Death Valley National Park
There are places in your life that resonate with you. The first place you kissed someone. The first place you ever visited on your own. The place you met your significant other. There are plenty of reasons why places resonate with you no matter how significant they may be. Death Valley National Park is significant to me as it was the first desert I've ever experienced back in 2012.
My family recently took a trip west to California for some fun and sun away from the dreary cold flat lands of Illinois. One of our many stops was Death Valley National Park. I wish that I could have spent more than a day and night there, but Death Valley is expensive with a young family in tow.
Driving into Death Valley from Las Vegas is roughly two hours. However; we've always traveled from the greater Los Angeles area and it's a good four and half hour road trip. Here's what you need to know about the road into Death Valley. Fill up your gas tank before you get close to Death Valley. View it as an island; shall we? If you can stop at a super market before heading out do yourself a favor and grab all your essentials like water, some snacks, and sun tan lotion. All of that stuff is expensive in and before getting to the park. If you plan on doing any hikes in the day or even at night bring water with you.
Make sure you have reservations when attending any National Park unless you plan on sleeping in your car. The parks usually fill up in peak seasons pretty quickly, and these parks aren't cheap. Death Valley doesn't have many options for lodging, but we've stayed in both places in Furnace Creek and they were terrific. Warm pools even at night!
My wife and I have two favorite spots. Our first spot is Zabriskie Point. It's easily accessible and it's only three miles from Furnace Creek. Easily accessible means; good parking lot with bathroom and a paved ramp up to the viewing point for those with wheelchairs or strollers. Though the ramp is very steep. We took in sunset this trip at the Point and it was great. The views are spectacular.
My daughter and I decided to get in for a closer look with the other photographers with tripods. Once we got down there we ran into this guy and his wife, and he had his parents out there with them sitting in lawn chairs while doing a timelapse of sunset. Every single time another photographer got close to his camera he got up and said, "Whoa, excuse me I'm doing a timelapse." Now, usually I understand but this guy was loud as fuck telling his parents these absurd stories of his travels and they were just chewing it up. "We're so proud of you, guys."
It annoyed me for many reasons, but the main reason was that he was in prime real estate for the rest of us trying to capture sunset without getting too much foreground in our shots. I ignored his pleas and walked in front of his shit multiple times - he was sitting in his lawn chair while drinking a Bai tea telling loud tales of Barcelona to his parents. If he had been standing or sitting near his tripod I'd have been more considerate, but he was at a minimum 15 feet away from that shit. If you're a photographer or general tourist taking in the scenery please be aware of your surroundings. Everyone is trying to get "the shot" or a shot at these beautiful landscapes.
The Actual Point of Zabriskie
Badwater is our other favorite spot in Death Valley. Badwater is the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level, but what's more interesting is that the highest point in the contiguous United States is only 84 miles away at Mt. Whitney. Badwater gets its name from the spring fed pool next to the road, and since the pool is covered in salt the water thus gets its name as "Badwater." The beauty of these salted plains come from the honeycomb patterns that have formulated from the crystals that form from the salt.
The first time we went out to Death Valley we didn't venture far enough out. We only went about half the distance and thought this must be it. Eureka! Our first time out in DV was a reconnaissance mission for future trips. This past time I went out twice. First to verify that going the entire path would lead to the honeycomb patterned salt flats, and a second time to shoot sunrise.
[tips for shooting in Death Valley:]
Bring your tripod
Wake up early - traveling is much further than you think in this park. For instance; I read that Death Valley is larger than New Hampshire.
Bring water-drink the water
Use the foreground as much as possible in Death Valley. The Valley floor is where the good stuff lives here.
The "Badwater" in the basin
Other Areas and Family Photos
The other areas of Death Valley include but are not limited to Mesquite Dunes, Artists Palette Drive, and the Oasis Inn. We didn't have much time to get elsewhere during this visit, but we are definitely planning a return once Caden gets a bit older. We also didn't want to risk bringing the kids too far out yet, since Caden was teething pretty badly on the way into the park and it didn't make for a pleasant ride especially since our rental didn't have bluetooth for the music connection.
The palm trees at "The Oasis" Inn