Death Valley pt 2

19. October 2016
Today was a big one. We woke up again for sunrise and this time we drove to Dante’s View. It was up in one of the mountains and we made it just in time. It was very cold, but the views were stunning; on one side we saw the sun slowly rise up over the mountains, and on the other side was the view over the Badwater Basin. It was all white and blue and pink, just like yesterday, but almost softer this time because of our hight and because there was a small haze this morning. Maybe because the winds were so strong that night and it swirled up the dust?

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As the sun came a little higher we went for a small hike through the Golden Canyons. It was more like the sand-coloured canyon, because the walls were lightly coloured dirt the colour of sand. But it was still pretty nice, and at the end was a red-ish coloured rock formations with tiny spirals sticking out from it like the Capitol Reefs in Utah, just smaller. It was cool, but the hills around made it hard to get a good vantage point and all over there were signs saying ‘stay off the path’ and this wasn’t a picture I wanted so much as to break the rules, because I know how important it is to preserve these places and how little most people care. We did the Artist’s Drive again, and this time we stopped in the right spot.

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Then we drove to Nevada. There are all these abandoned cities around the park, where there had been mining operations. I don’t remember why they all were abandoned, but I know one of them simpy went bankrupt. But the one we went to see just across the border to Nevada was called Rhyolite (sounds very industrial) and was the biggest ghost town. It had had a population of over 10.000 people, and they even had an opera back in the days. But what we saw was just a few shaken down buildings, and it looked more like a scattering of houses than an abandoned city. We didn’t even bother to get out of the car. The only cool house was fenced in and it was nothing to photograph with the fence there, so we just drove off again.

The real purpose of the Nevada visit was a off road track through a canyon (the Titus canyon) that the ranger had recommended to us. She said it was awesome, so we went to do it. She was right. First we just drove on a dirt track, and I tried to get some shots of the car kicking up dust but we didn’t get it going fast enough for the photo to look anything like what I had in mind so we gave it up. For a long time the road was just flat through the desert, but then slowly we started driving upwards. We went through red-ish mountains with the dotted shrubbery, and then we went down into a little valley, then up again. It was cool. The road was uneven and it threw us around in the car a little bit.

Then suddenly came the real cool part, and we were totally unprepared for it. We came over another hill, and drove down again into another valley, and around the mountains were all kinds of colours. Not like in the Artist’s drive, because they weren’t quite like the splashing of colours, but it was red and blue and green and purple all the same. It was rugged and the sky was blue and we decided this was a highlight.

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The drive took us out of the canyon around three, which meant we were doing really well with time. Too well, actually. The paved road felt incredibly smooth after two hours of shaking around in our seats. We drove to the Mosaic Canyon and ate bagels. Then we hiked a little bit, and it was quite nice because the canon walls were at some parts smooth, sandy marble. But it was hot, and then the marble disappeared and we were also a little tired, perhaps, so we just went back to the car. In the car park we saw the license plates of Idaho (Famous Potatoes) and of Georgia (Peach State) so I could add those to my list.

Next we went to the Mesquite Sand Dunes. This I had been excited for, because I have never seen sand dunes before. It was not a very big area, but large enough to walk through for a while so we slowly walked around it waiting for the sun to set. The sand flowed into my shoes and made my steps heavy, and it was weird to feel the tips of my feet dragging me down and my heels sink as the ground gave out under them. It was strange too see the smooth curves of the dunes, and to think that all this (semi) solid stuff was just massive piles of finely ground sand. It was hard against my feet when I ran down the dunes, and it surprised me because sand is so soft but there it was hard. It was nice to get there late, even if there were lot of footprints everywhere, but the shadows were long so they emphasised the curves of the dune ridges. We took photographs and slowly the sun was setting.

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After sunset we went to make soup and wait for the darkness. I was going to shoot some star pictures, because the nights get so dark there. I used my toiletry bag as a tripod, and it actually worked pretty well. The only thing was I couldn’t see the stars from through the camera so I had to guess at the focus point. But eventually I got some that looked nice, and the milky way was clear in it. It was quite exciting, I’ve never shot the night sky before, and I hadn’t expected it to turn out this well.

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20. december 2016
We woke up, packed the tent and we drove to Zabriskie point. It was full of people with tripods. My camera died just after we arrived, which was kind of frustrating since we’d gotten up early to see it. But since we had already been there for sunset I didn’t really mind it too much, and my phone takes pretty nice photographs. It was really beautiful and a nice way to end our Death Valley stay, and indeed our road trip. Most of the day went to driving back; some parts through the mountains, some through desertlike, industrial places that looked disheartening to live. We stopped at In-N-Out for food, and I ordered a milkshake which tasted great after 10 weeks on the road. Even though we drove for 7 – 8 hours it felt like it didn’t take so long, because we started so early.

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