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April 5, 2010

Well, as the tile of the blog suggests, I have seen a lot of Texas! From Austin to ‘Port A’, from Study Butte to Lazbuddie, from Canadian to Notrees, it is, as the tag line reads, “like a Whole Other Country”.

But Death Valley National Park is like a whole other Planet!

We started in Ridgecrest, and headed north up Hwy 395:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Officially known as the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Lots of nice Mojave desert/southern Sierra Nevada vistas:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

I was hoping to head north as far as Lone Pine to see some of the taller Sierras, but it was going to eat up too much time, so we headed east towards the park at Olancha.

Got a couple of images of Owen’s Lake with the Sierras in the background:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Hwy 190 is pretty empty!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

The reason this part of the world is SO dry is that the orographic lift provided by the multiple N-S aligned mountain ranges leaves very little precipitable to reach the area. The Coso range:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

My first Joshua Tree (there would be many more)!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

We arrive at the Park border – interesting to see no Ranger staffed Gate/Station here like at most of the other Parks I have visited – we had to get all the way to Stovepipe Wells for that (we had bought the National Park Annual Pass back at John Muir Woods north of San Francisco – good for up to four people in a car for up to one year)!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Here we see the plateau we were crossing juxtaposed with the distant Panamint Range (with the yet unseen Panamint Valley between):

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Here was the first hint of the three-quarter mile decent to come!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

We got our first view of Panamint Valley at the pull off at Farther Crowley Point:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Farther Crowley Point is also at the southern rim of Rainbow Canyon, which runs E-W down to Panamint Valley. At this location it is about a thousand feet deep.

At Farther Crowley Point we ran into a couple who were from Switzerland – as soon as the guy heard I was from Canada we started talking about – you guessed it – Hockey! He said he was good friends with goalie Martin Gerber who had played in the NHL but is currently playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.

All of a sudden we started to hear a roar echoing from further west up the Valley…

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

it grew much louder… then all of a sudden we could see it!

I was able to get ONE shot off (lucky to have the 70-200 F4 IS on the Canon!) of this F-18 screaming down the valley – sideways – about 100 feet below us!! What a show! Both us and the Swiss couple hooted and hollered and high fived!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Here is a crop – notice that one of the wing-tip Sidewinder missile is gone! These sightings are not uncommon as we were at the north end on China Lake Naval Weapons Center, though we were very lucky to get this perspective.

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Michelle and I thought back a few days to the nice couple we met in Napa – remember I mentioned he had a ‘cool’ job he was on vacation for a couple of weeks from. We both savored the ‘very small world eh? irony of it all (this is exactly what he flies)!!

Us and the Panamint Valley:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

A fun drive to get down to the Vally floor – I would guess that some first time visitors could mistake this for Death Valley, but that is about 1200 feet lower!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

There is a lot of ground to cover in DVNP!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Ascending the west side of the Panamint Range:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Descending into Death Valley:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Stovepipe Wells – I popped in and saw the rather gruff Ranger (must have been having a bad day as we saw him at lunch the next day and he greeted us with a great big smile and a ‘Howdy’)!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

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It had been (literally) up-and-down all day – now it was time to really get down!

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The sand dunes ENE of Stovepipe Wells – apparently a number of scenes from a number of episodes in the Star Wars series were filmed here:

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Soon we were right down in Death Valley:

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And on the road to Badwater, the lowest point in North America

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It was sunny – what a surprise!

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So we were now under a lot of ocean – relatively speaking!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Some perspectives taken with the ultra wide angle Tokina from just above the surface of the Salt Flats:

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It was ‘only’ 86 F – but it was easy to sense how oppressive the heat is here. Maybe it was psychological, or the high-albedo surface or some mix of factors, but it certainly had a unique feel to it!

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There really is a pool of water at Badwater – and it is apparently rather bad!

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The Badwater ASOS weather station.

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We then headed north and took Artist’s Drive to Artist’s Palette:

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Another lonely desert road!

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The very colorful Artist’s Palette, with the coloration caused by the oxidation of various metals:

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Some of the interesting topographies along Artist’s Drive:

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A fun drive too!

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The Sun is such a huge part of the DVMP experience:

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Next was the road to get to Dante’s View:

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with more desert vistas:

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Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

And yet still another lonely desert road!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

The camp for Billie Mine, an underground borax mine along the road to Dante’s View. It closed in 2005, and was the last active mine in the Park:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

We are going up there!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

We were amazed by these plants we saw in a number of locations in DVNP – they seemed to take on almost a glow when the sun angle was just right – very cool (we never did find out what they were!):

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Dante’s View! This is the central part of Death Valley from a vantage point 5,500 feet (1,700 m) above sea level – and then another 280 feet down to the valley floor at Badwater, which is right below us!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Look closely beyond the ridge at the centre of this image and one can see the road we took earlier down to Badwater!! It’s that thin line that snakes to the upper right in this image (this is with the 70-200 zoom lens):

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

The view at 18 mm wide angle take in the bigger view:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

On the way back down we had some great ‘golden hour’ photo ops of the Funeral Mountains:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

With the abandoned Billie Mine in the foreground.

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

The sun was starting to get lower and allowed for some nice silhouette images:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

Didn’t have time to see the 20 Mule Team Canyon:

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

And now time to head beck to the Furnace Creek Ranch for the night!

Wedding & Honeymoon: DVNP - Part 1

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