Death Valley, California

Tour Guide, Independence, CAStill in search of some warm weather, we headed South to Death Valley, one of the hottest places in the world. Our stop at Bishop was rewarded with some wonderful pastries at Schat’s bakery. Further on in Independence, stocking up for our journey, we stopped at a market and were engaged in the parking lot by a talkative Korean / Vietnam War Vet. He was intrigued by our British trailer-hitch icon and couldn’t help but ask us questions. For more than 45 minutes, standing in the hot parking lot, he was full of stories about his life and war bride. Now 20 minutes later, inside the market, he showed up with a handful of brochures about the area to help us on our way.

Rainbow Canyon

Death Valley was awarded its name from the optimistic prospectors who sought to find a short route to the California mines in the Gold Rush of 1849 and perished there. Gold and silver were later found inside the Vally but proved to be uneconomic. However, Borax mining was successful and operated in Furnace Creek and Amargosa from 1883 to 1889. The Borax was shipped out of the park using mule trains. Borax MineInside the park, it was the rock formations that impressed us. We stopped to see Rainbow Canyon from Father Crowley’s vista point and then, after a brief encounter with a coyote, climbed over Towne Pass for a vista over Death Vally. We had no reservations but found a site at Furnace Creek campground and settled for the night. Furnace Creek has the highest recorded temperature in the world at 134 F in 1913. Fortunately there was some cloud cover when we arrived to mediate the heat. Death Valley has a reputation as a ‘Dark Sky’ location for night photography so Colin rose at 3 a.m. to take some star photographs. There was a bit more haze than normal so the result was not as dramatic as his Milky Way photo in South Dakota, but the results were interesting, showing 15 minutes of earth rotation, light pollution from a large motor home nearby, and a starry pre-moonrise shot. Next morning Colin was surprised to see a coot wandering the campground (harassed by blackbirds that tried to chase it off). The Ranger later explained that there was still a small amount of water in the lake areas so a few water-fowl make it their home.

The weather was unusually cloudy, there was even a chance of rain later in the day, fortunately not enough to cause flash flooding that is typical with rainstorms here. We spoke to a Park Ranger then drove and hiked some of the areas within reach of Furnace Creek. We particularly enjoyed Artist’s loop (and palette), Zabriskie Point and, after a hair-raising ride, the vista back over the valley from Dante’s View.

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Descent from Dante’s View

  • Death Valley

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    Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park CA

  • 5 Comments on “Death Valley, California

    1. Good story. Guess you got more heat that you needed. Much love and continued safe and fun travels.
      From Cheryl: Thank you for enjoying with us. Much love to you too.

    2. Your ride to Dante’s View reminds me of a terrifying trip down a nearly vertical cliff called the Moki Dugway in the very southeast corner of Utah. I would NOT recommend it! 1150′ descent on 10% grade narrow two-way gravel road with a 5 MPH speed limit and VERY tight hairpin turns. No guardrails! We lived to tell the tale, but I had to pry Fred’s hands off the wheel when we reached the bottom! I thought they were permanently clenched . . .
      From Cheryl: Your story about the terrifying trip was exactly how I felt. Amazing where they put guardrails and where they don’t. Not always the sensible option. But we are thankful for all guardrails on those hairpin curves. Thanks for your comments.

    3. So interesting about Death Valley. Of course, the star studded sky was our favorite. The pollution affected sky amazing. And I found Colin. You shrunk him!
      From Cheryl: I’m glad you found Death Valley interesting, and the starry sky. I love when Colin does those night pictures. The mountains and rocks are massive, and everybody looks like a little dot on the horizon. But you are right, I shrunk Colin by taking a pano. So glad you are still with us, traveling.

    4. Spectacular! Got to love dem rocks! Naïve Question: was the shutter open for 15 minutes in the earth’s rotation photo?
      From Cheryl: So glad you love dem rocks! Colin will answer you separately about the shutter speed, etc. Lots of love.

      • Hi Bill, Yes, the shutter was open for 15 minutes, however it’s not that simple as you don’t want areas of light that are earth bound to keep burning in for that amount of time. My camera has a setting called ‘Live Mode’ that allows you to take one base exposure and then a second long exposure where only light that was not present in the base exposure is added. Hence the ‘moving’ stars are added without the rest of the picture getting brighter. Colin

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