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Warning, Death ValleyComing back from Vegas, what a short trip, but what a long journey back.  Several days, passing through Death Valley and stopping again in Reno.  Long deserts and plains.  Mountains rising and falling.  The lake again frozen.  Foggy roads and home again.

If you were expecting Vegas lights, I’m sorry but you only get the Luxor’s beam, found in my last post. And if you want to skip the long words, catch the short version in the full image gallery at the end of the post.

But we left Vegas, and immediately north the desert valleys stretched, interrupted as small mountain chains thrust upward in triangular fashion, soft in the midday light, empty in the clear skies.  Crazy cactus passed in the windows and were never seen close and personal.  Some other time I hope.

We did make a quick pit stop, and the state trooper came along as we had our hood up to check engine fluid status.  Funny to have him pull up as we are taking pictures, and in the distance is some chain link fence with a military unit behind.  And he sits behind for a while and does his background check.  Then comes out and is friendly and checks if all is alright and if there is anything he can do for us.  Then he is about to go on his way, when another random car pulls up and an elderly gentleman gets out “how do we get to red rock canyon” he asks.  We roll our eyes and sigh, the officer tells him to go wait in the vehicle and he will be up to help them in a moment.  We’re trapped between their two cars, but pile in and continue on.

On to more mountains rising ahead, to the side – in front of and behind other mountains.  The roadside Landscape is wonderful and offers many opportunities.  Even sand dunes!  And transmission lines.  And the big red and black pile of a crumbling hill on the right.

We nervously watch the slow miles tick by, waiting for the detour over to death valley to begin before the light falls from the sky.  We argue about the route, and find our way up a pass and then down, the light turning gold, the windshield dirty, the heart racing to rhythm of passing ravines to either side.  The entry fee station and lookout is there.  the car stops.  We race up and out to catch the sun falling from the sky.  (best shot on film so you have to visit me in person to see it).

That first valley of Death Valley National Park (I don’t really understand where the valley is, I just know we drove through at some point and we were in the park)…  But that first valley spreading south and north, so flat and wide to the south with rivers or the gravely memory of rivers meandering.  The mountain ranges thrusting up and fading in the haze.  And nearer to us, on the slopes below, ridge-lines of small mountains raise their humps and swerve like worms of Dune. (image on request)

But many miles remain ahead, and the bottom of Death Valley is somewhere… But we continue too far north, and turn around – the sun gone, the light turning gray – and head west toward the bottom.  Darkness finds us.  Headlights blare across a sign “sea Level”.  We pull over, it is dark and quiet.  The sand is so soft as we place cameras searching for light in the sky.  To short a moment, just enough for a camera to catch a memory barely felt.

Sea Level, Death Valley

And the night had just begun.  The road climbs up and out of the valley.  Gas is expensive here.  The trees appear again, flashing at the edges of the headlights, in time with the white lane dashes.  We stop for pizza in Lone pine. And I walk down to the Western Film History Museum for a few shots with Katie’s camera.  We’re all a bit grumpy about the many miles till to go.  We debate sleeping in the car or finding a room for the night.  But drive on, with the potential of Reno as our sleeping place.  We listen to Stephen King’s Short horror stories on tape, but they don’t last long.  Gas station pit stops and coveting of tea and snacks.  We have to stop and switch drivers, and fall into sleep as the other manage to bring us into Reno and 3 Very nicely made beds.

– – –

The next day starts late, we got in late, and people want to get sleep and rest.  But have many miles to go again, I wish that we would get on and use the light as much as we can.  The road open to Reno’s more rounded and longer, or just closer rising and falling mountain chains as we headed north.  Details popped from the hills in the too high sun.  And wonderful clouds started filtering into the sky.

We stopped at a general store in Milford to stretch the legs and enjoy the warm day.  And shortly approached Oregon and moss-covered trees!  But that passed quick and the desert returned, short stubby trees and then fields of agriculture.  A strange Burner looking like a burning man relic.

Small towns begged for long leisurely breaks and exploration, but we all also knew the day was drawing closed and many miles still ahead, us not even at Klamath falls.  Though Shasta was now near.

We stopped in the same place as on the way down, or almost, and captured that round funny volcanic looking plateau, Mount Shasta, and sharp outlines of crumbling mountain of gravel.  And across the road the smoke of a controlled burn visualised an inversion layer of cold air trapping down the warmer ground layer.  And that interface danced beautifully while we had a little dance party – let loose break.

Somewhere we stopped for pistachios and browsed antiques.  We passed by Klamath and along the lake, took no stops as the day died.  Though we admired the peaks around us, rising above the icy mass of snow dusted water.  And then through the flat forest with glimpses of the sharp peaks near crater lake as darkness descended.

Night driving

Straight on up to bend.   There we wandered the streets, running and stretching stiff muscles in the cold air.  We found closed coffee shops, and a wine bar with no chain.  At last Townshend’s Tea shoppe provided us a long list of chai to choose from, I much enjoyed the forest chai I selected as we continued up over the mountain and into Portland at last.  Tired and ready to get out that car and into a bed!

With birthday celebrations we were done.

as promised, all the images together to tell a story visually, with some captions.