Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Death Valley 2

Welcome back. (To see the first set of Death Valley photos, go to Click on any picture for a larger version, and to enter slideshow format.

That evening I went back to the Mesquite Sand Dunes to take more pictures in the evening light.

The Devil's Corn Field:

There were a few kinds of wildflowers blooming already in the park, although I guess they don't start "for real" until March...

That morning I took a peek into Titus Canyon:

And a hike through Fall Canyon, until I came to the fall, which was at least 15 feet high:


Unidentified lizards!

Back at the campsite for my nap... this was the one I liked better of the two campgrounds I stayed in. It is called Emigrant, and is free, but still has running water and flush toilets, picnic tables, and trash cans. And it is 2,000' above the valley floor.

A couple of shots from the dunes, which I visited again that evening:

And in the morning, when there were tons of animal tracks! After seeing many small trails and wondering what made them, I finally stumbled on one of the culprits:

And another...

Kangaroo rat?


This one was great. It's hard to tell in the photo, it was easier to see in person... Fox walked up to the crest of a dune and sat for a while, swishing his tail, then walked off in a different direction.

More critters:

I later went back to Titus Canyon and hiked in about a mile. I saw a lot of agate-looking rock:

Hm, I guess I don't have any other great pictures from Titus Canyon. After the Narrows, every other canyon is a little plain. Well, here's the other campground I stayed in, Texas Springs.

My last evening I went hiking around the Zabriskie Point/Gower Gulch area looking for a good place to photograph the sunset from.

And here's the sunset.

And sunrise over the Devil's Golf Course on my last morning. I didn't really want to get up at 6am on the last day of my vacation, but with no one else in my tent to complain it's hard for me to resist any opportunity for good photos.

Telescope Peak in the distance, with snow:

While I was out there a couple of planes flew over. One of them was a very special plane -- a stealth bomber. It didn't look real. It looked pixelated, like something out of Space Invaders. There is a naval base just south of Death Valley, by way of explanation.

Then all was silent again.

I have just one more photo... while I was walking to the bathrooms at the Furnace Creek Ranch area, I saw this dove and took a picture of it. If I'd known how well it was going to come out, I would have taken more than one picture of it.

Then I went home.

There is one more thing to tell you about my trip to Death Valley... when I got there I found that the dust inside my camera had proliferated to the degree that I now had a large black splot in the upper-left corner of the picture. This, discovered when I set foot in the park to which I have come for the explicit purpose of taking photos for a week. All (or almost all) of the photos you have seen have been edited -- cropped or photoshopped -- to remove that splot. But if you scroll back through the photos now, you might see it -- I sometimes turned my camera upside-down so it would be in the (usually darker) lower-right of the photo. I didn't want to tell you all at the beginning, because then you'd have seen it in every photo the whole way through.

Here it is:

It was a tragedy. And a lot of work to edit out. Well. After I got home I dissected my camera to clean it, and it is now fine. I have even ordered an underwater housing for it, so that when we head to Puerto Rico in 2 days I will be able to capture all the fish on the reefs (reeves?), and much more!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Death Valley 1

In February I went to Death Valley, for a week, by myself. (Sarah had decided she didn't want to spend a few hundred dollars just to look at a bunch of rocks.) I don't have a lot of stories from the trip, so these blog entries will be mostly pictures. Every morning when I was there I got up before 6 and hiked somewhere to photograph the sunrise, then went on another hike while it was still cool. I would have brunch around noon, then nap, then get ready to go hike to some other scenic location from which I would photograph the sunset. Come back and make supper in the dark and go to bed before 9.

It was in the 70s and 80s while I was there, and it's odd, having it be 85 degrees and completely dark at 7pm. From my experiences living in the northern half of the country, those things don't go together.

I took over 800 pictures. Here are just a few! Click on any picture to see a larger version, which will open in a slide show that you can then peruse if you wish without having to read all this boring text.

On the drive in to the park:

Here is Zabriskie Point, which is a very popular spot for sunrise pics. These people were here when taking pictures is difficult because you're shooting into the sun. Interesting lens effects though.

So I got up early the next morning to photograph the sunrise from Zabriskie Point. I took about 80 pictures but they all turned out crappy because I'd been taking photos of the stars the night before, and didn't realize my camera was still on a high ISO for night photography. How grainy the pictures were (are) wasn't really evident on the little LCD screen... I didn't realize till I got home. But, here's a couple.

Zabriskie Point was named after the manager of a borax mining company that once operated in Death Valley. This jokle tourism ad put up in one of the mining areas around that time turned out to be prescient in terms of Death Valley's later popularity as a tourism venue.

The Artist's Palette, where elements and minerals tint the rocks:

I spent three evenings at Badwater, the lowest point in North America, trying to get good photos. This basin fills periodically with rain, which eventually evaporites to leave behind polygons edged in salt:

One evening, after I'd hiked out about 2 miles into the basin, with a full backpack of water, snacks, layers, compass etc. in case something untoward happened to me, I saw a man crossing from the other side with what appeared to be nothing but some swimming trunks and a camera. Not what I expected to see in the middle of nowhere.

282 feet below sea level!

As I drove back to my campsite that night, a coyote crossed the road. I stopped and he trotted up and waited across from me on the road, watching me, for a couple minutes, just 15 feet away. I assume he wanted a handout, but I would prefer to think he chose to hang out with me because of my great personality.

There are very few trails in Death Valley and you can kinda just walk where you want. I stopped the car one morning near some salt flats and walked out onto them. The consistency of the salt was oddly like snow.

At some point I picked up a French hitchhiker named Tom, and forced him to hang out with me for about 18 hours. No, he was excited to be driven around to various hiking locales. Golden Canyon:

The Devil's Golf Course:

Badwater Basin again; look for the little sign that marks where sea level is, about 2/3 of the way up the rocks:

And more sunset photos...

That night we went back and camped at a very nice free campsite in the park, and after Tom went to bed I started talking with a nice man named Richard who was biking through the park with all his gear. We talked for a long time and he remarked on how open I was being. I said it was because I'd spent the day with a French guy who didn't speak much English so I had been speaking like "This place is very good, now we walk, yes" all day and it was a relief to use my full vocabulary.

In the morning, Tom and I went to the Mesquite Dunes to take photos.

I laughed at Tom's guide to the western US, which had the most American-looking woman possible on the cover.

After that, I dropped Tom off where he could catch another ride, and went to hike Mosaic Canyon, which turned out to be my favorite hike while I was there.

After that, I was just driving around and I came upon Richard, who was packed up and heading out to the west exit of the park:

When he realized that was me taking his picture, he stopped and we chatted again. I told him I would send him the pics I took of him.

While we were chatting, another long-distance biker appeared in the opposite direction, and pulled over. It was another Tom. Instead of being out for a brief vacation, like Richard, he was on a long trip that he hoped would take him down to Panama. I told this Tom I would take pictures of him riding off and send them to him, too.

Stay tuned for more pictures in part 2!