Death Valley Days
Last year I had a marvelous visit on my own for the "super bloom" in Death Valley. I decided last Fall that I wanted to go out there a little earlier this year since I'd read that December and January were the least crowded of the year (can you imagine going in, say, August? Who are those people?). I asked two of my dearest friends to come with me. I've known Steve and Marty for nearly 40 years.
I arrived on Monday, at overdeveloped and busy Furnace Creek, and had two days to myself before the lads joined me a few days later. I made a few photos near Zabriskie Point on Tuesday morning.
This night photo is from my campsite. That is the Furnace Creek Inn in the distance.
I spent the next day, in shorts with weather in the sunny mid 70's, hanging out in Furnace Creek. I went to the old Borax Museum and the Harmony Borax site as well as driving the short road through Mustard Canyon. I was also visited by my favorite bird, "El Correcaminos".
On Wednesday I got on the road and listened to the Liverpool match on radio while waiting for Marty. The weather began to change and while the forecast was for rain I figured, "Hey, it's Death Valley. How much could it rain? How cold could it get?" This seemed especially true as I drove through a dust storm in the warm Mojave sun.
Marty finally arrived a few hours late but explained that the drive was so beautiful he had to stop and take photos along the way. Made sense to me.
We got up early and drove out to my favorite Death Valley campground - the much more primitive and isolated Mesquite Springs. Mesquite sits at 1800 feet in elevation. We should probably have stayed in Furnace Creek or gone to Stovepipe Wells which are much lower and warmer but, to me, Mesquite is more scenic. It rained all day (as had been forecast). Steve arrived that day after a long drive from the Bay Area. The three amigos were together and ready for some Death Valley fun because tomorrow had to be warmer, right?
Since it was Steve's first visit I decided to do the "tourist tour" which included Badwater and the Devil's Golf Course.
To my surprise, it stayed cold and it stayed wet. After many years of tent and cowboy camping we felt fortunate to have my little trailer to stay warm. We spent time inside watching a few movies on my iPad and singing folk songs to the accompaniment of Steve's guitar and Marty's harmonica.
We spent much of the next day at the Ubehebe Crater. That's Marty on the far left of the panorama running to take his next photo or perhaps trying to stay warm. Since the weather was so nasty it did preclude us from some off road travel but we're saving it up for next year.
I also made a few black and white photos on the trip as well.
We all went our separate ways at the end of the week but have decided to make this an annual trip. The planning has already begun...Death Valley holds a lifetime worth of fascinations. I will get to see Steve and Marty at the big shindig in Lassen this summer but I'll miss them until then.
Next I'll be heading to the Sonoran desert in Southern Arizona. My hunch? It will be warmer and stunning but, without my amigos, not quite as much fun.
The Thing to Do? 2016 in Review
On Twitter it's apparent that reviewing one's photos for the year is all the rage. I consider myself a non-conformist but I kind of like the idea. This is true even if the exercise is nothing more than an oppportunity to review my travels and tribulations for the last 12 months. For me, it's easy to do that and one of the reasons that I started this website. I enjoy sharing the beauty of the West and looking at my photos will be an enjoyable activity. I am not, however, inclined to pick my "favorite" 12 photos. While ranking is cool I think that activity might make my head explode. Maybe next year...
This was my first year traveling with my little travel trailer, a fiberglass egg, called, "El Correcaminos". It is quite different than sleeping in a tent or the back of my truck. In fact, it's so dang convenient that the first few months I traveled with it I'd get in the cozy little space and just want to stay there. This rather defeats the idea of getting a trailer which is to enjoy the great outdoors. I suppose it's natural though, when in a safe cocoon, to want to stay there. However, get out we did!
Here are my some of my favorite photos from my trips this year. I started the year using JPEG and a Nikon D3300, editing using the Nikon software, and finished the year making RAW images with a Nikon D750 and editing them in Lightroom.
The first photos are from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument last January.
For my birthday, the last one of my FIFTIES, Lupe and I took Banjo to Point Mugu.
My next stop in the little trailer was Death Valley. I'd been there before but never during a "super bloom" or for so long. It was a good trip.
In March I visited my Bay Area family. The last 6 years have been challenging for me in many ways but Lisa, Kara and Steve have always been there for me. How I love them... The photo below is of Lisa, Kara and their Dad, Jack. Jack is maybe, just maybe, the coolest guy I've ever known.
In March Lupe and I went to Arizona. We spent time in the Superstitions and out at Organ Pipe. We had a wonderful time. Lupe is the perfect traveling partner.
In late March Banjo and I spent a few days at the other-worldly Red Rock Canyon north of Los Angeles. It's a really cool place and reminded me of Utah or Abiquiu, NM.
In April, I headed out to Utah. I was able to spend time at Zion, Bryce, Escalante State Park and Kodachrome State Park. Magnificent.
In May I spent some time in Joshua Tree and at San Onofre Beach.
In June I was able to visit the newest National Park, Pinnacles, with my remarkable daughter Lilly and her friend Kennedy. Pinnacles is becoming a favorite as it is (relatively) uncrowded and sits in the heart of the scenic part of Central California. I'll be back next March for some spring photography in "Steinbeck Country".
Lupe and I had to forego a planned trip to Glacier but we managed to spend a wonderful week in Lassen Volcanic National Park. When we returned we decided to establish an annual family and friends trip up there and 2017 will be our inaugural event.
In August my friend Marty and I spent a week at Gaviota State Beach and on the Central Coast of California north of Santa Barbara.
The next "big trip" I took was way up the Northern California coast to Redwoods National Park and then I spent another few days near Brookings, Oregon at Harris Beach State Park
In October I visited my thoughtful and smart and long lost friend Eric Flaherty and took a short trip to Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona.
In November I visited the wonderful Mojave. I love it out there...
In December I took a very short trip to a local campground, Casper's Wilderness Park, and my truck began to have mechanical problems. I had to cancel my Anza Borrego trip and deal with having the truck in the shop 3 times in a two week period. Since I was convinced that my troubles with the truck were only beginning we bought a new Toyota Tacoma which will bring less worry to my travels in the next couple of years.
This, then, wraps up my short review of the year's travels. I'm hard at work planning for 2017. I do hope each of you who read this have a magnificent holiday season and that next year is one of the best of your lives.
Hi my friends. I've certainly been traveling like a fool since I got "El Correcaminos" my 17ft fiberglass travel trailer. My latest trip review is up and I encourage you to take a little trip out to Death Valley with me. Of course, you know the old saying, "pictures don't do it justice". Truer words seldom spoken when it comes to the beauty of the hills covered with Desert Gold wildflowers in "desolate" Death Valley right now.
I've been feeling a little anxious these days with the politics in the air and urgency of climate change as well as the destruction of so many beautiful places. I read a quote from Sand County Almanac that hit the nail on the head:
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
These are trying times my friends...
Try to forget about it for a minute and get out in nature...
For me next week I'm off to NorCal for a few days on the coast. I'll meditate and listen to music and read. Sounds like heaven, doesn't it?
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.