We arrived in the depth of night, after departing from Joshua Tree National Park at 7:30 PM. Three hours into our journey, we passed Death Valley Junction, an adorable cluster of motels and restaurants at the intersection of State Route 190 and State Route 127. I wished we had planned to stay the night there, but I hadn’t made arrangements, and we drove on.
As we continued under the light of the New Moon rising, the silhouettes of Joshua Tree forests loomed against the valleys periodically. Hills rose up out of nowhere, and the road became more and more desolate. We had no service, we continued to follow the arrow on our map, knowing if it was incorrect, we were very, very lost. We could always go back to the junction. As we approached the Oasis at Death Valley, our GPS (with no service) seemed to think that we were within two minutes of our destination. “There is literally no way this is right,” I said aloud. Then we turned two more tight turns, and arrived at our hotel, pulled into the complimentary valet, where old time jazz echoed into the night air, and entered the National Parks lodge.
Death Valley. Teaming with rugged, delicate life, and rare beauty. There is something about it, an enchantment, that draws you in. Each time you stop, you think you’re just going to take a quick look, but you can’t stop looking, examining, peering at it. It draws you in. There is a disorienting nature to this place. Each time you drive down these roads, they look different. With each light, each turn of the head, it’s a new place.
While we visited, Death Valley received a rare gift of rain. The first day, it was slightly overcast but dry. We visited Zabrinskie Point, 20 mule team canyon, and Badwater Basin at sunset.
Overnight, it rained. At sunrise, I returned, there were just a few of us there. The light in Badwater Basin was so reflective, that we were, in fact, walking on light. It was a mirror. The water was so thin, we left no footprints. As the sun rose, the mountains changed colors, and the mirror plane changed, each time you turned your head. I thought I would take a few photos and leave, and I stayed for over three hours. I basked in light, nature, creation. There were cells of light, plans of light, paths of light, blues, purples, mountains sky. We were immersed.
Another photographer remarked that he had come every time it rained for over four years hoping to witness something like this and never seen it.
When I finally pulled myself away, we spent the day in Artists Palette and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Once again, we were drawn in. Death Valley beckons to you.
We returned to Badwater Basin at sunset, hoping the water would be there, and so it was. Again the light played with us and filled our hearts. Each time we turned our heads, the mountains were a new color, the sky was a new color, the salt flats reflecting it all, the mirror, now dryer, but still reflecting all. This time we stood in the mountains as they caught fire with light, and the salt flats reflected the clear deep blue of the sky. We watched it all go deep purple, red, and black. And if we were more savvy we would have stayed for night photography and navigated back by compass. But alas, we were unprepared and opted to head in at last light.
Our final day was spent visiting the Ryolite Ghost Town, seeing the Pup Fish in the Salt Creek Flats, chasing wildflowers in Mud Canyon, and hiking Golden Canyon.
The pup fish are amazing creatures that are left in shallow streams in two locations in Death Valley, from when the whole valley was filled with water. Rugged, delicate life.
We wished for another night, but felt pulled to return home. Death Valley, thank you.