Surprise Flower Show: Death Valley Bloom

The annual buds are making a promising January debut.

TURNING TO PEOPLE ON THE GROUND... in a particularly remote destination has forever been the time-honored way a traveler can tell when the optimal moment is to go. Absolutely, webcams have helped a bit here, as we can now see, with our own peepers, just how much snow a favorite ski slope might have or if a beach is looking crowded or not. We still, however, await word from Death Valley National Park, and the people who work there, on the matter of a yearly phenomenon that can be great, or on the so-so side, depending on the weather and rain. We speak of the springtime bloom, a marvel of the desert, something that truly has to be seen in person. And reports are coming in from the rangers and hotels of the national park that "Spring Has Sprung in Death Valley!" and on the early side, too. Of course, past Januaries have seen some sprightly flower action, but thanks to those epic October rains, and other factors, it looks like the Desert Gold and the Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose and other classic desert buds are revving up for a good show.

A SHOW SO GOOD, in fact, that Death Valley National Park exclaimed on its Facebook page that "I know it's early January, but the flowers didn't get the memo. Spring has sprung!" Those are veritably the same words employed by the people of the Furnace Creek Resort lodgings. Both the Inn and the Ranch have a way of filling up around flower time in the valley, so a fresh message is imploring petal-peepers to "book your room now." It's good advice: The bloom of 2005, which many called a once-in-a-lifetimer, or at the very least a once-in-a-decade event, saw hotel rooms in and just out of Death Valley stay full for weeks. You can follow the ongoing flower show via Wildflower Wednesday at the Death Valley National Park Facebook page -- it posts every Wednesday, as you might have guessed -- or you can book an overnight in the weeks ahead and hope you land on a day when the petals are a-poppin' around the arid landscape. Does an early January showing mean a robust February and March to come? Only the desert holds that particular secret, as does its eternal BFF, time itself.

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