2021 Death Valley Trip

Monday, March 29

While we were at Zabriskie Point yesterday, we used our apps to confirm where moonrise would be this morning. Since we just passed the equinox, we knew it had to be nearly straight west over the Panamint Mountains.

Zabriskie Point was very popular this morning. Carol and I shot from a ridge off to the side of the point to improve the angle to Manly Beacon and keep the other photographers out of our shots. There were no clouds, so it was a relatively flat sunrise, but it was a good morning to be shooting. There were lots of families around and everyone seemed to be enjoying the morning.

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point Manly Beacon

Ten minutes after moonset, the sunrise light was gone and the show was over.

We had lunch and relaxed around camp until about 3:00, when we drove to Golden Canyon. I have wanted to hike this canyon on a couple of previous trips, but something always came up. It was still over 90 degrees when we reached the parking lot, and the canyon was more open than I anticipated. It was hot, and the hike up the canyon toward the Red Cathedral was all up hill. It was only 1.5 miles, but it was a slow climb with lots of interruptions to photograph. I'm not sure what we expected at the top, but we were surprised. The canyon ends with only a series of very narrow and low tunnels as you climb up a narrow ravine. With a camera and a day pack, it was a tight fit in a couple of the passages. When we cleared the final, rock tunnel, there was nothing but a small amphitheater with red sandstone columns surrounding it. We expected the Red Cathedral to be a bit more impressive. It was NOT what we anticipated.

When we returned to the main canyon, the lighting had warmed and the layers of rock seemed to glow. It was nearly a perfect time to photograph. The 1.5 miles back to the car were all downhill, the temperatures had cooled, and the scenery kept urging us to stop and take more images.

Mouth of Golden Canyon Interesting Formations Up Every Side Canyon Another Side Canyon Surprise
Back of Manly Beacon Red Cathedral Red Cathedral
Near Red Cathedral/Zabriskie Pt. Trail Junction Golden Hour in Golden Canyon

As we neared the mouth of the canyon, we met a ranger who asked us if we had called for help. Evidently, someone was lost or had climbed up into an area and couldn't get back down. Since the sun was about ready to drop behind the Panamints, there was some urgency. By the time we reached the Explorer, there were 4 more search-and-rescue, ranger cars in the parking area. On previous trips to Death Valley, visitors stayed on trails and explored "defined" areas. Now, more and more visitors are hiking and climbing off-trail and into back areas where they push their limits. That leads to more rescues. I'm assuming this person climbed up a ridge and got stranded. It's often easier to climb up than climb down on unstable clay and rock deposits.

We were pretty well wiped out from the heat after we returned to camp, so we settled for sandwiches for dinner while enjoying the stars overhead. And then at 9:00, the winds came up and drove us inside. The rest of the night was finding a balance between keeping windows open to deal with temperatures in the upper 80's in the motorhome with keeping out the dust the wind was blowing in. The winds rocked the motorhome and kept our slideout covers flapping. It wasn't pleasant. By the time we went to bed, we decided that we would leave a day early and drive to Lone Pine tomorrow. We had enough of Death Valley for this trip.