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January 23
1882 - Author Helen Hunt Jackson arrives at Rancho Camulos; inspiration for "Ramona" novel [story]


Commentary by Linda A. Castro
| Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
Telescope-Peak2
Photos by William Dotson

LindaCastroWhat comes to mind when you think of Death Valley? Wide-open expanses of flat desert land? Immense sand dunes? 115-degree temperatures? Or higher?

There is a completely different side to Death Valley that might not come to mind – Telescope Peak.

Telescope Peak is located in the southwestern corner of Death Valley National Park. With a summit at 11,049 feet, it is the highest point in the park. From the top of Telescope Peak, a person can see for more than 100 miles, including Mt. Whitney.

The mountain was named for the great distance that is visible from its summit on a clear day.

Badwater Basin, which is only about 15 miles away as the crow flies, has the lowest elevation in Death Valley National Park, at minus-282 feet.

Many people seek to climb Telescope Peak each year. The typical hike is a 14-mile round-trip hike that begins at Mahogany Flat Campground and rises to the summit on a trail that is maintained by the National Park Service. The elevation gain is approximately 3,000 feet. The hike is considered strenuous due to the elevation change and the altitude.

Telescope-Peak1Hikers seeking a longer and more strenuous hike can begin at Shorty’s Well (elevation minus-262 feet) and hike to the summit for a 30- to 34-mile round trip, with an elevation change of approximately 11,311 feet. Parts of this route are difficult to see and follow (thus the range of mileage estimates for this hike).

After reaching about the 6,000-foot level, hikers leave the desert environment and enter a pinyon-juniper woodland that creates an ideal habitat for mule deer, mountain lions and bighorn sheep, among other species. Mountain mahogany, limber pine and bristlecone pine trees can be found at higher elevations.

The bristlecone pines are some of Earth’s oldest living organisms. Some of the trees are more than 3,000 years old.

Snow is often found on Telescope Peak, especially in winter and spring. The trail is usually snow- and ice-free from May to mid-November. However, hikers report seeing snow at the summit as late as May or early June and sometimes in early November. Snow and ice usually make this trail too hazardous for all but well-equipped hikers during winter and spring. When snow and ice cover the mountain, a hiker must be experienced and well-equipped with an ice axe, crampons, winter clothing, boots and ropes.

Temperatures at the summit of Telescope Peak are typically 30 to 40 degrees cooler than at the valley floor. Average January temperatures at Telescope Peak’s summit are a low of about 5 degrees and a high of about 32 degrees. Average temperatures in July are “Goldilocks” temperatures – an low of about 53 and a high of about 82 degrees – just perfect for a summer hike.

Whatever season it may be, it’s always a great time to visit Death Valley National Park, especially Telescope Peak.

 

 

Linda Castro is a nature enthusiast and animal lover. She is the Desert Field Organizer for the California Wilderness Coalition and serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club. Her articles highlight local and community stories that are heartwarming, uplifting or inspiring.

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome story Linda! Makes me want to get back up there :)

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