Every year when the whole USA is celebrating Thanksgiving, we jump in the car and try to explore more of this vast country. In November 2018 we decided to go towards one pretty touristy destination, but this time we were equipped with an amazing Jeep and we were planning to go see some hard to reach places. So Death Valley, here we come. We started from San Francisco and we drove down to Mono Lake first.
Death Valley is National Park located in the East-Central California, Nevada and touches the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although the climate is very dry and hot, the place was populated by some Native American tribes ten thousand years ago. The area grew its popularity during the California Gold Rush and brought here many Europeans who were searching for gold and glory.
So here are some of the advice that I can give you if you are planning to go visit Death Valley.
Avoid Summer - the temperatures are so high that it is just not healthy to go there during that period of the year.
Don’t expect to have a great food experience there - the area is not very populated and there are very few restaurants. Plus, on Thanksgiving - not everything works (thank you Denny’s we survived because of you.)
There are not many Hotel options or Instant Hotel choices. So please plan ahead - the very few good ones are booked really fast.
RV - for me to going there with an RV is not a good idea. We did that three years ago and we had to stay on the main roads and we simply couldn’t visit a lot of the remarkable places. RV could be a perfect solution to the hospitality problem in Death Valley, but I suggest you have a car that can go into the hard to reach places.
Always have water and sunscreen - the area is tough, the weather is harsh and the phone connection is very limited. Please “prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. Let me tell you a story here: a few years ago I, my husband and a friend of ours were visiting Las Vegas and we decided to do a small road trip from there to San Francisco. We wanted to go through Death Valley and enjoy the scenic drive. Somewhere (sorry don’t remember the exact location now), we saw a car parked on the side of the road and two people wandering around it. We stopped. It turned out that they were a couple from the Netherlands, that by accident locked their keys in the car. In the heat (probably more than 40°C / 105°F) they were without water, without sunscreen, without shade and their phones were inside the car and even if they had them there was no signal. They were staying there for half an hour already. We had to be creative and I remember that we had to use the SOS button in our car to give the exact locations to the rental car service so they can come and help them unlock. The story has a happy ending, we exchanged phone numbers and they messaged us that they were safe later that day. But unfortunately not all the stories have happy endings in Death Valley.
All the images here were photographed on film and processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.
Manzanar is a very special place for everyone passionate about history, like me. This is one of the Japanese-American internment camps created by the American War Department during World War II. Just one turn from the main road and you can stop and pay respect to the people who suffered during that horrible war.
If you are curious for some more information, click here.
CRATER SULFUR MINE
You should not be surprised if in the middle of the beautiful scenery you spot a small group of mules. They are usually very friendly, smart and will walk next to a road begging to give them a snack. It turned out that these are Invasive Burros - totally not native to North America and they were brought here by the adventures gold diggers during the Gold Rush. Now they live in small groups staying close to the small water sources that they can find in the area.
THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
Or the place where the stones race. This place was a big mystery since the 1940s. Two scientists solved the puzzle in 2014. It turns out that the rocks are moving because during the night the surface freezes and the wind that blows makes the stones to slide ... you can read more about the Racetrack Playa. For me the road to the Racetrack Playa was another magic - I was rushing to photograph something when I accidentally dropped my phone and I didn’t even notice. We jumped in the car and continued driving and probably 10-15 minutes later I discovered that my phone was missing. Well, believed or not, we found it, later thanks to the “Find my phone” on my watch, which luckily was working even without a stable internet connection. What are the odds?
It's named after its vibrant colors – as you can see for yourself it is like nature's own painting. Because it is easily accessible, you may have to deal with plenty of tourists.
MESQUITE FLAT SAND DUNES
Lifestyle and Wedding Photographer