Death Valley, Trona Pinnacles 2008

I was blessed to have my parents come on out for Thanksgiving this year, and once again I thought it would be fun for us to have a nice road trip together. My folks had never been to the desert, and November really is a gorgeous time of year, so we packed up the car and headed on out to Death Valley. On the way we stopped off at Red Rock Canyon. The weather was absolutely gorgeous the whole weekend, and the skies were a beautiful clear blue. This was the first time I had done the short little loop through the Hagen Canyon area to see some of the pretty formations I'd only ever seen from the road. Funny enough, I think I saw them again during some of the old Planet of the Apes movies when I got home, too! On our way in we took the 178 by the Panamints, still one of my favorite roads in California and some of my favorite mountains. We took the dirt road turnoff into the Trona Pinnacles. I'd only ever seen them a little bit in the distance off of the road, so this was my first time going in to see them up close. I was amazed at how tall they really were! Some of the formations were easily 2-3 stories high. While they were the tall tufas, the ground too had other residue making a stucco-like floor surrounding the pinnacles. Seeing them rise up out of such a flat lakebed with the gorgeous mountains in the background was quite stunning, like looking at some type of stone megaliths erected by an ancient race.

Instead of sleeping in a tent, I decided to go in style and stay with my folks at the Furnace Creek Inn. It really was the complete opposite from all other times I'd been in the Valley. Not only were there incredibly comfortable beds, but amazing food, an excellent martini, a fun pool and sauna (even though electric), and gorgeous views of the Funeral Mountains right ouside the door to the room. There is almost even more peace and quiet than some of the car campgrounds, and it's still possible to look up and see the gorgeous expanse of stars at night. I definitely suspect I'll be staying there again!

I took my folks to see a lot of the standards in the valley, but I also got to see lots of new things on the trip myself. It was my first time going up to Zabrinski Point and the 20 mule team canyon drive (really a wonderful little loop, all kinds of gorgeous browns and yellow hills). I also got to see Salt Creek, which I'd read about in some of the science magazines I get, and the Harmony borax works. Even after all the times I've been to this park it's amazing how much I still have yet to see. I also got to take my father up on a short hike through Mosaic Canyon with its great juxtapositions of different rock formations. One of the waitresses at the Inn was actually talking about a multiday backpacking trip going up through the canyon and ending at Cottonwood...yet another thing I'll have to research and do someday!

As my father is a runner, on the way out I did the drive through the ultramarathon course towards Lone Pine. It was amazing to see the snowcapped top of Mt. Whitney peeking over the ridges as we were leaving the valley, and that final vista of approaching the Eastern Sierras is always breathtaking. I was able to take my folks from the lowest point to the highest point in the lower 48 and share with my folks some of the splendor of the extremes that has made me truly fall in love with the West.

The Photographs

These pictures were taken on Kodachrome PKR with my Minolta camera system. Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.