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Death Valley 2014 PART TWO

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We left  Eureka Valley, back through the Inyo Mountains and into the town of Big Pine where we fueled up. I must also note that the bathroom at this particular Mobile station is excellent. I’ve used it before and by God I’ll use it again. Nothing better than a nice flush toilet after crapping in holes and outhouses for days.

On that note we drove south on Highway 395 to our next destination, the (Huells voice) beautiful town of Lone Pine, California! Here we decided to get a hotel for the night. We needed a shower bad and had four more days of exploring to do. Plus, I’ve always wanted to check out this town.

We went into the darkest looking bar we could find. Can’t remember the name or if it had one. Probably something creative like “Two Doors”. Even out here they had some microbrews on tap. I think we got Coors. The lovely lady behind the bar asked us what were were doin in these parts. Why, on vacation in Death Valley my fair lady!

“Why the hell would you spend a week in Death Valley?”

Well you live out here so therefore its probably nothing special. I live next to the beach. You would probably kill to go to the beach. I haven’t been to the beach in three years, even though I lived blocks away. Another beer please.

Got some pizza and more beer. Olympias to be exact. Nothing special but you can’t find them back near the coast so therefore special, I always try to grab a 12 pack when I’m out here. Took the pizza and beer back to the hotel room, watched Conan and jotted down notes about everything so far. I think I spent some time cutting out an ingrown toenail. Cool eh?

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Morning came. Another shower for good measure.

And on we went, past Owens Lake for a stop at Father Crowley Point which overlooks Saline and part of Panamint Valley. As soon as we pulled into the parking area two fighter jets came flying down the canyon. More expletives. I set up my camera waiting for more. An hour went by and nothing. I’d love to write that as soon as we decided to leave some more jets flew through but it didn’t happen. Even that would have been something.

Made our way to Emigrant Canyon Road, a fun twisty mountain road that passes many historical mining areas. Past the Charcoal Kilns and after ascending a final extremely steep 1/4 mile we were in our spot for the night, Mahogany Flats.

Mahogany Flats is at the base of the trail up to Telescope Peak, the tallest mountain in Death Valley National Park. The campground itself is around 8,200 feet and telescope peak projects up to over 11,000 feet. The amazing thing about this area of the park is if you find yourself on a narrow ridge you can see both the lowest point (Badwater Basin in Death Valley proper) and the highest point (Mount McKinley in the Sierra Nevadas) of the lower 48 states from one vantage point. That is special. One day I’d like to hike Telescope Peak but we are in horrible shape and did not have enough time to do it, nor had we acclimatized properly to the elevation. But mostly the being in bad shape part.

We found a pretty cool campground that overlooked Death Valley through the pine trees and set up. I decided to get nuts with the timelapse jib, hoping that the wind wouldn’t pick up and ruin everything.

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This place was so completely different than the rest of Death Valley. A proper alpine environment. Tall pine trees, woodpeckers, cool air. A proper camping experience as depicted by every television show and movie ever made. I let the jib do its thing while we sat freezing around the campfire cooking all manner of trash, from brats to sardines to beans and pork. Most people camp at Mahogany Flats to set up base for a grueling hike up Telescope Peak. We came up to get fat.

 

Vernon passed out around midnight but I stayed awake to take a few more photos. Upon later review of said photos, I must have been pretty tired as they were all crap. No matter, time for bed. While climbing into the tent I sat on the propane heater. Still worth having a propane heater.

 

Woke up a bit before dawn to see what I could grab. And man, what a dawn.

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IMG_9437Some infrared while I’m at it.

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Camp was torn down quickly, we were getting pretty good at this now. We made our way down the mountain but not without a quick stop at the Charcoal Kilns. The name says it all here. Huge Charcoal Kilns from the mining past. Very photogenic which explains why I couldn’t get a decent photo of them to save my life.

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Made our way down Wildrose road and then towards Stovepipe Wells where we had decided to grab lunch. Vernon got himself some chili and I got nachos. Chili was amazing, nachos were terrible. Remember that. We also discovered that the gas station at Stovepipe Wells had been redesigned since our last visit and now no longer had nearly as big of a market for items campers like to buy (food and beer) and instead had a ton of tourist trinket junk. It was also as crowded as I’ve ever seen it so I guess the tourist trinket junk works. But the most egregious offense was the complete lack of Sarsaparilla. I remember it being there last year but I neglected to purchase some. I know its similar to root beer but I had developed a fascination for it a month prior after having listened to a commercial for the now defunct City Sippers brand of Sarsaparilla. Curses.

The original plan was to camp at the Chloride Cliffs, just east of Death Valley proper. But given the lack of 4×4 in the Jeep and zero knowledge about the condition of the road we (me) instead decided to check out Death Valley National Park’s namesake, the actual Death Valley! Some touristy stuff for a change.

Zabriskie Point. Its been in movies, television, album covers and countless coffee table photography books. This is the kind of place I don’t usually bother taking photos at because there is no possible way I’d ever take something better than the 12 billion other photos taken here. But here we were and here was my camera.

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Up on the left is the actual point, full of throngs of tourists taking photos. I decided to find my own spot, not because I was thinking outside the box but because I really didn’t want anybody to try and talk to me.

A partial solar eclipse was on the docket for today as well and I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Found a nice spot for the camera where I could monitor it from afar and went back to watch Vernon drink beer in the back of the truck. It was the end of October but this being Death Valley the heat was unbearable. Sitting out with the camera in the sun was a poor choice.

Eventually the eclipse came. This being a timelapse I had to guess what the correct exposure would be and ramp towards that target exposure over time. I guessed wrong and the sun was still way overexposed, even with HDR processing. Whoops.

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You’ll have to trust me, there is a partial solar eclipse going on here.

Maybe it was the eclipse, maybe it was a breeze and maybe it was just the sun getting closer to setting, but it felt as if the heat had died down a bit. I still wanted some sarsaparilla though. We had decided to keep things simple and camp at Furnace Creek, the only time in the whole trip we actually had to pay for a campsite. I always try to avoid pay campsites as they usually attract regular people who think that a campground is an extension of their home which I view as a negative thing for no rational reason. No matter, give the man at the gate $20 (!!!) and pick a nice site. Maybe we’ll find some weirdos.

What surprised me more than anything about this site was the humidity! We were a bit below sea level but far far away from any large source of water, except for Furnace Creek’s namesake. This provided some interesting trees and plants to provide a small amount of shade for the tent though.

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