In the Valley of Death: Death Valley National Park

When describing a desolate landscape, it’s always best to start with the names people have applied to it: Death Valley, Badwater, Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, Dante’s View, Hell’s Gate, the Devil’s Golf Course.  Pictures say something about the surface of the land.  Names tell its story and speak to relationships between the place and the people who have lived and died in its environs.

Nothing about Death Valley is hospitable, yet it is one of my favorite places on earth.  Scorching hot during the summer, cold and windy during winter, always dry, on a scale that shrinks one to nonexistence—Death Valley neither needs nor asks for an audience, yet people flock to it by the thousands every year.   Yosemite and Yellowstone seem vain by comparison.  Their waterfalls roar.  Their fertile green meadows beckon.  These parks speak the language of life.  Life courses through Death Valley, too, but the desert makes no show of it.  It doesn’t care to do so.  Death Valley neither invites nor rejects onlookers.  It is content with simply being.

At dawn the sun throws a sliver of orange light on sharp mountain ridges a hundred miles to the west.  A sea of black shadows recedes, revealing still more orange ridges, each one closer than the last, so that it’s as if a tsunami of light were rushing across the landscape, pulverizing the last remnants of darkest night until it spills into a valley more than one hundred miles long.  The new light settles on undulating sand dunes and blinding white salt pans that sink hundreds of feet below sea level.  It’s as if God were leafing through a photo album of creation and happened to turn to the page that includes you.

Dante's View. From here you can see mountains that are two hundred miles away.

From Aguereberry Point, almost 7,000 ft above the valley.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

From Augereberry Point

From near Aguereberry Point

Old gold mining operation.

That's my dad.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Family of three forming a nice triangle.

Photographer at work at Dante's View.

From Dante's View. You can see about one hundred miles down the valley from here. The most distant mountains are about two hundred miles away. The valley itself is over a mile below.

From Aguereberry Point.

From Aguereberry Point.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at dawn.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at dawn.

Photographers at Zabriskie Point.

Near Zabriskie Point.

Badwater, the lowest point in North America (282 ft. below sea level).

About atomsofthought
Photographer. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

31 Responses to In the Valley of Death: Death Valley National Park

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. One of my absolute favorite places on earth. Beautiful photos!

  2. Hey you! Beautiful photos and words, as always. I especially love the sand dunes! I’ve never seen anything like that in real life, and I imagine it’s just an awesome sight.

    • Hey Michelle! The sand dunes are probably my favorite individual feature. My favorite place, though, is Aguereberry point because from there you can take in more than a thousand square miles at a glance. I hope you’ve had a great great Christmas!

  3. wittybizgal says:

    This is amazing!!! I visited Death Valley once and it was breathtaking. You described it perfectly, and the photos brought it all back–thank you!

  4. f-stop mama says:

    Gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing I have to add this to my list of places to visit.

  5. ceceliafutch says:

    Beautiful photography, especially when you consider that Death Valley is such an austere place.

  6. yearstricken says:

    Beautifully written and photographed. There’s a reason so many mystics end up in the desert.

  7. Anyluckypeny says:

    These are such incredible pictures! Wow!!

  8. asuka11 says:

    Well … “From Augereberry Point” picture is more then great. No words can describe this image … prehaps just fellings.

  9. xandimusic says:

    Incredible amazing pictures! Fantastic!!!!!! 😉

  10. Cee Neuner says:

    You have a few WOW photographs!! Awesome!

  11. Prashant says:

    Simply beautiful…

  12. Deano says:

    The views from Augereberry Point are so different, yet equally impressive!

    • It’s kind of hard to believe that from one spot you can see such different patterns in the land. On one side you have a valley that’s more than a mile below, stretches more than one hundred miles lengthwise and measures more than twenty miles in width at its narrowest point. Turn around and you’ll see some of the tallest mountains in the lower 48 states. In the foreground you have these incredible stones that angle out of the ground like the spines on a monster’s back. It’s pretty bewildering!

  13. Painter Lady says:

    As per usual, your writing gives me chills…the photos are an add-on…I have the images in my head before I get to them! Beautiful words! I had opportunity to see bits of this world from the roads south…traveled along with a trucker on two trips. The colour you describe is still in my mind’s eye. I guess I now carry it somewhere in my cells.

    • I’ve always wanted to see the country from a trucker’s perspective. I once had a great conversation with a retired trucker who lived in Merced, California. He had the kind of broad perspective on the U.S. that could only be the product of traversing millions of miles of roads and highways over the course of decades. I appreciated that though he had favorite regions, he didn’t discriminate that much. He loved everything he had seen.

      I love taking pictures, but I love writing even more (I find that it’s much more frustrating, unfortunately!), so your comment means a lot to me! Thank you.

  14. findmepeace says:

    I feel I am living vicariously through your posts.

  15. pattisj says:

    So photography runs in the family. 🙂 What a marvelous gift/talent to be able to share this beauty with others. These pictures are awe inspiring. You summed it up well with this line: “It’s as if God were leafing through a photo album of creation and happened to turn to the page that includes you.” When you spoke of the distance one can see, an old song came to mind, “I can see for miles and miles.” One truly can. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  16. magicofmine says:

    Amazing place and breathtaking photos!

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