Having lived for 17 years in the Los Angeles area, Death Valley is another one of those places that, embarrassingly, I had not visited.
I met my friend Phillip at a Couchsurfing event last year. He is the one who has gotten me into photography and he has been very generous to me with his advice on not just photography, but travel as well. We are the same age, but he has already visited over 100 countries. He is always thinking of places to go, either during overseas, weekend, or local day trips. I was more than glad to tag along when he planned a 3-day trip to Death Valley in mid-March.
We invited a bunch of local Couchsurfers we knew and also 2 German Couchsurfers (Janika and Bettina) who happened to be traveling in the area and were looking for adventures. The 4 of us left for Death Valley on Thursday night, while the rest of the group joined us on Friday night.
We stopped at Trona Pinnacles and camped there for the night before continuing on the next day.
Some sections of the drive into Death Valley National Park had beautiful, expansive views.
Despite being mid-March, the weather was hot, up to the mid-90s Fahrenheit (35°Celsius). We set up camp at Texas Spring Campground since the nicer Furnace Creek Campground was already full. Knowing that the rest of the group was going to arrive very late that evening, we decided to take their tents with us so we could set them up in advance. I’m sure they were glad that they didn’t have to pitch tents in the dark.
After finishing our camp chores, we headed to the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center which had recently been renovated. It looked very modern and high tech. With a few hours left before sunset, we drove through Artists Drive to check out the multicolored rock formations.
Next up was a visit to the Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail. It is a short walk on which you can learn the history of the borax mines in the area, as well the mule trains that were used the transport the product. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures of a dramatic sunset, or of star filled skies because of excessive clouds.
We went back to camp, had a nice dinner, and went to bed early. The rest of the group arrived really late, around 2 am. It was extremely windy throughout the night.
Despite having trouble sleeping all night, I woke up at around 6 am to go with the rest of the group to enjoy the sunrise at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
After breakfast back at the campsite, we drove through the Nevada border to visit the town of Beatty and the ghost town of Rhyolite.
On the way back to the California side, we had to split up the group. I’m told that the road through Titus Canyon is amazing. But, since we only had one high clearance vehicle, only half of us would be able to go. Since I intend to come back to Death Valley again in the future, I was fine with taking a pass this time. The group that didn’t go would instead drive to the other end of the Canyon and hike into it until we run into the other group’s truck. Even on foot, Titus Canyon was absolutely beautiful.
After regrouping, we all headed to the Ubehebe Crater. It was cloudy again so we didn’t get a dramatic sunset. Here I had the chance to play with Phillip’s Tokina 11-17mm Fisheye lens.
After an action-packed day, we went back to our campsite to enjoy dinner and smores around a campfire into the wee hours of the night.
Nobody could get up the next morning for sunrise. On the way out of the park, we stopped at Zabriskie Point, Devils Golf Course (gotta love the names of places in the park), and Badwater (282 ft, 86 m below sea level).
We were able to see a lot in only 3 days. Aside from the beauty of Death Valley, I also enjoyed the company of the group I went with. It was a nice change from my usual solo travel. This place definitely deserves another visit in the future.