Day 4/24 – Part 1/2

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

This morning I’m going to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a location very close to Stovepipe Wells where my hotel is. While I arrived in the dark the evening before, it is quite a challenge to find the dunes at all and in particular to be there well in time before sunrise. To find them more easily I’m waiting for a bit of light. Meanwhile I’ve been using my laptop to get some more information and I’ve been distracted by it for a bit to long. When I look outside there is already more light than expected. Lighting up goes very fast in the desert as it did the other way around the evening before.

In the end it’s a little bit farther driving than expected, but I arrive already after a few minutes. Then I have to run for 15 minutes over the dunes to find a good location in the center of it. I’m breathing like a horse because it’s really difficult to run up and down these dunes with all my equipment. Going up is like two steps forward and one and a half back. Going down is a bit easier, but far from comfortable. I’m just in time for sunrise and am able to shoot some nice ones.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

On these first two photographs the sun is still below the horizon.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Soon, the mountains behind me light up in an orange glow…

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

…and the dunes start to shimmer.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Soon after, the dunes are starting to get illuminated…

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

…and get a deep orange color.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

It’s getting warmer fast and the light is losing its quality. Time to return and do some reconnaissance elsewhere.

The Racetrack and the Eureka Sand Dunes

I have formed a plan to go the The Racetrack and the Eureka Sand Dunes in the north of Death Valley tomorrow. In Yosemite National Park I have spoken a photographer who strongly discurraged me to go there because of the bad road condition. Also the lady behind the desk at the hotel repeated the warning: ’do not go there’. Only last month two cars have stranded there with multiple punctured tires and it costed those people more than 2000 US dollars to get towed out. She presses me to not go there and tells me she has never been there herself. I always take these warnings very seriously.

I’ve almost put the idea out of my head, but decide to double check at the ranger station on the other side of the road. That man has a quite different story. He confirms that road conditions are bad overthere but far from hazardous. The whole road is like a wash board with sharp stones sprinkled around and you can easily puncture tires when driving to fast. ’That stuff eats tiers.’ he says with a wide grin. If you drive very slowly and carefully with a high clearance vehicle, you shouldn’t have any problem on that road, he says. He confirms that a lot of people take these roads, meaning that help is close-by should you get stranded. He also provides me with information about a couple of nice canyons I didn’t know about. One of these is even very closeby, Mosaic Canyon. He warns me to keep a sharp lookout for pumas though.

Golden Rock

Because the light is still reasonably soft I head up to the canyon immediately, if only to check it out. It’s a few kilometers down the road.

Mosaic Canyon

Halfway I get in touch with a woman, that’s walking here on her own as well. Warnings to watch for cougars are never far from my mind. Looking around for them often, I wonder whether I would be able to spot them in time.

Mosaic Canyon

It takes almost half an hour to cross the whole canyon up to a point where continuing without climbing is not possible anymore.

Mosaic Canyon

The rocks in the shadow colour blue, contrasting beautifully with the golden rocks in the sun.

Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, South West USA Winter 2010, Day 04

Download the original gpx file here.

edit