Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Long Days

Man, these are long days! Usually by the time we're back to our room and finished with dinner, it's nearly 10PM. Up early the next morning and off again leaves little time for blogging.

Sorry about the lack of photos for a while. When I posted Day at the Races the pics would not upload, and being strapped for time I just posted text. This is really the first solid internet connection we’ve had sine we left NV, so The Racetrack photos are now up!

After the Day at the Races we slept in a bit longer than usual and after a breakfast at the Stagecoach, we headed back into the Valley for some reconnaissance. We arrived at Badwater just about at high noon. That day we set a record of 98 degrees. Mind you the OFFICIAL temperature is taken at Furnace Creek, in the shade and 3 feet off the ground. Needless to say, it’s hotter just about anywhere else. No good photos to show since everything down there is blinding white.

From Badwater we made our way to Artist's Drive where we had scored some nice images last year. Unfortunately, this year was different and wedidn't shoot any film. We did hike up into one of the little canyons off the road and after some scrambling made it up into a nice amphitheater.

After the hike we decided to explore Warm Spring Canyon. which is another very bumpy ride. The terminus, at least for us and our intrepid little Jeep, was Warm Spring Camp. This is a lovely little oasis that had been the site of very civilized mining camps, complete with a swimming pool! Sadly, the pool was not operational that day. There are some equipmentrelics from the mining days and abandoned structures. The Brittlebush was in bloom and the temperature was actually pleasant.

Though we realy wanted to stay, we reluctantly turned back and headed off to Dante’s View for sunset, another goal for this trip. Dante’s gives a spectacular view of the valley and in one shot it is possible to see the lowest (Badwater) and highest (Mt. Whitney) places in the continental US.

The next day we got up and went directly to the Furnace Creek Inn for breakfast. It was an extravagance, but hugs from Betty are worth the price of admission. She remembered us from last year and is really excited at the possibility of getting her own strawberry hat like mine. After a fabulous feed we visited the Harmony Borax works on our way to the Mesquite Flat sand dunes to scope out morning photo ops. It was once again REALLY hot so we found the trail to follow, did a quick check of the spot and went back to Libby for an air-conditioned ride back to Beatty. We visited the Beatty Historical Museum and then went to the ghost town of Rhyolite for sunset.

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Day at the Races

Apparently, Sunday was the big NASCAR event down in Vegas. We went to breakfast with many of the folks returning from their pilgrimage. So, in honor of NASCAR we decided to go to the Racetrack ourselves. No, not that racetrack. THE Racetrack. Home of the moving stones of Death Valley N.P. Moving stones? Keep reading.

So, we loaded up Libby, our rented Jeep Liberty and headed out. Now, getting out to the Racetrack is not trivial. After over 60 miles of paved roads our route turned to dirt at the Ubehebe Crater. The Racetrack Rd is some of the most rattling washboard you can imagine. Its really stunning scenery as the road runs southerly through a valley. There’s a fairly large population of Joshua Trees along the way and lots of cacti all shadowed by spectacular mountains.

After about 20 miles of this we came to the first landmark: Teakettle Junction. Teakettle Junction is a signpost adorned with teakettles originally placed by a prospector to mark the trail junction and as a means to leave a note for those following. The tradition continues today.

The Racetrack is another 6 or so miles along the road. We arrived with enough time to go and explore and find the best stones to photograph. For you who are unfamiliar, the stones here are of interest because they move across the playa, or dried, flat lakebed without human intervention. No one knows for certain since no one has seen them move, but the current theory is that when the fine-grained clay of the playa receives enough moisture to wet the surface and the wind picks up, the stones are blown from their current position to somewhere else on the slick clay. They come to stop when the clay dries and they wait for the next bit of moisture. Some of these stones travel quite a ways coming to a rest more than a 100 feet away and some weigh several hundred pounds. During their journey, they leave trails in the mud.

After spending more than an hour out on the playa photographing the stones and their trails, it was time to head back. All told we spent nearly 6 hours in the Jeep for a few hours at the Track. Well worth it!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Vegas! Baby!
We made it! After getting up at 3AM to make our flight, we had a pretty uneventful flight from Boston to JFK to Vegas, baby! We gathered up our 150+lbs of gear and got our rental SUV.

First item of business-Cruise the Strip!

It was really a hoot. It’s as tacky and gaudy as seen on TV. And folks seem to love it.

As soon as we cleared the Strip, we headed north to Pahrump, NV. First glitch of the trip….I didn’t lay out the route like I always do, so we ended up north and east of our target. A quick perusal of the map and we landed in Pahrump without further ado. We laid in supplies and were off to Tecopa Hot Springs for a loooooooooooong soak after a looooooooong day on the road.

Tecopa is a really cool place, an oasis in the desert. There are about 100 full time residents between Tecopa and Shoshone, but it’s a little artists enclave. There are several resorts in the area all with hot mineral springs for their guests to use. So, after a shower to wash off the travel of the day, we slid into 104 degree water and felt the miles melt away.

After the soak, we made dinner in our kitchen, toasted with champagne and were about to turn in when we decided to check out the “Star Party” going on behind our cabin. Apparently, this is a regular deal here. A couple of astronomers (Check them out at www.astrochannels.com ) have set up camp there and have an amazing set up. The telescopes are hooked into computers and they have a digital feed to a projector focused on the side of their trailer.

We saw spiral nebulae, Saturn, and many other astronomical wonders. Finally, the day caught up with us and we turned in.

On Sunday we got up and drove up through Death Valley to our Motel6 in Beatty, NV. Our home for the next few days.

Today we’re off to The Racetrack to photograph the moving stones. More later!


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Kick Off to a New Adventure

March 5, 2007
“If you aren’t living on the edge, then you’re taking up too much space!”

That line was the inspiration behind Doug Robinson’s essay in the 2002 Black Diamond catalog written for the 30th anniversary of his groundbreaking, 1972 piece “The Whole Natural Art of Protection”. The article was written to challenge today’s climbers to step out of the comfort zone and try new things. Leave the gym, abandon the top-rope, go light and fast in the mountains.

“Climbers know a lot about the edge, so we’ll just rewrite that line: Close to the Edge. The name of a climb says it better. Not on, and certainly not over. Close is close enough. And you are the only one who knows, for you, for your next move, how close is close enough.”

It can also be a metaphor for complacency in general. If you’ve already seen the re-runs, change the channel. If you’re comfortable, shake it up! Put Tobasco on your eggs! If there are new places to go, go!

“Every step toward the edge adds adventure. If you’ve got it wired, you’re taking up too much space again. Nobody said this would be easy. You’ll know. Make that poised commitment, though, not reckless.
The edge is where evolution happens.
Now, step away from the vehicle.”

Holly and I leave in 4 days for our second trip to Death Valley. During this trip we plan to stay for the first week in and around the Park before heading to Yosemite for 2 days. Holly has never seen Yosemite and I can’t wait to see her face as we round the bend and there are The Gates of The Valley. It’s usually an awe inspiring site.

I’ll be updating the blog as often as I can with pictures and some descriptions of where we are and where we’ve been. Stay tuned as we move closer to the edge.