The hottest, driest place in North America lurks east of California's Sierra Nevada mountains, a great desert basin that's actually lower than sea level. Mention Death Valley to your friends, and they'll instantly picture barren hillsides, sweltering sand dunes, and the odd bleached cow skull. But there is life in the desert. Once a decade or so, when conditions are just right, the arid valley is painted in the most improbable shades of gold, pink, and white.
Death Valley is home to a phenomenon known as a “super bloom.” It happens when unusually heavy winter rainfall saturates the dry desert sands, preparing the way for millions of dormant seeds that have been lying in wait for just such an event. This winter, the rainfall brought by El Niño weather patterns was incredible. According to those who know Death Valley best, the seeds that soaked up all that water have carpeted Death Valley in a breathtaking profusion of wildflowers.