Our 4 Day Photography Adventure in Death Valley - A Brief Introduction

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A little over two hours west of Las Vegas lies one of the most desolate places in the United States.  Encompassing over 3 million acres (roughly 5,000 square miles), Death Valley is the largest national park within the 48 contiguous United States.  With temperatures soaring over 120-degrees in the summer, it is on average one of the hottest places on Earth.  And believe me, the heat is ridiculous, especially at the bottom of the valley floor.  Within Death Valley you will find some of the most barren and surreal landscapes on the planet, which you can enjoy through the windows of your car, or on foot while you explore the park.  Since we visited Death Valley in June, we did a little of both.
As a photographer, my idea of a great vacation probably varies from what others considers a great vacation.  I typically look for places that will provide us with ample photographic opportunities, history, and culture.  Rarely do I take entertainment value, or even anything kid-friendly, into consideration.  That's one of the reasons why we've never been to Disney World, I would be lost on what to photograph!

But that also means we have raised a girl who would also rather scale rock cliffs in Death Valley on a hot summer day than stand in line for a roller coaster on a hot summer day.

So today you are in luck.  I am not going to bore you with a lot of historical or geographical information about Death Valley...that's what Google is for!  Instead, in this post I will just show you what we saw on our way from Las Vegas to Death Valley.

After we checked out of our hotel in Vegas and picked up our rental car, we stopped at a Walmart and loaded the back of it with essential items...lots of bottled water, food (including things we could carry with us on our hikes like granola and energy bars), sunscreen, and two coolers that we could use to carry water and lunches.  And a selfie stick.  Don't ask.

Then we were off!

 
We decided to take the southern route to Death Valley along Rt. 160 through the bustling towns of Pahrump and Death Valley Junction.



And along the way we saw some beautiful scenery.  The roads became straighter and the temperatures began to rise.  After we passed through Death Valley Junction I stopped every time I could along the highway to take a picture.  My husband Peter eventually had to stop me, because what was supposed to be a 2.5 hour drive was quickly turning into something much longer, and he said he wanted to make it to our final destination of Stovepipe Wells before sunset. 




















Anyone's guess what these little curly-cue looking things are?



If you guessed ammonite fossils, you'd be correct.  Surprised to see marine fossils in the middle of a desert?  Well, eons ago before the climate turned to arid desert, the area we now know as Death Valley was filled with an 80-mile long, 800-foot deep lake called Lake Manly.




Finally, we were inside the park.  And there's the selfie stick.



And you know what, they aren't kidding.


I had read in guidebooks that a safe bet would be to pack 2 gallons of water per person each day, so that is what we did.  I don't think I have ever drank so much water in my whole life.






Sometimes I think that Death Valley is an under-appreciated national park.  And I really don't blame people for thinking that there is nothing to do there but look at sand and rocks.  And, they are right.  There are a lot of sand and a lot of rocks.  But there are also a lot of diverse places to visit within the park...from Badwater (the lowest place in the United States) to the volcanic crater of Ubehebe (which is really fun to say).  

In fact, during my planning phase of our trip to Death Valley I was having a hard time trying to fit everything in to just a 4 day visit.  With so much to do and see it was impossible for us to do it all in one trip, which means we just have to go back and see the rest!



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