Furnace Creek

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to receive notice that my new working visa had been approved. My previous visa had expired at the end of April and so I had been eagerly awaiting this new one to come through. The timing couldn’t have come much better. It was the end of the week and so I was able to sneak away for a weekend and make the most of having to leave the country.

I had been doing some research the past few months on a place called Racetrack Playa, a remote area in Death Valley in California and after checking flight loads and times, I decided this would be my destination. I flew into Vegas on the Saturday and rented myself a 4WD as I knew I was up for some long, rugged driving but I knew what I was getting myself in to so I just enjoyed being out on the road, busted out to some tunes and was looking forward to getting out to my final destination. The image below will give you a bit of an idea of the territory I covered…

map

The drive was amazing. It was as if I was driving through Mars. The mountains out there are dry and desolate and were always there on each side of the highway. The elevation was quite interesting too along the way. About halfway there at Furnace Creek I was driving through the lowest point of the country which was 200 feet below sea level. On the flip side as I was moving closer to the Playa the was sitting over 5,500 feet ABOVE sea level. Saying that though, I wasn’t scaling or driving over any mountains, the road just kept slowly ascending and descending without it being too noticeable.

After travelling for about 3 hours, I came to my turnoff off the highway and on to the back roads. As I said, I had done a bit of research and knew I would have to do a bit of driving on gravel roads but to my surprise, the roads were paved… That lasted only a few minutes though and I found myself driving through some pretty rough gravel roads before too long.

Death Valley

It was a long drive and due to the condition of the road, I didn’t find myself driving much faster than 20 mph. I passed a couple of cars coming back the other way but I loved the thought that I could possibly be out there all by myself. I had planned on sleeping out there in my car so I did secretly hope no one else would be out there and I was fortunate enough to have that come true. It was just me and my camera in the middle of absolute no-where.

A view of the road ahead of me…

Death Valley

I kept driving along and just when I thought it had to be around the next corner, the road just keep weaving through the mountains and valleys. There were certain areas with nothing but sand, there were others with small shrubs and cactus’ and then an area in a valley that was just full of Yuccas or Joshua Trees. It was always changing and some of the plants, cactus’ and flowers truly were beautiful to look at. Finally after driving for some time through the back roads, a sign caught my eye…

Teakettle Junction

Teakettle Junction! On that sign I saw something that made me a very relieved man… No, I wasn’t thirst and in need of some tea but now knowing that Racetrack Playa was 6 miles away was extremely good to know. Weaving through those roads, it was still a fair way off but at least I now knew for sure I was on the right path and knew how far I had left to go. It made me a little at ease too as the sun was preparing to set behind the mountains and I knew I would now at least get to my destination in light so I can scope it out a bit, find some locations to shoot at night and pick a spot to park the car and camp out.

Finally, there it was. I was confident that was it in the distance and I was right!

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley

As I was approaching Racetrack Playa, a dust storm was coming in behind me. I was hoping it wouldn’t be coming in my direction and that it was going in the opposite direction but I wasn’t so lucky. It hit just as I got to the Playa but having been through 2 dust storms in Palm Springs both times I had been there I knew at least what I was in for. Saying that though, the wind was incredibly strong and it was coming in quite thick. I just hoped it wasn’t going to settle in all night and the next morning.

The photo below is the dried lake bed of Racetrack Playa with the dust clearly visible in the background. The reason I came all the way out here was to see the Sailing Stones which I will talk more about in my next post but these stones move along the lake bed most likely due to being pushed by the wind… Having a dust storm and 80-100km/h wind push through shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise.

Racetrack Playa - Death Valley

I will leave it at this for the moment but I will be post more pictures in the next couple of days of the Sailing Stones and also some amazing pictures I am extremely happy with of the Milky Way I was able to get in the middle of the night once all the dust had started to clear away.

Thanks for following my adventures, I am very excited to bring you the rest of the photos.

See you all soon.

Nic