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DEATH VALLEY

Into the desert we went. 

Having just settled in Los Angeles we considered our failing energy levels on whether we should head out to Death Valley in the early morning as we once planned. Mulling over our decision for the majority of the night we soon decided it'd be best to not give ourselves any reason for regret. So we head straight to bed salvaging as much sleep as we could.  

A brisk morning woke us in what felt like mere minutes... Is 5am too early for a Red Bull? I could settle for a coffee.

We silently packed our bags, no one daring to suggest we take it easy.. and hit the road. 

It only took a morning coffee's time for us to realize we made the right decision. A sweeping curve in the highway revealed a valley direct in our path. As we lowered into its deep set path we were consumed by a Mountainous vista. 

We thought we must've arrived ahead of schedule but checking our location we realized we were still three hours away from the park perimeter. Today was going to be a good day. 

People always ask me why California? Why do you keep going back? And I always say it's for days like these. California is undoubtedly beautiful on the surface, but when you actually explore California you'll leave a changed man. 

Think of the best road trip you've ever been on. That feeling of leaving everything behind and driving to an unknown destination with the people you love dear enough to be with and a playlist that you'll never listen to the same again.

That's everyday in California. 

That's what today was... And I couldn't be more excited to see what was in store.

A DREAMER'S PARADISE

It didn't take long to find myself in these winding roads.

Our first stop was Badwater Basin. This is one of those places I had seen a plethora of photos taken at over the years but still didn't fail to leave me speechless.

 

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, recorded at 282ft below sea level. If Badwater's good for one thing, it's keeping the water out. With a 150-inch annual evaporation rate it's hard for any water to survive around here. A 12 foot, 30-mile-long lake would dry up in one year. 

The crunching sound of the crystallized salt flat led us further into the basin. Our footsteps led us toward the shaded mountains that glowed a hazy blue cast. Each step forward brought a new discovery and perspective on this place. We stopped to take a look at how far we'd come and opened our eyes to the most beautiful scene. Spinning around we were greeted by towering mountains in every direction unapologetically engulfing our little world.

 Without a single reminder of the outside world,

I found myself in Badwater Basin's embrace.

Within a couple hours of being within the park's borders we had already been blessed with something we'd never forget.

All that could run through our mind was:

what could this place have in store for us next?

ONWARD

On we went.

Further down the valley.

Further into the desert.

Further toward ourselves.

 

Having spent the better part of the day driving and refueling on Cliff bars and Red Bull, at this point our energy levels were depleting to say the least. On the park map we spotted the visitor centre and slightly redirected our path to get a much-needed break. 

The visitor centre gave us an opportunity for rest but moreso an understanding of just how vast the landscape we'd been trekking all day really is. Realistically, we maybe experienced about a tenth of what this park has to offer. 

Death Valley is one of those places you could repeatedly visit over the course of a lifetime and experience something completely different each time. It's places like these that keep me going and keep my passion alive.

Our race against the sun had tightened due to this stop so we quickly got back on the road and headed straight for the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. 

This scene revealed itself to us shortly after we got back on the road but I couldn't believe my eyes. I suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road, grabbed my camera and hopped into the road to grab this. The cascading light across these mountains instantly made me think of the work of Ansel Adams and had to capture this one for him. 

and suddenly everything we had been working toward was right in front of us.. in perfect light.

DRIFTER

As I sat watching the sun settle nearly behind the mountain peaks ahead,

a sudden urge brought me to stand up and check my surroundings.

As I stood, my focus shifted to this man walking the top of the dunes in the far distance.

There was something about this man's steady stride that completely enchanted me.

I could feel the harmony in his connection with the environment.

With a gentle gust of wind at my back, I lifted my camera and brought it to my eye. 

It didn't take long to find my frame. But I stood still, letting the scene melt before my eye as

my finger habitually clicked the shutter. 

I lowered my camera and the man stopped in his path.

I kept steady forward hoping this would lead to a nod of acknowledgement between the both of us.

What I saw instead was a professional dslr passionately guided to his eye.

I had my shot, it was time for him to get his. 

This is one of those scenes that I will always remember for its moment.

What brought me to interrupt a sunset we had worked all day to experience?

What enamoured me so much about this cryptic figure in the distance?

What was it that brought him to lift his camera?

It must've been something special.

I would've been able to see

if I was only able to take my eyes off him..

DUSK

Arriving back at the parking lot we reacquainted ourselves with the vehicle that would be our world for the next six hours. Unfortunately it wasn't the beautiful van pictured,

but one can dream right? 

I sat in the back of the trunk trying to knock out as much sand as I could from my shoes. A cool breeze started to roll through, forcing me to warm up with a nearby sweater. Ah, clean socks never felt so good. Despite the vanishing sunlight, time seemed to stand still here. I experienced a moment of surreal beauty while my eyes relaxed on a distant view of a landscape I had just called home for the past hour. A place I could never forget; a place that would never be

the same.

Every fibre of my being longed to stay there in that moment but it was time to leave. I broke my trance, jumped in the driver's seat and hit the road. 

Driving in the desert at night is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. Tense bodies barrelling down the single lane highway at 60mph desperately trying to spot any dips in the road (that almost destroyed our car more than a few times). The only bit of illumination in the black abyss that surrounded our car was the car headlights and the slice of moonlight that would peak out from behind the mountain tops every so often. Our sense of direction was completely lost and our sanity 

was escaping. 

"Did you just see those birds run across the road?!" 

"No, but do you see that bridge over there?" 

"No, I think that's just a mountain."

Oh, the hallucinations had begun. Of all the trips I've had nothing gave me a hallucination more vivid than the desert night. Any kind of hallucination really makes you wonder what it is we consider reality. I mean who is to say that there weren't birds that ran across the road. Does me detesting that it happened prove that it didn't?

 

What interested me the most about these hallucinations is that they came in absence. Absence led to the something, something not there. How can something come from nothing? Were those birds created by the mind or noticed by the eye? What else is hiding in this desert night?

I wonder,

maybe it's only in nothing that we can ever find something...