In the morning I am out and about early eager to get a head start on the day and take a long hike out into the mesquite sand dunes. It is my first time here and I opt to head pretty much straight out into the dunes until I can no longer see footprints. Well unknown to me is how many other people already had the same idea. So after a long hike in the dark I find out the hard way objects appear closer than they are in the desert and settle on an area and composition that will make for a good start. I’m excited about being here this is my first time in sand dunes never mind ones as vast and diverse as the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Admittedly perhaps I’m overwhelmed by the adventure and surroundings then I am focused on compositions but that’s understandable. As it is getting closer to daybreak the sunrise looks dim in the distance as clouds are pre dominantly filling the horizon and sky. Trying photographically to focus on the shapes and structures that stand out to me in the dark cast skies. It is easy to spend quite a bit of time out here exploring and trying various different compositions and photographs. Eventually feeling the creative energy fade there is a need to refuel the body and I pack up the gear before heading back to camp to regroup.
Choosing not to spend much time in camp and has I want to hit the road and explore some of the diverse vastness of the park. Driving has always been enjoyable to me and it didn’t take long for me to really really enjoy the routes around the park. Death Valley has some great roads to drive on and just immerse yourself in the beautiful surroundings of the area. Sticking mostly to the main roads and first deciding to drive out to the west side of the park towards Panamint springs and up to Father Crawly Vista Point which overlooks rainbow canyon and is worth the drive and pit stop has the view is pretty amazing.
What caught my attention here the most was the Panamint sand dunes off in the distance of Panamint valley, these dunes captivated me in their remoteness and would allure me back here to death valley on future travels. After heading back to stovepipe wells for a pit stop I decide to drive north this time up to scotty’s castle road. It is hard not to enjoy this stretch and surrounding views and find myself taking some time for some photographs watching the clouds and cautious of time, I decide to head back to camp for lunch and regroup for the afternoon. Once back on the road it is time to head south to natural bridge for a hike and a little exploration. This is a cool area to visit and worth the stop with some time on my hands I decide to explore artists drive next.
Artist drive was a must for me on my first trip to Death Valley. The research I did beforehand had me curious to both drive the road itself and to be able to see Artists Palette. What draws me here is the cool colors the make up some of the earths composition here and would like to photograph that uniqueness. At this time though the lack of sun and the clouds overhead were making the colors stand out a little but not really pop to their potential. There is some rain in the forecast for tonight so it will be interesting to see if the colors of the earth will stand out more with some natural saturation.
Now getting closer to sunset and heading back down into the valley from artist palette I was originally thinking of going back to badwater basin but has I was getting closer towards the end of the road I look up towards the cliffs and see a unique set of clouds coming over the mountains behind Artist Palette. Quickly driving down west side road and finding a place to park the truck so I can set up the tripod in the pick up bed. As I’m observing the formation of an approaching storm in the distance the streaks of rain are coming down amongst the clouds with this amazing light that puts on a great display. By circumstance I happen to be in the middle of a thirty second exposure when a single lightening bolt strikes down from the sky with a simultaneous thunder clap, that is when I question how much will it really rain tonight. It is an amazing sight to witness and was such a cool moment everything was just spectacular the clouds the light the feeling in the atmosphere while there is no one around has this storm rolls into this magnificent place of natural beauty. Eventually the light fades and I decide to pack up my gear and figure out a plan with what is happening with the weather forecast.
There had been this chance of rain in the forecast for a couple of days now. Knowing what it can be like tent camping in the rain I kept an eye on the situation just in case. As the moment of forecasted rain approached the forecast went form mild and slight to looking like it would be a heavy down pour instead. So heading back to camp at furnace creek it is not raining here yet so there is time for a quick fire and dinner. Not long after eating the first drops come and I decide to hit the tent and sleeping should be easy I’m beat and the rain will sound nice. At this point checking the weather one more time it has now been upgraded to flood watch during the night and into the morning at furnace creek. This will be interesting I think to myself has I prep my tent and get prepared to run to the car if I’m woken by rushing water.