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My Adventure in Death Valley

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #30 on: August 18, 2010, 09:35:53 AM »
Wish I'd seen this earlier.  I was withing 100 miles of DV last week but had no beta and wasn't sure it would be worth the drive, so passed it up.  I would've gone IF I'D ONLY KNOWN!

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Offline MilesOfTexas

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #31 on: August 18, 2010, 01:35:49 PM »
Hey TJ, I just now saw this thread and those are some really great photos!  I am hoping to get down there this winter, but it depends on whether I can get enough research done in advance to plan it.
"I have an excellent profession, but I don't enjoy it near as much as I do when I am in the heart of the wilderness, surrounded by marvelous creations, and efforting to capture what I see and feel so I may share it with others."

-Me 09/12/2011

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Offline presidio

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #32 on: August 18, 2010, 03:13:06 PM »
Wish I'd seen this earlier.  I was withing 100 miles of DV last week but had no beta and wasn't sure it would be worth the drive, so passed it up.  I would've gone IF I'D ONLY KNOWN!

Wow! You are one of the few that don't automatically assume that if the NPS is in charge, it must be a mandatory destination. However, DV isn't a bad place...very large and you can pretend it isn't NPS as long as you don't go looking for rangers.

They don't get out and about much over there, which is why Charlie Manson was able to hide out in the park for so long. That also means, they probably will leave you alone for the most part. Still, the surrounding BLM and USFS lands are more user friendly.
_____________
<  presidio  >
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline tjavery

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #33 on: August 18, 2010, 08:35:52 PM »
Thanks everyone! I didn't think this old thread would get dug up :icon_biggrin:

Hey TJ, I just now saw this thread and those are some really great photos!  I am hoping to get down there this winter, but it depends on whether I can get enough research done in advance to plan it.

Thanks! Let me know if you want any details on the places we visited in Death Valley.

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Offline MilesOfTexas

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #34 on: August 18, 2010, 09:13:29 PM »
Thanks everyone! I didn't think this old thread would get dug up :icon_biggrin:

Hey TJ, I just now saw this thread and those are some really great photos!  I am hoping to get down there this winter, but it depends on whether I can get enough research done in advance to plan it.

Thanks! Let me know if you want any details on the places we visited in Death Valley.

That would be very helpful and I would be very grateful!  I will PM ya on that.
"I have an excellent profession, but I don't enjoy it near as much as I do when I am in the heart of the wilderness, surrounded by marvelous creations, and efforting to capture what I see and feel so I may share it with others."

-Me 09/12/2011

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Offline tjavery

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #35 on: August 19, 2010, 09:39:31 AM »
This is in response to MOT's request for more info. I'm posting it here for the benefit of everyone else. Hope it helps!

The locations noted below were all reached during our workshop and required nothing more than a typical passenger car. They're all very easy to get to and require very little hiking.

For a first time visit, you can hit a lot of these places and get to see many unique things about DV.

Badwater
Badwater is the lowest spot on the continent at 282 feet BELOW sea level. This area is a huge salt flat. The salt forms polygon shapes and makes very interesting patterns. Badwater is in a valley between two huge mountain ranges.

There's a parking lot and composting toilets along the road. It's a short (1/2 mile or so) hike to get way out onto the flats where the polygons are really well defined. It's awesome at either sunset or sunrise.

There are usually pools of water near the parking lot. You can pick up interesting reflections in them.

Dante's View

This is a high mountain overlook that is about one vertical mile above Badwater. It's amazing. The drive up is fun, the road twists and turns and goes up and up.

This is a good spot to watch the sunset. Afternoons would be a good time to look down on the flat valley below with a telephoto lens (or binoculars) and see the interesting patterns in the salt.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells
Aside from Badwater, this is probably the primary destination for visitors and photographers. Consequently, the area is trampled with folks and their footprints are everywhere.

It's quite pretty and worth visiting (but there are other dune fields in the park and nearby areas that are even better and not visited as much. But they're harder to get to).

Just park along the road east of Stovepipe Wells and meander out into the desert towards the highest dunes. If you want to stray away from people, then head east through the dune fields. The dunes get smaller, but there are fewer footprints. You also start seeing more vegetation and also dead trees. It can be really interesting and photogenic.

If possible, hit the dune field after it rains or a strong wind storm. Those events will clear out most footprints.

Just to note, the sand is very coarse. It's not like typical Texas beach sand that tends to be fine and "sugary". That stuff gets everywhere. The Death Valley sand is heavy, so it just falls right back to the ground when you kick it up while walking.

Walking up and down dunes will tire you out quickly! ;-)

Sunrise, early morning, late afternoon, and sunset are all good times for this location.

Zabriskie Point
A viewpoint overlooking some very impressive badlands and Golden Canyon. Awesome at sunrise and the early morning.

Golden Canyon is just down the way from Zabriskie. We hiked down into it but only about 1/2 a mile or so, and it was a really interesting place. The golden colored soil of the badlands has been eroded into a rumpled, rough landscape. Just don't get lost!

Artist's Palette
A bizarre landscape of badlands with various colors. There are mini-canyons in the soil that you can explore. It's a neat place. Good in the late afternoon when the warm, directional light hits the area.

Cow Creek, Salt Creek, Mustard Canyon
I'm unclear on the exact name of this area, but it's basically the northern end of the flat-salt-bottomed valley (north of Furnace Creek and Badwater). A good spot is near the Harmony Borax Works. Park down the road from there, and then hike due west towards the flat, salty area.

Also, you can just park along the main road (hwy 190) a mile or more north of Harmony Borax Works (between markers 104 and 106) and then hike west onto the flats of the valley.

This area is rarely visited. It's not exactly a main tourist attraction. The beauty of the area is the really interesting patterns in the salty soil. It's relatively flat and void of vegetation.

This is a place to shoot wide to super-wide angle and feature the patterns, lines, and textures of the valley bottom. Sunrise, early morning, late afternoon, and sunset are all good times for this location.

Darwin Falls
This is on the west edge of the park. Drive west on 190, and just outside (west of) Panamint Springs will be a little dirt road on your left. I don't believe it's marked very well or even at all.

Drive down the dirt road a mile or more to a small parking lot. There's a trail here that goes about a mile back into a small canyon. It gets wooded and lush and the falls area is really neat. It's a lot like hiking back to Cattail Falls in Big Bend.

The trail stops at the lower falls. If you're brave you can scramble up the cliffs to your left and parallel the creek upriver. In a short distance, you'll come to a cliff overlooking a deep part of the canyon. Way back in there is the upper falls. It's not necessarily all that photogenic, but it's a neat place to see and explore.


Below is based on my own research and also advice from other folks. I've not yet visited any of these places.

Other Dune Fields
The Panamint Dunes are really neat and even better than Mesquite Flats. They're a bit harder to get to, but doable. You can drive a short backcountry road a ways towards them, but it will end and then there's a 3 mile hike (one-way) to reach the dunes.

The Eureka Dunes are supposed to be really awesome, but they're very remote and take a lot of time and effort to reach. If visiting, you might consider camping out there to make it worthwhile. I believe these are the highest dunes in North America.

The Racetrack
I've heard widely varying accounts on the difficulty of driving out there. Some claim the road is 4x4 only and some claim that you can do it in a minivan. I guess it all depends on the experience of the driver.

My take on it is that you'd want a high-clearance vehicle but not necessarily 4x4. Drive slow.

The absolute is that you will need time to reach it. It's a long drive considering the condition of the backcountry road. (the other absolute is make sure you have a good spare tire or two!)

If and when I go out there, I'll try to camp. There's an established campsite near the dry lake.

Alabama Hills
This is a classic spot of rounded boulders with mountains in the background. It's one of those "famous" spots that countless photographers have visited and movies and TV shows have been filmed.

other
There are a lot of other places out there, of course! There were many short hikes that we didn't do on our workshop that I would have liked to have done.

Mosaic Canyon, Wildrose Peak, Natural Bridge, Golden Canyon (further than the 1/2 mile that we hiked in), and some others (can't recall right now) are all places I'd like to see next time I go out there.


Anyway hope all that helps. DV is even bigger than Big Bend and there's a LOT to explore.

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Offline MilesOfTexas

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #36 on: August 19, 2010, 09:46:31 AM »
Thanks a ton for the detailed information, that helps a lot!  I really look forward to getting out there.  :icon_biggrin:
"I have an excellent profession, but I don't enjoy it near as much as I do when I am in the heart of the wilderness, surrounded by marvelous creations, and efforting to capture what I see and feel so I may share it with others."

-Me 09/12/2011

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Offline stingrey

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #37 on: August 29, 2010, 03:55:38 AM »
Thank you soooooooo much for posting this! I'm heading this way during the weekend of Halloween of this year and stumbled across your thread almost by mistake. Your pics are awesome! Can't wait to see the place in person! :)
Get busy living, or get busy dying.

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Offline tjavery

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #38 on: August 29, 2010, 08:14:03 AM »
Thanks, guys. No problem. Hope it helps.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #39 on: September 03, 2014, 08:43:07 PM »
The whiz kids of NASA try to figure out what drives the rocks at the racetrack.

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/roving-rocks.html

Well, NASA struck out, but these guys came through:
http://gpsworld.com/gps-helps-solve-mystery-of-sliding-rocks/

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Offline tjavery

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #40 on: September 04, 2014, 07:27:47 PM »
Pretty cool :icon_biggrin:

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Offline kevint

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #41 on: September 05, 2014, 04:52:56 AM »
Kind of liked it better when it was a mystery.
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong."  --Yvon Chouinard

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Offline tjavery

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #42 on: September 05, 2014, 01:30:42 PM »
I had read a lot of stuff about it over the years. The best explanation offered (and the most plausible) had to do with a combination of a slick surface (wet playa) and high winds. They were on the right path to solving it. Now they know that ice is involved.

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Offline Homer67

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #43 on: September 05, 2014, 04:04:30 PM »
Awesome!  I wish we could have spent more time in Death Valley recently; we spent 3 days in the Eastern Sierra this July after 7 days in Yosemite and decided to spend a half day in the park on our way to Vegas. We left the park late after just a few hrs looksee --- it was 109F at the sign that indicates 190' below sea level at 10pm when we left the park. It pretty common for people to pass through Death Valley to Las Vegas.
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

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Offline mule ears

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Re: My Adventure in Death Valley
« Reply #44 on: September 05, 2014, 04:27:23 PM »
Won't make it to the Race track in December but I have a 7 day, fairly heinous walk planned all the way down the valley.  My first time to DV and the scale of the place seems amazing.  Look for the trip report just before Christmas!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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