Return to Death Valley

The drive isn’t long… between Lone Pine (Alabama Hills) and our stopping point in Death Valley… but it’s brutal. White knuckle most of the way.  From the time you enter the park boundaries it’s a long, narrow, windy, steep road… much of it at the edge of a cliff. And John was driving, and he’s not a fan of these roads behind the wheel of The Beast. And I can’t say I am either… especially from the passenger seat! I have to admit I squawked a bit, and ultimately took him up on his offer to take the wheel when we finally came to a pull-off. Not that he did a bad job mind you, but he’s a relative newbie compared to my countless hours and miles behind the wheel. It’s a comfort thing.

Once we finally arrived, settled and started breathing normally again we set out to a most memorable part of this valley… Zabriskie Point. This is one of those places where you stand and gaze out on the colors and textures, and say to yourself, “Isn’t nature just amazing???” And the light and color change throughout the day, so it’s hard to stop shooting!

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

THE point… at Zabriskie Point

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Colors and textures Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

And the texture and hues go on…

On the way back to the campground we made a stop at the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, another well documented feature of Death Valley…

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes and Grapevine Mountains

The following morning we headed back to Zabriskie Point, because sunrise there… is magic! I attempted a time-lapse of the light moving across the valley and finally lighting up Zabriskie Point, but the wind was blowing so hard my tripod mounted cell phone bounced all over the place. So try to visualize the sunlight hitting the peaks of the mountains, crawling across the valley, and finally lighting up the very tip of Zabriskie Point and then filling in the foreground. It takes a while (thus the time-lapse) but it truly is magical.

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Zabriskie Point at dawn

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Sunrise begins

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Zabriskie in sepia

Another memorable place for me is Artist’s Palette. It’s a narrow, one-way drive through hills aglow with the most amazing colors. Sadly we weren’t there during the best of light, but the color is still obvious.

Wondering how nature made this happen? Well… more than 5 million years ago repeated volcanic eruptions blanket the area with ash and minerals. Add to that heat, water, varying amounts of oxygen and other elements, and voila! In this mix is iron, aluminum, magnesium, titanium, red hematite and green chlorite. Another magic creation of nature.

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

The colors of “Artists Palette”

As we were driving along I couldn’t help but look at this hillside and think, “Wow… if that isn’t a perfect example of erosion! I’m often reminded while exploring, that our world is in a constant state of change. Some of it blechky man made stuff, but so much of it is just natural evolution with time. The world has always been changing and shifting and moving… and it always will. I was struck by the thought, several years ago (which I probably wrote in a post here), that we think we own our properties… our bought-and-paid-for places on earth… but we’re really only borrowing them from this earth. One day she will take them back from us. If you think about it, she’s been doing it for a very long time!

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Obvious erosion on a hillside along Artists Drive

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Coyote, and not a scrawny one!

The following morning we headed out once again to Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, this time closer to sunrise. I took the long walk. If you’ve ever been here you know the walk I’m talking about. Walking through the sand, loaded down with gear… over dune after dune, and they get taller as you go. Some get so steep and high they’re nearly impossible to climb. You might take 30 steps to ascend 3 feet!

When I reached this place I looked back and forth for my shot… and I kept glancing back at this spot. I saw something there that wasn’t really there. (I’m notorious for seeing creatures in the clouds, faces in textures, nomes in tree bark…) The harder I looked, the more distinct this became to me, and I cannot unsee it.

Interestingly, I posted it on Facebook and posed the question… what do you see? I was amazed by the variety of responses. In order of response, and some simplified…

  • Jaws
  • Reclining woman, reaching back with arm over head
  • Sleepy dragon (close LeAnne!)
  • Closed eye
  • Manta Ray
  • Whale
  • Falcor from Never-ending story
  • Squirrel covered by tarp, clawing for air
  • Whale and ocean wave
  • Sting Ray
  • Duck eating shrimp
  • Blue Ocean
  • Shark mouth
  • Polar bears hugging
  • A gator
  • Whale tail
  • And my beloved’s response… my friends are crazy… he sees sand! ?

What I see is a dinosaur (face)… eye closed (tear duct even, and the curve of her head)… tired, likely dying… nostrils distorted by the incoming waters as she lies and waits… while the world changes and washes her into extinction. [I know… sad huh?]

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

This one’s a little happier. My images from last trip, and from this one as well… I see a mask… possibly Mardi Gras. (Hint… it’s laying on the ground.)

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Rattlesnake tracks in the sand

Our last hike was up Golden Canyon… leading up to the back side of Zabriskie Point from the valley floor. It was an open slot, moderate hike, until you neared the end where it became more of a scramble to get to the viewing points.

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Along Golden Canyon Canyon Trail

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Textures and colors of Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Sagebrush Lizard (unless someone tells me otherwise)

Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Back side of Zabriskie Point

So this time around Scotty’s Castle was closed due to some road wash-out and flooding damage. I still didn’t get out to the Racetrack, which I’ve wanted to experience, but I’m told you REALLY need a good off-road vehicle with rugged tires to safely attempt the long drive into the desert. Zippy (my trusty… and proven off-road hearty… Honda CRV with street tires) might or might not make it. It’s a long way out to be stuck with infrequent passer-by’s, they tell me!

There are other parts of Death Valley that I still have not experienced. Things are very spread out and hard to cover in a few days time. We still had Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon on our radar, with winter weather breathing down our backs. Staying ahead of the weather, while experiencing all we could, was priority one. So off we went… headed toward one of my top-ten favorites of the original Journey In Focus… Zion National Park! That’s up next!!

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