In March, I spent almost a week in Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra (sorry for delay; I got busy with the rest of my life and forgot to post this entry). I camped in Death Valley with twenty women, three men, and a cheerful nine-year old. The El Niño super bloom was past, but there were still flowers to be seen. See below the fold, i.e. after photos, for details.
Mirages on the horizon red and ochre folds of earth warm breezes parch the arid land.
Ravens cry in the treetops coyotes yap in the distance a pair of grackles sings at dawn.
Desert Gold and other flowers dot the harsh landscape delicate petals protected in slot canyons.
Devil’s this and Devil’s that, badlands and craters golden walls and mounds of salt.
Three bright stars, among the millions Orion’s belt. A nearly full moon, watches through the night.
Wind rustles invasive Tamarack trees barely reaching tents nestled among them.
Another day, gusts obscuring the view coating everything with dust.
A row of photographers at dawn soft purple glow on snowcapped peaks tilted striations of sedimentary rock.
Vast, not empty, defined by wind and water, rapidly moving, and absent.
© Deborah Hall
3/25 – A Packed Car
I picked up Paget in mid-afternoon, then we drove to Oakland and picked up Carol. My Subaru was filled to the gills. Commuter traffic was starting by the time we left, so we didn’t reach Bakersfield until 10 pm where we spent the night in a cheap hotel.
3/26 – Furnace Creek
We got to camp shortly after noon, set up our tents, and then explored the valley. Carol has never been here before, so we took her to see some of the classic sights. No beautiful salt patterns at Badwater; they were apparently washed away in a big storm last fall. I wonder how long it will take nature to restore them. We got back to camp in time for a shower and swim before dinner: burritos.
3/27 – Hike in Golden Canyon
Though I’ve hiked in this canyon several times before, this is the first time I went all the way up to Zabriskie Point. It was a beautiful hike, definitely worth repeating. A thin cloud cover kept us comfortable. That night we shared a tasty potluck with our fellow campers, with Easter peeps for desert, and a lantern for a campfire.
3/18 – Hike in Fall Canyon
I drove north with a carload of hikers to this canyon north of Stovepipe. A totally different hike than yesterday, more sheer rock and not as colorful. We saw more darting lizards and pair of redheaded black beetles mating.
On the way back the wind picked up and the valley view turned gray. A few of us drove north to check out Ubehebe Crater. By the time we returned to camp everything was covered with a layer of dust (almost as much as at Burning Man). More than half our fellow campers packed up and headed home early. I went to dinner at the restaurant with Ellen, a fellow camper, and slept in my car, a needless precaution. A light rain cleared the air and the wind stopped around sunset.
3/29 – Death Valley to Lone Pine
I drove off while everyone else was still in their sleeping bags and watched the sunrise at Zabriski Point. It wasn’t the most colorful I’ve seen, but a pleasure to watch. After breakfast we packed the car and headed out, with our cracked lips and visions of clean sheets. We made one stop on our way out of the valley, for a short hike in Mosaic Canyon. I fell and broke my point-and-shoot camera, not the first time; I’m sure glad I paid for that extended warranty. We reached Lone Pine in the afternoon, in time for a scenic drive through the Alabama Hills to Manzanar, one of the Japanese internment camps. I hope we never repeat this sad chapter in our history. With one camera down and my Olympus running low on batteries, I shot many pictures with my cell phone.
3/30 – Alabama Hills to Lee Vining
Paget and Carol joined me for sunrise in the Alabama Hills. It snowed overnight and the Sierras were whiter than the night before. I love seeing the first light hit peaks. Then we headed north and went snowshoeing near Mammoth (covered in “Snow Weekends” blog post). I had a late lunch afterwards, a bowl of chili, and, to celebrate my birthday, a glass of wine. Afterwards they led the way to a small hot spring surrounded by snow-capped peaks. It was too hot to stay in long, but the view was wonderful. It was cloudy by the time we reached Lee Vining, so there was no sunset to see at Mono Lake.
3/31 – Mono Lake, then Home
I tiptoed out of the room before sunrise and drove over to Mono Lake. Other than one other photographer, I had the place to myself and spent a peaceful hour or two wandering through the tufa. One our way home, we stopped near Bridgeport for another hot spring soak. This time the temperature was perfect. We got back to the Bay Area before dark.