photo of dustin wong standing on a rock overlooking badwater basin in death valley national park

Entering Death Valley and Coming Out Alive

In Inspiration/Recommended Reading, Travel by DustinWong

Death Valley National Park 

It’s like being on another planet. The landscape is filled with rocky crags carved out over centuries. Sediment layers create mysterious colored horizontal lines in the rock, sand dunes rise hundred of feet out of nowhere, and even a warm springs desert oasis can be found here (yes, it has palm trees). There are also vast salt flats and valleys of Joshua Trees that grow so naturally, perfectly spaced and distributed. If there is one thing here that is constant, it is nature’s spectacular display of creativity. And that is before going into what I found at The Racetrack. 

Every area seems to glow in the morning and evening light. There is never a time where it feels like there is an absence of life. In fact it is thriving here, in its own way of course. 

Off The Beaten Path
I spent the first three days here in isolated sections of the park, traveling dirt roads often requiring 4×4 driving at 10 miles an hour. I would encounter only a handful of other travelers each day. There is a bond shared between souls who venture to distant places in search of something off the beaten path. The quest for solitude and an immersive experience is quietly acknowledged. 

Moving Rocks
Focusing on where I wanted to explore and photograph at sunset, I traveled to The Racetrack, a large, remote desert playa that is flat, hard packed (when dry), and home to the legendary moving rocks. These rocks mysteriously travel across the playa leaving distinct carved out tracks. For a while, how these rocks (some are 2 feet across) made their way hundreds of feet was unknown – but it seems science has found the answer: a combination of freezing conditions on the surface and wind over the years allows the rocks to travel. It’s really a shame that at some point people visiting the site have removed some of these rocks, but there are still plenty there to discover if one seeks them out. 

 

The Night Sky
Being very far from any major city makes this park ideal for viewing the stars at night. The warm temperatures make it quite comfortable to walk around for several hours at night. 

The Racetrack, Death Valley National Park
“Origin” 

Wandering the epic (and remote) Eureka Sand Dunes for sunset and twilight was truly a mystical experience. The sand was clean, and pristine, it invited me to spend an intimate evening with it. Rising quickly to over 680 feet, it has a presence all its own. Knowing that I was standing only on a tip of this ancient beast, which stretches over a couple square miles, was humbling. After the sun set behind the mountains, the soft light that fell on the dunes was like silk. 

Eureka Dunes 

Eureka Dunes 

The ability to pull up to a site in the Sportsmobile, explore all night (returning in the dark), cook food, and download photos to my computer is almost a necessity. It helps save my energy for photo expeditions and gets me solid rest. Waking up next to an epic sand dune is pretty awesome as well.