Day 9. Words fail me but I'll try anyway. 49C. That really is hot. That was the maximum temperature recorded by the car in Death Valley today. We continued our roadtrip from Mammoth Lakes, in the mountains near Yosemite, to Beatty on the edge of Death Valley National Park.
Rewind. The first portion of our day involved driving South and descending (thank god!) down to around 3700ft where we pulled off the highway and visited Manzanar, a Japenese
internment concentration camp during WWII.
Places like this have a heavy air hanging over them I find. Dacau, The Eagle's Nest, Manzanar... 150+ died here but nowhere near the numbers killed by the Nazi's in Germany. American Japanese history is a chapter of the war I know relatively little about compared with Nazi history from Europe. It's quite shocking how an entire country can be manipulated into thinking that being insular and fearful of those different from them is OK. That strand of politics seems to be making an alarming rise once more and I for one, don't like it. I truly hope the lessons learned by prior generations, fought for, died for are not lost - especially in Europe over the next few decades.
The camp was huge and the conditions inside the buildings slowly got improved during the war. For those who had money they were able to order furniture from catalogs, the rest had to make it. The school had to follow the USA national curriculum which when they reached the social sciences section about 'America is a great democratic nation, we welcome anyone' caused a small rebellion. The prisoners took a case to the supreme court, which was thrown out, pointing to their imprisonment as being unconstitutional.
Ansel Adams documented the camp whilst it was still in use. The above image taken from one of the guard towers around the concentration camp. Ansel is an inspiration of mine and as such I thought it only fitting to recreate one of his most iconic images from the camp. That of the cemetary monument in 1943. He was far ahead of his time and equipment. I'd love to see what people like Ansel could do today with endless digital film and photoshop. Composition is so important and shots like his of the Tetons with Snake River in the foreground showcase almost perfect composition. Here is the original Ansel Adams shot of the monument. Interestingly enough, which I only noticed on review just now, he is not quite square on to the monument giving it a sense of depth. I chose to go as wide as possible to capture to dramatic landscape behind it instead.
Lunch next. We stopped in Lone Pine, home of the Western it proudly proclaimed! Little do they know how many Sunday afternoons are wasted in front of a Western on ITV back home! John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and some others I'd not heard of were all filmed here. In the town, some BBQ was
consumed inhaled. The cornbread in particular was absolutely delicious which came with a side of Honey Butter. Yes, that's as yummy as it sounds.
We drove across a landscape which looked Martian, a theme for the day actually. I sent the drone up to get a good view. The DJI Mavic Pro is an awesome bit of kit. It's arms fold and slip into my camera bag taking up the same amount of space as a large lens. I have a 12v car charger meaning it's always fully juiced when I need it. In the image above we're looking towards Mt. Whitney the highest peak in the contiguous United States, some 14,500ft or so.
4 miles up the road was Mobius Arch which required a short walk (0.7 miles). That's the distance from my house to the train station back home by the way. The temperature was already hot, 38C, but dry. The trail was short but hilly and I duly arrived at the Arch with a rather damp t-shirt - that heat man, so powerful.
At the Arch we bumped into a group of ladies who were climbing Mt. Whitney the following day. Apparently you require a permit to do so as it's so popular. I wish we were able to come to this Arch at sunrise as catching morning light on the high Sierra mountains behind would be quite stunning. As it is though, the colour of the stone of the Arch makes for quite a pleasing shot.
Time to put some miles in. A 2 hour drive later we entered Death Valley National Park, the largest National Park in the US park system. We climbed and descended a couple of times from sea level to over 5000ft, in the heat I can imagine it could be a real car killer! The views here are big and wide. No camera can really capture them properly, at least not one operated by this monkey.
In the middle of the Valley we stopped and recorded a high of 49C.
We got and walked around on the dunes for 5 minutes, maybe less - it was unbearable. Like standing in front of a hair dryer but the air was dry and coarse in your throat as you breathed.
The endlessly stunning views continued. The roads were almost empty. We took a 1hr detour up to Dante's View high up above the Valley. Breathtaking. On a clear day you can apparently see over 100 miles to Mt. Whitney thus simultaneously viewing the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States.
I had to shoot straight into the sun, never a good plan, but even with my widest lens at 17mm I couldn't capture everything I was seeing. You just have to come visit to take it all in. Places like this are a huge part of a National Park experience, you realise how small you are. How insignificant. How we're here for a length of time that truly doesn't matter as individuals. Humanity as a whole has achieved some pretty amazing things. But at times I find myself looking around and wondering if we're the plague. What will wipe us out or reset the balance? Surely the growth of the last two centuries is unsustainable. Perhaps, the audiobook (One Second After, William Forstchen) we're listening to en-route about an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) that takes out the USA is making me question my mortality a bit too much?! How would we survive without electricity??? Makes you think.
Whilst we were up there I saw the most horrifying insect. A giant wasp / hornet thing. I'm not exaggerating when I say it sounded like a low pitch motor as it flew past. It was enormous. It's body comfortable longer than my fingers and it's stinger hanging out the back threateningly was also ominously large. Eeek. This was a truly terrifying beastie and sent us scurrying for the car!! There was a warning sign at the bottom of the hill about these creatures too which added to the theatre!
After several truly memorable, wonderful days we left behind California. What an incredible state. It has everything. Sun, sea, mountains, cities, space, everything. We'll definitely be back. Looking out into the desert you can see the state line halfway into the image. Goodbye California. Hello Nevada!
Today we'll take a look at some Ghost Towns and learn about the Goldrush but mainly, we'll be driving the 8 or so hours to Tropic in Utah ready for Bryce and Zion! First, time for breakfast in a Casino. Because. Nevada, that's why.