I went to Death Valley the winters of 2014 and 2015, each for one week. I went alone. And I camped the entire time. Talk about stories; 26 degrees, 70 mph sand storms, coyotes at 3a.m., etc! Memorable. I can’t wait to go back.
Death Valley is about the size of Connecticut. Connecticut has a population of 3.5 million whereas Death Valley surprisingly gets over one million visitors per year. There are three “villages” in Death Valley, each with limited services (hotels, restaurants, groceries, gasoline, etc). To emphasize this, there are only three gas stations, two of which are only 30 minutes apart. Cell service is limited to less than five miles around just one of the “villages”. Thus, planning is crucial.
The road to the Racetrack Playa (racing rocks) is a 20 mile unpaved road with deep ruts and sharp tire slicing rocks. It takes over three hours to drive from the nearest “village.” The same for Eureka Dunes. Both are well worth the effort – but on different days. Panamint Dunes is somewhat more accessible in that it is at the end of a six mile unpaved road, but then requires a 4.5 mile hike across the desert wash.
Stovepipe and Mesquite Dunes are very accessible by car – there is even a paved parking lot. But their beauty is marred by the infinite number of footsteps across the sand. Instead of ripples of sand, all one sees are oceans of footprints.
The salt flats of Badwater or Harmony Flats need time - to just hike out as far as possible – to get “lost” in the middle of nowhere. It is out here that sound disappears. There is little wind, no cars, no animals, no birds, no bugs, and no trees to rustle in the breeze. The only sound is the crunching of the salt under your feet and your breathing. If you stop walking and hold your breath the sound of your heartbeat will almost become deafening.
One cannot really get lost in a Death Valley canyon. Most hikes here are in and out. Though some canyon hikes require some scrambling up a wall of rocks at a dryfall. The biggest danger is twisting an ankle, though flash floods do occur and have been known to completely erase a paved road.
Death Valley is also scattered with several old mine ruins and abandoned cars. All of which make great reminders of how inhospitable Death Valley can be.
My first trip I took my 4x5 (film) camera with the intent of black and white prints. Sadly, I ended up with a few pinholes in the bellows and most of my negatives are ruined. Fortunately, I brought my digital camera with me, more for documentation purposes, alas the images shown here are digital images.
Copyright © Carl Hartt. All rights reserved.
OK, I like to travel. Whether alone (eg Death Valley) or with my family. Through the years, I have learned to reduce my photography equipment when traveling with my family. For example, twenty years ago when we toured Greece I took two Nikon 35mm cameras – one with Kodachrome (color slide film), one with Plus-X (B&W film). The last time I went to London was 15 years ago and we went with my in-laws. Again, I took 2 cameras and a slew of lenses. Half of my carry-on luggage was camera gear. My father in-law had a Canon Elph digital camera, about the size of a cigarette package. This little camera could do just about the same as my 30 pounds of gear. It was at this point that I stopped carrying so much gear and slowly transitioned to a digital camera when going on family trips. Doing so also speeds up our “tours.”
I have been to most US states, Canada, Mexico and many islands in the Caribbean and Bahamas. As I mentioned, I have been to Greece, London, as well as Italy, Paris and Spain. I say London because both times that I have been to London, I did not go beyond London. When I say Italy, we toured the country. And when I say that we “toured” we do so on our own, not on a tour bus or any sort of group tour.
Europe is not difficult to travel through, even if you don’t know the language. If you ever need travel advice, seek an opinion, or want to see images from other locations, feel free to shoot me an email.
The pictures of Spain are a sampling from a two-week journey with my wife. The trip started in Barcelona and went on to Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Tarifa, Cordoba and Grenada. These digital images were taken with a large-frame mirrorless camera and processed in Lightroom. Sadly, no Nikon F2 on this trip.
Our next planned trip (late 2017 or early 2018) will be to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Stay tuned for some images! My next solo trip has yet to be determined. Maybe I will go back again to Death Valley (it’s just so blasted neat). Or Bryce, or Escalante. Then again, I still need to go to Yellowstone and Glacier, and I want to go to the larger cemeteries in Ohio and Pennsylvania.