Touring Death Valley in California

“Travel prepared to survive,” the National Park Service gives as advice on travelling through Death Valley.

The name of Death Valley is a clue; it starts with the word ‘Death’. Travelling there in the summer, when the temperatures can get up to 134° F (57° C), they don’t recommend getting out of sight of your car. Also to carry water, water, water. Water for you, water for your car’s radiator. The reason it’s still wild is because it’s so inhospitable. pale hills at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, who would think that badlands could look so good?  In another desert in the American Southwest we were handed a brochure titled  ‘Don’t Die Out There’ with tips on how to survive hiking in a desert. However, no matter how inhospitable it is, that doesn’t mean there’s no one else there – many of these desert hikes were so popular there were lotteries to see who would be allowed to hike into that coveted evil terrain…

October 7, 2009.

Leaving Las Vegas on a journey into the desert of Death Valley

Drawing of a mountain in Death Valley just outside of Vegas

Drawing of a mountain just outside of Las Vegas…

Along Hwy 95 we saw our first Joshua Trees – this first set were a bit stunted, but the next set we saw were abundant and older, and grew alongside some other yuccas that were shorter with long spiky leaves. In the middle of all this nothingness Cold Creek Corrections Centre appeared.

Abandoned stone building on the way to Death Valley.Abandoned building in Death Valley desertInto Death Valley. If there isn’t any wind the skies are heart-achingly blue within the desert. If there is wind then it’s best to hide the camera away unless it’s one of those indestructible ones. Earlier in this same trip, in another desert, all the cars were scoured  from the blowing sand and Al had his camera wrapped and away.
The Death Valley desert sky above dry landformsThere was a coyote hanging out at the Pay Station. Do people feed them? Bad idea. A coyote in Dunes in Death Valley DesertZabriskie Point, who would think that badlands could look so good?  Death Valley's landforms that have been eroded by wind and flash floodsThese top two were taken with Al’s camera (bigger and better), and are much warmer and browner, with subtle gradations in the colour. Death Valley's landforms that have been eroded by wind and flash floodsMy indestructible camera has a much smaller sensor, and doesn’t pick up the subtle coloration. My shots were all monotones of ochre.
Textured landforms of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley desert with its badlands eroded by wind and flash floodsThe land looks so much like Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, one of the Southwest artists I most admire.  Textured landforms of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley desert with its badlands eroded by wind and flash floodsGhostly sage brush against tumbled black rock on route to Natural Bridge. The bridge is immense; that’s Al, six foot 3, silhouetted in its shadow. An opening into a slot canyon landformDriving back along Artist’s Drive, our first stop is “Artist’s Palette?” I asked. “Kind of gloomy artist if it is…” Al responded. Me: “Well, we’ll take a few photos anyway.”  Him: “And delete them when we get home…” (We didn’t delete them all; this is from Al’s camera; mine didn’t pick up the variation of colour at all.)
Artist's Palette, a multi-coloured eroded landform, accessed off of Badwater Road, in the Death ValleyDesert_2705wSand dunes, ice cream and gas at Stovepipe Wells General Store. I wrote: ‘I have a fingerprint on my lens that I can’t seem to get off – there isn’t enough moisture left in my body to fog the lens.’Sage brush and tumbleweed in front of golden sand dunes in Death Valley DesertAnnotated Google map showing our drive through Death Valley in October 2009.Annotated Google map showing our drive through Death Valley in October 2009.

19 responses to “Touring Death Valley in California

  1. Oh boy those are spectacular photos! I really like Al’s camera 😉 His photos and the last one of the sand dunes look like paintings.
    Thanks for sharing your trip. I do enjoy your annotations, it adds a very personal element to the pictures.

    • There have always been differences in our photos – we have two wildly different ways of looking at things. Those differences often overwhelm the differences in camera. This is one of the times I really noticed how much better a bigger ’35mm’ digital Nikon (Al’s) is compared to a waterproof Nikon Coolpix (mine).

      • That’s the same with me and my hubby, we have very different styles. Normally I’m not very excited about landscape photos (taking or viewing) but these the Death Valley scenes are really something.

  2. Amazing photos! Amazing landscapes! And well done even going on such a trek! It’s fantastic that you can bring such great photos back with you.

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