December 12, 2013

12/12 Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

I had this place recommended to me by one of the Death Valley rangers.  It is located about 60 miles northeast of DV.  Just a bit isolated, however.  Here is the 7 mile long entrance road. This is the way towards the refuge.

And this is the road facing the way out.

Not to give up, however.  The best things are sometimes hidden!!
I found the visitor center with real human beings working there.  It was 10:30 am and they admitted I was their first visitor.
Yes, this is real ice.  This is a puddle that was left over from the rain they had a couple of weeks ago.  You can tell how cold it has been here at night.  The ground is very hard-packed salt saturated soil, so water does not soak in easily.  I saw quite a few small creeks and puddles on the way out of Death Valley and in various places on the way here.  It's muddy, but when the mud dries, it is as hard as cement.
 And no, this is not snow. It is salt on the surface of the land.
I did not have time to do a lot of exploring, but there are several springs in the refuge.
The visitor center is at Crystal Springs.  I took advantage of the 1/2 mile boardwalk there.  Here is once piece of the creek that flows from the spring.  There are two kinds of endangered fish here: pupfish and dace.  Both are very small.  I could see pupfish swimming here, but they just don't show up in the photo because they are less than an inch long.

This is the blue spring at the end of the boardwalk.  It is about 25' in diameter, with a pretty strong current.  The water comes from ancient aquifer's in the mountains.  Amazing.

These are corkscrew mesquite trees.  The plants growing in the trees are desert parasitic mistletoe.  Unlike an air plant, it burrows its roots into the host tree, taking water and minerals  from it.  The Native Americans ate the mistletoe seeds and also the mesquite pods.

Almost all the pods had fallen from the tree, but I found these on the edge of the boardwalk. You can see the corkscrew shape.

More ice on the creek on the way out.

And a duck!!  What is a duck doing in the desert???  Ok, the internet says this is an American coot, not really a duck, but it sure does not seem like it belongs in the desert.

There is a casino near here with an RV park, so I am planning to come back here when the leaves are on the trees and the desert flowers are in bloom.

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