Tag Archives: Death Valley National Park

Travel Notebook: Eureka Dunes

Eureka Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Mountain dunes -- no one way to the top. In the pre-sunrise glow, the sands are an unremarkable gray-tan. The sum of the sands as Eureka Dunes does loom heavily on the background sky, obscuring the view of the buttes behind as the approach is made.

Several sand peaks (sand foothills?) must be ascended on the way to the crowning summit. Each of the smaller peaks offers a ridge on which you can gain access to the next. Quick and hard climbs are possible direct to th etop, but face it -- I have no water on hand.

Some peaks line up in a way that appear to give a direct approach, but you have to look for more than just the peaks. To paraphrase: "it's the summit, stupid." One must look for the ridges, the bridges from peak to peak. Go down to go up, left to go right. Keep the goal, the destination, in mind, and don't be hesitant to improvise the journey to suit.

Perhaps it's the journey, not the destination. Or both. Compromise.

Travel Notebook: Ubehebe Peak

Ubehebe Peak, Death Valley National Park

Mountains and valleys
Flat playa on th ewindward side of Ubehebe
The Grandstand needles out of the plane of the playa
(What are these swooping birds? They arc around from down-ridge, gliding quickly over the slope down to the playa. Racing around, aiming for the peak ridge, they swoop across at breakneck speed or catch the updraft and loop back outward. Very fast and with an air-slicing swoop. SWOOP)

Ubehebe Peak itself is a razor-edged break between Racetrack Valley and Saline Valley. To the east, rocks "race" over the Racetrack below the spectator boulders on The Grandstand. To the west, Saline Valley stretches beyond my capacity to estimate distance. Perhaps I see the valley floor stretch northwest for 30 miles. As the valley floor rises to become the Saline Range, the distance extends further.

The Inyo Mountains slope hard over the Saline Valley. Even the Sierra Nevada peaks peek briefly over the top of this range, perhaps even Mt. Whitney.

The bliss of seeing further than you could before the ascent -- the essence of reaching the summit.

Travel Notebook: Mesquite Spring

Mesquite Spring Campsite, Death Valley National Park

Buttes glow
Orange fire
Burn on the slate gray
Of a passing storm
Under the white boundary
Of sun-touched cloud
That pushes on
The sky blue infinite
Different eras of
Rock-laid time
Burn and simmer
In varying light
The way down the valley
Is receding light
Sol drops below curtain
Of Panamint Range
Leaving only
Burning embers
Fade to gray
Sunrise come another day
Over Amargosa Range

Travel Notebook: Panamint Dunes

Panamint Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Act I

Here, there are a few truths, which is all I ask out of every day.
True: there is a breeze which blows up and over this dune from the valley to the south, the Panamint Valley.
Gray area: the breeze feels neither hot nor cold itself, however it does provide a welcome cool as it evaporates the day's hike from my face.
False: This view can be properly captured by my camera. What can you save in a picture?
Gray area: The view cannot be captured but the memory of the view can be evoked by examining the picture. Not a full and accurate memory, maybe but a memory of a memory.
True: The 'now' of this moment exists.

Life as a sine wave; up, down, amplitude, frequency. True, false, curves in between.

Act II

Sometimes on these trips to Death Valley, I feel as though I am walking on the moon. Volcanic rocks lie in no discernible pattern, blasted from an explosion that was bigger than I can fully imagine. Black rocks with spherical cavities, granitic rocks with speckled variety, sand filling in the spaces in between the scattered stones. Scramble up and glissade down dunes of fine, wrinkled sand, flowing in patterns that evoke an oceanic memory-- waves locked in the air. Dreams of the beach, waiting here for me to return when the memory weakens. Water, a vague pinprick in the distance of memory, absent from the actual experience except as cloudbursts and snowmelt allow.


Desert --

Formerly, I thought nothing of you. You were beyond the prairie, the foothills, the canyons the mountains.

We were divided and separated. I lived in temperate bliss. You scorched in sun-bleached agony.

Now that we are together, properly met, you are the most beautiful earth, a rugged and staggering calm to my senses.

There are feelings in this life that are true to all of us. The transformation of the desert from evil to angelic in my mind is the truest to me in this now.

May I continue to learn more about you.

Act IV

Words in the sand are fleeting
I come to these dunes for memory
I will leave something more lasting
Stronger than the slow fade
That the wind of change can not erase so easily
What great things are pent up in me?
Why can't I sleep at night?

I have left only words in the sand
Footprints on the dune and trail

It's time to lay something down
Not gaudy, not superficial
But to make something real

Act V

My memories --
words on the sand
fade away

My pictures --
words on the page
throw away

My goal --
words on the rock
stay, stay

Travel Notebook: Stovepipe Wells Dunes

Stovepipe Wells Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Yesterday: Climb to the top of Death Valley Buttes from Hells Gate.

Today: Sunrise from the most westerly dune at Stovepipe Wells.

Blue sky like water rolling over navy sand
Navy water over blue
Light sand
Waves like water
Nature imitating nature
The lazy fade to orange
The subtle fade to light
The moon transfers responsibility to
The sun
All over
A valley sits
There is everything here

Mountains appear where there previously existed nothing
At least that is what it seemed
The truth is
The mountains were always there
Waiting for you
To find yourself
At the right time, place
In nature
In life
There are rewards
For your preparation