As I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Another early departure had us heading to the expansive geographic region of Death Valley. I was skeptical as to what the nation park what had to offer. Outside of my parents I hadn’t heard anything to peak my interest of the area. My first glimpse of the park was that of the charcoal kilns. This was to be the sight of out first stock shoot. There were 10-12 kilns in a row standing 20ft. tall and 30ft. in diameter. They looked like a row of giant beehives. This is where my mom established the vision of creating a bee photoshoot. She spent a good 50 hours sewing bee costumes for us to make the shoot happen. The costumes were quite embarrassing but once into character they provided plenty of laughs by all. I was extremely relieved when the shoot was over so that I could change back into my street clothes and not be mistaken for an acid feigned bee fanatic. Our lodging for the anticipated two day stay was to be at the Stove Pipe Wells’ Inn. The rooms were quant and simple. Without a tv, internet, cell phone reception, and clock the outside world came to a standstill. It was a nice chance to be freed from the technological nuances that I have become so reliant on.

Charcoal Kilns - Death Valley

Thursday was to be an all-encompassing day of sight seeing. We set out on the cool morning at 7am sharp to catch the early morning light on the nearby sand dunes. It was a lovely spectacle that I would have enjoyed exploring all day but other items on our agenda kept us to a two-hour visit. From the dunes we set out south to the town of Furnace Creek where we had a delicious breakfast. The service quick and the menu was much more inviting than that at Stove Pipe Wells.

Sand Dunes - Death Valley

With satisfied bellies we continued south to the badwater salt flats. It was an extraordinary sight of crystallized salt tiles strewn about this dried up lakebed. The most interesting part of the region was that it was 282 below sea level. On the other side of the lakebed rose Telescope Peak that came in at 11, 048 ft tall.

Bad Water Salt Flats - Death Valley

Just down the road was a loop called Artists Drive. The road wound up to the foothills of the easterly mountains. The ridges extruded various colors of brown, bronze, gold, aqua and blood red. Beyond the main focal points was a winding road that led back down to the main highway. It presented an opportune time to shoot some longboarding sequences. The road had a moderate pitch but lacked any sort of slowing points. This all made controlled carves imperative to maintain control. The background scenery was pretty rad and allowed for some unique shots.

Our next move would be to a rock formation just off the side of road that bore no name. It was an odd shape that reflected a deep face with an elongated neck. It was very stark against the white salt background and the deep blue of the desert sky.

Face Rock - Death Valley

From the face, we headed down to the racetrack. The racetrack is this old dried up lakebed that boasts a phenomenon of rocks with skid marks from where they’ve slid along. Studies have suggested that when the rains come, the mud of the dried lakebed becomes extremely slippery. The wind then pushes the rocks along in various directions. We were all excited to see this sight that was off of the beaten path. The road to the racetrack was a 27 mile one way trip up a winding dirt road. This would be the start of our real adventure. Nearly three quarters into the drive and the car started tweaking out. As I drove along, the locks of the doors started freaking out and all the gauges started going haywire. Before I knew it the power steering was out and the car wasn’t going anywhere. I immediately had this flashback of my good friend Alex’s dad’s troubles. Roughly two months ago, John (Alex’s dad) was using a Coleman power adapter from Costco. This adapter eventually went on to fry not one but two of his alternators. I immediately asked my step dad if he had been using a power adapter. He had and it had been the same model that proved detrimental to John’s vehicles. My initial reaction was that we were fucked, stuck 27 miles from paved roads with no access to towing companies. We were fortunate to have two guys from New Jersey in a Chevy Tahoe stop to help us. We hooked the tow strap to the Tahoe and made it a good mile or so before the strap broke. Our only hope was to try and tie the ends back together. This worked for a good five minutes before the knot came undone. A stronger knot, duct tape and various other smaller tow straps were added to try and mend the problem. Not a minute later and the other end tore in to two pieces. The Jersey boys were understandably frustrated with our incessant determination to make it off the dirt road and were more than ready to leave us for the next passerby. To our good fortune a cheery couple named Lou and Jeannie who were on retirement vacation down from Washington stopped at that precise moment. They had just what we needed, a dodge pick-up truck with a tow chain. The chain proved to work much more effectively. It was a scary ordeal being pulled through hilly territory only 3ft behind their truck. The reoccurring hills caused slack in the chain and slipped the connection off several times. One of the times we forgot to set the emergency break our suburban rolled right into Lou who was re-attaching the chain. It was a nightmarish scene watching the car roll in slow motion right into him. I reached over as quickly as I could to set the break while Steve jumped in their pick-up to release Lou from the grip of the suburban. Miraculously Lou didn’t complain of any major pain and went on re-attaching the car. We eventually made it to the pavement and to drop the car off. Lou and Jeannie gave us a ride back into Stove Pipe Wells where we were staying.

The car troubles became a never-ending story and I won’t bore you with the drawn out details. I will say that we spent two days stuck in Death Valley, tried two different fuel pumps, thought it was fixed, made it 200 miles, broke down in Ely, Nevada, had a new alternator put in, made it 20 miles, broke down again, spent a total of 3 days in Ely and wound up having the car towed the 400 some miles back to Boise.

Finally arriving home was a definite sigh of relief. All in all, the trip was a great experience minus the car troubles. I hope to visit Santa Monica, Palm Springs, and Death Valley again. Nevada, I’ll leave Ely all to yourself. Catch you up on the next adventure when it comes together.


~ by skier2435 on February 18, 2008.

3 Responses to “As I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death”

  1. Some really nice pictures there. No bee shots? Sounds like quite an interesting trip. I really like the Dunes shot.

  2. No Bee shots posted. They’re a bit embarrassing. Glad you enjoy the pictures.

  3. Fortunately we didn’t have any auto adventures like yours, but we did have some incredible windy, stormy nights of camping at Death Valley.

    Death Valley National Park hiking camping & wildflowers.

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