Death Valley, Spring 2001

Thunderstorm in Death Valley National Park
Thunderstorm in Death Valley National Park

This was my first photographic trip since purchasing my new camera, and getting back into the hobby. My companions included my father, brother and a family friend. Our original plan was to have an unstructured excursion into the back country of the Death Valley. Armed with two 4×4’s we figured we could go most places that we wanted to visit. We did not know where we would end up on any one night, and would plan the day as we went.

We took off from LA Wednesday night and drove up to Lone Pine to get an early start on Thursday. We camped overnight in the foothills of Mt. Whitney.

Thursday – March 8th

We awoke early in the morning, broke camp and drove into Lone Line for Breakfast. Then we proceeded North on 395 towards Big Pine. After a customary stop to see the elk herd, we continued north until we started East on the 168. Our rough idea was to run down Saline Valley on this day. However, a snow pack did not allow us to make the turn off. Although we did have the 4 by’s, our idea to have them get us out of trouble, and not into trouble, so we made our first plan change here. So we altered plans and headed off towards the Eureka Sand Dunes for lunch. After exploring the sand dunes for a while, we back tracked a few miles and headed off towards Crankshaft Crossing.

At Crankshaft Crossing, we headed north to explore the area a bit. After several hours, and a few miles, we soon realized that one of our navigators made a mistake, and could be get us back to the main road. After a few stops to reconnoiter, we found our selves back on the main road, and headed towards the Mesquite Springs camp ground for the night and a few well earned bottles of beer.

Friday – March 9th

Rhyolite, Nevada 1909
Rhyolite, Nevada 1909

We again packed up our entire camp and head off towards the Death Valley itself. We stopped for a quick visit at the Keene Wonder Mine. After the mine stop, we headed east Ryolite, but made the turn off towards Leadfield and Titus Canyon. We spent hours driving down Titus Canyon and exploring Leadfield and the various mines in the area. Titus Canyon is truly impressive, but a rain shower forced us down the canyon a bit faster than we would have liked.

After our egress from Titus Canyon, we headed north for a late lunch at Scotty’s Castle. On a round about trip back to Mesquite Springs, we stopped by Ubehebe Crater.

Saturday – March 10th

We awoke again early, and after lunch, headed out towards Race Track valley. I have never been to the race track, but after exploring several mines on the way found it a truly impressive structure. After lunch we then headed out towards the main valley, but no before some foolishness. Allow me to explain.

My father loves toys, but doesn’t necessarily admit it. So, today he finds his son out in Death Valley with a new camera. When I purchased the camera, the main feedback with I received from my father was to question whether or not I “needed” an auto-focus SLR with film advance at 3.5 fps. He did not disagree with me on my choice, he just questioned it a bit and thought that it would be a great way for me to “waste” film. So, here we are, out in the middle of no where in Death Valley, and my dad wants to play with my camera. So, when I hand it to him, he asks me to put the camera into auto film advance, predictive auto-focus, etc. While I drive trough a giant puddle on the road next to the race track by dad proceeds to shoot 18 frames on film in about 5 seconds! He later said that it was OK and still correct since HE was wasting MY film.

We drove all the way down down to the Artist’s palette, Devils Golf course, and a few other locations. We finally header out to Lone Pine to enjoy an easy drive home on Sunday.

Sunday – March 11th

We drove down to Lone Pine to gas up to our trip down 395. After gassing up, my brother’s Toyota would start. Although a great truck, it choose this day to act up and would not start. After diagnosing the problem, my brother and I drove up to Bishop to purchase the $17 part and then back. Once we got back, we were merrily heading down the valley and posted highway speeds.

We had a great time on the trip, but made a few mistakes. The photographing had some great opportunities, but I failed to capture an image that I am cruelly happy with. I have posted several of them here for narrative purposes.

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