Death Valley, Red Rock, 2010

In March I had the fun opportunity of hosting a friend of a friend in Santa Barbara. Originally I had been hoping to get out on a camping trip with some other friends, but those plans wound up falling through. I had been following the weather reports all winter and it seemed as if it was going to be a nice year for a bloom, and by gosh that week the NPS updates had said the bloom had begun. My guest was a trooper and still up for a road trip, so we hopped in a car and headed out for Death Valley.

Along the way we stopped at Red Rock Canyon. I always enjoy walking through the striking eroded formations, so any excuse to stop by is a good one. We went hiking around through the Hagen Canyon area, only the second time I'd been to there. It really is one of the striking areas there with all kinds of different formations from some of the balancing rocks to darker cliff walls, purples, and other pretty plants. We took some side trips up some washes, and it was pretty one of them it still looked as if water was flowing, and there was even grasses along the banks!

We stopped the night in Lone Pine, and in the morning was greeted by the rays of sunlight dancing off of the high peaks of the Eastern Sierras. The snow was lit golden in all of the crevices, seemingly to crown where ancient glaciers must have once stood. Truly beautiful and magnificent mountains. But aside from a short stroll there wasn't enough time; Death Valley awaited.

I always love the drive into Death Valley, but this was the first time that I had driven in on the stretch of the 190 from Lone Pine. It is quite gorgeous, winding through the mountains, overlooking canyons that just seem to be calling out for hikers. Then, around one curve in the road, the view revealed an entire set of sand dunes I had never seen before. I was happy as I knew soon we would be into the valley. Stopping off and hiking through Mosaic Canyon, we met a nice gentleman from Venezula who had retired and was working on a goal of spending a month in every state in the US and got to hear great stories he shared about the geology of the canyon and his other travels through the US. Of course, though, I also was waiting for the flowers.

There weren't many flowers at the higher elevations, but as we drove closer to Badwater the carpets of Desert Gold started to come out in bloom, adding their dusting of yellow to the dramatic earth tones of the land. Smaller purple and white flowers would intermingle with the yellow. The flowers were taller than the last time I saw them on the valley, but what always stuns me is that although they seem so small and sparse they just color and transform the landscape like some pointillist was at work trying to ring out color eking out an existance, trying to explode from the land.

Badwater itself was quite stunning. Most all the times I've been there it's been after the dry summer and before the winter rains. This time was completely different. Most all the crystal formations were gone; the salt was still moist almost like a mud and you could even pick it up by hand or walk in bare feet! The winds rushing through would almost pick it up and you could almost even taste the salt just by breathing in the air. Stunning.

As all things, this road trip too had to end, but not without great memories and great company. After so many years, it was great to be able to experience the valley in bloom again and be able to share that with someone else.

The Photographs

One final year for year to find a way to visit some of my favourite places again and try to capture them one last time. And what better place to start off than Death Valley!

I started off in Red Rock with a roll of KM 64, followed by a roll of PKL 200 while winding through Mosaic Canyon (which I finally had been able to see before sundown!), and finished with another roll of KR 64 to see if I could capture a little bit of the pop of those flowers.

Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.