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!