Valle de los muertos

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Mojave’s ‘Hole-in-the-wall’ trail leads you through some pretty spectacular landscape.

A quick stopover in Mojave National Park was a perfect way to start off my desert adventure. Seemingly having a much more  remote feel to it (than Death Valley, if that’s even possible), most worthwhile sights take considerable effort to get to. Having only a day, I chose the Hole-in-the-wall site. From one of the main roads, you turn-off onto a dusty dirt road for several miles before reaching the visitor center. Although an easy drive (luckily renting an SUV), if you happen to breakdown, there’s little around but … well … desert and never once did I ever see a Park Ranger cruising around. It would’ve been several hours for someone to come along to ask for help – and yes, there isn’t any cellular coverage either. You’re pretty much in a black hole as far as that goes! I think I need more time here as there are a few more things worth checking out. But for now, it was a good introduction. I chose to stay in a little (seriously little – blink and you’ve passed it) “town” called Nipton, at the … wait for it … Nipton Hotel. The hotel itself has around 8 rooms and 3 or 4 tent cabins – which is where I chose to stay the night. At the time, the restaurant next door was not operational, so the nearest restaurant was back over the CA/NV border in

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Mojave’s Joshua Tree reaching for the Milky Way toward Orion.

Primm at about a 20min drive. Mostly, Mojave has nothing but Joshua Trees and photographing them on each of the day is really where it all happens. Onward …

In California, one of my favorite national parks is Death Valley. One would normally think … Death Valley? It’s just a desert full of sand! Before visiting for the first time nearly 2 years ago, I thought the very same. There is so much diversity throughout the park that its  like having several parks combined it’s that different. You can be driving along one of the main roads (take Badwater Rd., for instance), have salt flats on one side and the other a multi-colored mountainous range or a lava rock field on the other.

Driving too fast along the main roads inside the park – like Badwater Rd and I190, you will surely miss many things. My suggestion, as long as you’re not trying to get somewhere at a particular time, is to make frequent stops along the way. Pulling over to the shoulder of these roads (and most all

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Mushroom Rock is the name given – it’s located right beside the road and easily missed if you’re not scanning around.

others) affords you much exploration and reward. One such “thing” is a particular lava field that has a curiously odd shaped lava rock that has a skinny neck that stands about 12ft high. Not terribly exciting, but cool nonetheless to see/photography – look for low angles pointing upwards with the sun to your back so you can get enough contrast reflecting off of the black rock.

Nearby, you have mountains on one side and flats on the other – each giving you something worthwhile to explore. This year  was a special year in the park as with the wet winter brought above average rain, it also brought several flowers to bloom as well. This once in 10 years (or so) occurrence has been coined “Super Bloom” for not only the variety, but also the abundance of various desert flowers to take root and show off their beauty in the January-March timeframe before the dry season begins. By the time I arrived, many of the varietals where sparse, leaving the valley predominantly yellow. The Desert Gold flower was in fairly good groupings throughout the park with sporadic smatterings of purple, pink and white blooms as well.

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Roads blanketed by Desert Gold flowers.

The following images were taken throughout my 3-day stay in the valley. Many more images, of course, but I pulled only one from each location. I had shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 w/10-24mm lens as well as my Nikon D810 w/Sigma ART 24-105mm lens. Wanting to go on the “lighter” side (camera kit), I chose these two kits for specific reasons. I knew I needed a wide angle, yet needed somewhat of a zoom reach. These 2 lenses went from 67mm to 82mm in size, so I just brought adapter rings so that I can interchange my filters. It must more economical that buying different sizes and having 2, 3 or 4 times the amount of filters. It works well. And, my lens choices were spot on. I didn’t want/need anything else. The only thing was I had to carry 2 different sets of batteries, but wasn’t nearly as heavy as more lenses for sure!

 

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Zabriskie Point in late morning. Beautifully warm toned landscape amidst cool tone mountains in the background.

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Mesquite Dunes is by far the one of the center attractions. Walking/searching for pristine sand can be a challenge.

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Devil’s Golf Course in later afternoon. Nice contrast of shadows and cool/warm colors. Golf anyone?

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A patch of sparsely growing purple Desert 5 Spot’s nestled in a deep canyon.

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Artist’s Palette will surely awaken your visual senses with the colors of the rainbow. Be sure to get out and have a wander up into the canyon.

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A view of Natural Bridge midday. A walkabout the canyon is well worth the time.

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Dante’s View will surely impress – good any time of the day, but sunrise or sunset is stunning.

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Sightings of rare pools of water can be had if you’re just watchful enough.

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A field of Desert Gold’s reaching for the last bit of sunlight before wilting in the hot desert sun.

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Badwater salt flat wasn’t as well defined as the last time I walked this crusty/crunchy terrain, but equally as impressive into the post sunset of the Blue Hour … don’t forget a torchlight and your bearings to your car or you’ll be wondering lost for hours.

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